Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Fair Warning to August

A quick look at the calendar--not to mention any thermometer--tells us it is, once again, ((((August.)))) Those parentheses, by the way, are meant to denote humidity and a general state of swelter. Stagnant air, oppressive dew points, and ever rising temps do not a happy girl make.

So you can tell I'm not a fan of August, right? Deep, abiding, and august ennui is the only way to describe my attitude toward what I think might actually be the cruelest month, despite what the poets say. But it was not always so...once upon a time I had a much fairer view of the 8th month.

If you would have dropped in on my teenaged life in Minnesota, you'd have found me actually looking forward to August. Back then, a million metaphorical miles from here, I was a city-living 4-H kid and August meant the Olmsted County Fair. The fair was the penultimate moment of summer, only to be outdone by a well-earned trip to the Minnesota State Fair up in St. Paul. The county fair was, for a 4-H kid, the social event of the season. It was where you saw your country friends, where you learned to be wary of the midway and where you shared Tom Thumb mini-donuts or batter-fried cheese curds with your best pals.

The fair was also competition. As I grew older and found my way in the various arenas--thanks fully to my brave parents--I began to formulate increasingly ambitious projects in order to beat out my various nemeses. By the time I was a teenager I knew what I had to make and who I had to beat. I remember very vividly the girls I wanted to outdo with a fabulous Home Environment project or the guys I wanted to one-up with a beautifully built Aerospace project...I was driven, well, kind of.

That "driven" attitude usually appeared in July when I realized that I only had a few weeks (okay, sometimes DAYS) to finish (and/or start) any given project. Understand that I'd signed up for the specific project areas months before and by the time July and August rolled around it was a serious time crunch to complete everything. Sure, quilting or needlework or even a large scale furniture refinishing project sound crazy good and easily done in July, less so. But the competitor in me (and lets face it, the kid in me, too, as there was a monetary value to the ribbons we were awarded) wouldn't let go. That meant having a good lie-about in the sun was replaced with completing an intricate piece of needlework while catching a few rays; it also meant working against the clock--and weather at times--to strip multiple coats of paint from a small side table. (I literally shudder when I think of the chemicals I used to in those days for refinishing!) And my road-trips all those many Julys were 4-H centric as well--I roamed high and low, the entirety of Southeastern Minnesota, in search of the perfect old barn or abandoned farmstead for my photography exhibit. Yes, I trespassed now and then in the interest of "my art," plus ca change, non? 

There was considerable upside to all this, though. Not only in all the skills I learned over the years (or the pretty ribbons I won) but all the great and often terrifying experiences with showing and judging. I loved those manic, frenzied weeks leading up to the fair and then savored the rewards--whether it was a corn dog or a state fair trip--once all the competition was over. There was no time--or need--for my somewhat self-indulgent August ennui back then.

My "projects" are a little different these days, to be sure, and there's no state fair trip or purple Grand Champion ribbon awaiting me at the end of them, but there are other late summer rewards to look forward to...things like post-Labor Day empty beaches or the first cool evenings of early autumn in New England. So I'll endeavor to be patient with you, August, in memory of all the good times we've shared in years gone by...but I warn you, don't trifle with me or try to muscle your way into September, that would be very bad form indeed.


jennifer said...

Ah, the 4-H Fair. Mine was in July but the same memories are there. The anticipation of getting everything ready for the weekend away, loading up all of your horse stuff, prepping the stalls for their arrivals. Besides showing I entered in mostly the cooking categories; I still brag that my apple pie won Best in Show. :)

My rewards were always the freshly squeezed lemonade with half a lemon and crunchy sugar bits in the bottom, and the BBQ chicken dinner. They had a guy come from North Carolina with big pits; I still salivate over the thought of that chicken. Always served with a tiny dinner roll, potato chips, lima beans, either iced tea or water, and a little chocolate/vanilla ice cream cup.

The Paper Tyger said...

Ooohh..yum on the Carolina BBQ!! Horses, rabbits, and then helping friends who had sheep or cattle to show. Plus working in the 4-H restaurant and milk producers malt stand...such great stuff. I never entered any cooking categories, so v impressed with your Best In Show Apple Pie :)

jennifer said...

Well, we're not talking State here, but in Cape May County you couldn't get any better. :)

Such fun times.

sid fernando said...

This is also so foreign to me, an unrban dweller with no 4-H background t'all! But I sure enjoyed it, and certainly felt the simpatico of waiting until the last minute to do stuff. Still do, always will, and appreciate the sentiments! Let's hope the dogs are gone by September---dang,it's hot and humid here in Brooklyn.:)