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“There’s a fair in the air, there’s a fair in the air!” I sat straight up and placed my warm hand on my forehead. So much for my mid-day nap, I thought to myself. I stood and walked to the door of our family camper. Before exiting, I glanced at the clock on the microwave. I was not sure why I knew exactly what time it was. Midway opened everyday at 11:00 a.m. sharp and with that came announcements over a set of loud speakers that could be heard for miles around. Stepping from the camper, the hot July sun beat down on my back. I looked at the loud speaker located on a pole near our camper and thought seriously about cutting it down. Over the last few days, I had grown to despise it. We all had.
The door of the camper adjacent to ours’ opened and Tara Kennedy appeared. I could tell by her messy hair that she too had just been awakened by the annoying speakers. Tara slowly stepped out from under the shade of her awning and stretched. She made an unpleasant face when she realized how hot the day had already become. Her camper had air conditioning and on days like this, I was completely jealous of her.
“You headed to the barn?” She asked and nodded in its direction as if I did not know where it was located.
“Yeah, I need to check on some water and find some kids to play cards with.” I loved to play cards. I also loved to play cards with people who were unobservant and never noticed when I set the deck. The Ionia County Free Fair was the best place to find these kinds of people.
“Here, I’ll give you a ride,” Tara offered. It was not a long walk to the livestock barn from our campsite but on a hot day like this, I was not going to pass up a cool, relaxing golf cart ride. I accepted and hopped onto the purple and yellow leather seats and felt immediately as if I was stuck to them. My legs were sweaty and I wore short jean shorts that only added to my problems.
The golf cart took off and I felt as if I were in heaven. The breeze blew my curly, blond hair off my shoulders and dried the sweat that had gathered near my hair line on my forehead. My mother says that you can always tell when it is a humid day because my hair curls like crazy. It was a very humid day and my hair was a complete mess. As we reached the barn the golf cart slowed and the heat of the day returned to me.
I hopped off with grace and headed down the aisle toward my sheep pen. It was not far from the entrance, only about three pens. I leaned on the wooden gate and gazed down at my three Suffolk lambs panting in the golden yellow straw. Over the summer I had grown to love each of them and it saddened me to think that my time with them was almost through. My favorite, named Eddie, was in the corner. He was a darker shade of gray than the other two and stood much taller and longer. He was one of the best lambs that I had ever had. I bent down, reached my hand through the gate, and pulled a few pieces of straw out of their pale of water. It was cool and refreshing so instead of wiping the water off of my hand, I let it dry in warm air.
“Hey Juli,” a voice shouted from the other end of the barn. I stood, placed my hand on my hip and looked toward the pig part of the barn. There stood the three boys that I had spent most of the week with. Their names were Bobby, Mickey, and Steve. Mickey and Steve I met at the fair a few years back. Bobby, I had seen around fair before but never talked to until that year. He knew Mickey from school and somehow, we all just came together. I am willing to admit that it was a strange group of friends, but it seemed to work out alright.
I began to walk toward them but I was not in too much of a hurry. “What’s up guys?” I yelled, trying my best to act uninterested.
Bobby waved a deck of cards in the air, “You up for some euchre, Partner?”
My pace increased unconsciously when I saw the deck. I just could not help myself. “I don’t know, do Mickey and Steve feel like losing this early in the day?” I laughed at my own wit and joined them at a small wooden table by the pig pens. We sat in our usual spots without even thinking about it. Mickey was next to me, Steve was across from me, and Bobby, my partner was diagonal from me. I grabbed the small stack of cards and began to shuffle them like a pro.
This particular game of euchre was very fast. Bobby and I skipped our opponent’s deals on a regular basis. I personally dealt three times in a row and managed to give Bobby a loner twice. When the last point had been made and our victory celebration ended, we all leaned back in silence waiting for a single cool breeze to pass through the barn. Looking at three of them, I could not help but be reminded of the relationship I had with my three lambs. Over the last week, I grew to love each of these boys in different ways. As with my lambs, I knew our time together was limited.
“What do you wanna do now?” Steve got bored easily so it did not surprise me that he was the first to speak up.
I rose from my spot with smile and said, “I am going to take a walk down midway, you boys coming?” I knew the answer before I asked the question. Of course they were coming; I did not bother to wait for them. I turned and began to walk out from the shade of the barn. I had not even taken four steps when I heard calling from behind me.
“Hey, Juli, wait up!”
This is how I would like to remember the 2007 Ionia County Free Fair. I yearn for the thought of happiness and fun on a hot summer day when asked about the week. I do not want to recollect all of the phone calls or text messages I received that made me cry. I do not long to reminisce on the sale night or the next two days after that. I see no need to relive the pain I felt or the pain I brought upon others. I often tell myself that it is over, finished, complete; it brings me comfort. However, deep down, I know that it is not possible for only the good memories to revisit my thoughts. The fair would not be itself without the presence of both good and bad experiences; as I will once again learn at the 2008 Ionia County Free Fair.