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Time Machine

I don’t know much about time machines. In the movies, they seem to be complicated apparatuses with levers and blinking lights.

Who knew they could be as simple as a red pig?

Last week we met a chunk of our clan at the Minnesota State Fair. It’s always fun, but a bit of a challenge, because with seven of us and a six-decade range in age, fitting everyone’s desires into a five-hour schedule can be a challenge. Why only five hours? Perhaps because the day we attended so did 164,634 other people and even if you’re spreading them out over a half-section of land, that’s a lot. For comparison’s sake, our farm is roughly 3 times the size of the state fairgrounds and usually there are two people here. Sundays the population can jump as high as 12, but that’s still fairly roomy. There’s a finite amount of time I can be so close to that many people, particularly on a sunny August day.

Just walking through the gate was a bit of time travel. One of the best jobs I ever had was in 1974 when my boss at the Midway YMCA, where I was a counselor and bus driver, got me a job as a ticket taker at the fair so I could finish out the summer gainfully employed. My girlfriend, soon to be my wife, was working for the University of Minnesota, St. Paul Campus, so after work she could just amble down to my gate, and we could go to the fair together. One of the workers on my crew fancied himself a lady’s man. He had good hair, sunglasses, a convertible and just a touch of arrogance. I fondly remember his look of astonishment when Robin came walking toward us and smiled when she saw me.

“Whoa,” he said. “That’s YOUR girlfriend?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Good job!” he said. He treated me with new-found respect after that.

As well he should.

That was a good night for me. We went to the Midway and for the first and last time in my life, I could do no wrong. We walked out the gates two hours later with an enormous aqua blue teddy bear, a plush red bull big enough to ride, and half a dozen smaller prizes. If we’d been in Vegas, I would have been kicked out of the casino.

Last week, one of our first destinations was the animal barns. We stared open mouthed at the giant draft horses, smiled at the bunnies and chickens, and rubbed the horns on a few goats on our way to the hog barn. My current acquaintance with hogs is limited to bacon, but I absolutely froze in my tracks when a nice Duroc gilt strolled past on her way to the show ring. These days I spend a lot more time worrying about dangling participles, but I was amused by the internal narration that kicked in, a commentary on her length of pastern, straightness of back, and the stoutness of hips.

Walt Whitman once wrote, “I contain multitudes.” As do we all. If anyone at the State Fair noticed me, they would have seen a grandpa with a grey beard and a watchful eye on a fast walking nine-year-old. They never would have known that inside that body was also a forty-year-old trying to master the craft of farming and a nineteen-year-old with long hair and a beautiful girlfriend.

The ticket takers may have counted 164,000 people on Friday, but there were a lot more than that. Depending on the quality of everyone’s time machines, I’m confident there were multitudes.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson

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