One of its chief attractions was all-day pig racing. Linda has never been able to resist the prospect of a really good pig race. Like most old-fashioned fairs of its kind, this one was a mixture of carnival, freak show, travelling zoo and church fête.
We were enjoying an evangelical Punch and Judy show, when Beau attached himself to us. Beau was about the size and shape of Ratso Rizzo, Dustin Hoffman’s character in Midnight Cowboy. He wore a filthy white cowboy hat, cracked, worn-out western boots and a greasy red, white and blue shirt. He was grotesquely ugly, stank and was clearly simple. Fixing us with a friendly eye, he elected to be our tour guide. “That’s the carousel, this here’s the bearded lady. Over there’s your two-headed man. And here’s the zoo!”
He brightened. The zoo was horrible: a stinking tent filled with rows of various sizes of pet cages containing mostly common forms of local wildlife. “He’s a alligator. He’d bite y’all’s arm off soon as look at y’all. Thet there’s a raccoon. Make good eating if y’all kin ketch yerself one. See the bobcat? Hey!” The dying animal looked up through tired, uncaring eyes. Beau produced a stick and began inserting it through the wire. “He’ll liven up if ya poke him!” The cat uttered a halfhearted snarl; the nearby alligator tried to sink into its too-shallow water.
We fled from Beau into a tent where, to our astonishment, a cheerleading contest was being held. In the deepest heart of the Baptist Bible Belt, these cheerleaders were aged between four and nine, and heavy with make-up (mascara, blusher, lipstick) and perms. They looked like downmarket Tokyo whores. The creators of these creatures, good Baptist pimp-moms to a woman, urged their offspring on to greater deeds of hip-jutting, chest-thrusting, bottom-pushing cheerleading prowess.
We slipped out and were just able to catch the start of the pig race – black ones running against white. The prize? An Oreo cookie.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
At the FT, Michael Moorcock on his recent visit to a science fiction convention in Biloxi and points south (site registration required). He offers up this reminiscence of a visit to a local country fair on an earlier visit to Mississippi: