Ah, yes, the fair. It was a big
event in my life too but I didn't get to go every year--money,
transportation both a problem.
Sometime in the 30s, I was about 9 or 10, our father told my sister
Virginia and me that if we were up early the next morning we could go
with him to the Greenbrier County Fair. You can rest assured we were up
We loved to look at the "domestic" exhibits--cakes, cookies, canned
vegetables and fruits, breads, garden displays, and wilting bouquets.
Then we would head to the quilts, crocheted work, knitting, bedspreads
and other textile entries. We saved the Midway until later in the
afternoon when the "show" tents with their barkers would open. The two
of us would have to decide which show and which ride we would buy
tickets for. There would be money for 1 each. We would never agree at
first but it always seemed that we ended up on the Ferris wheel which
scared the bejabers out of me.
Late afternoon we headed for the animal barns where we would find our
traveling salesman father (Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation.) His
biggest selling item was V-C fertilizer and he knew all the dealers and
many farmers would be at the barns. He always had a supply of
advertising pencils and little memo books and used those to meet men he
We were getting tired and it was turning dusk. A group of men were busy
discussing something new--someone had thought up the idea of parading
the winning livestock in front of the grandstand before the evening
performance began. They were proud of their animals and believed they
were not getting enough recognition. One owner who had several prize
winning entries said, "I don't have enough people here with me to do
this. Most of our fellows have gone home for the evening. I need at
least three more to lead my Blue Ribbon winners." There was a silence
and then I heard my father say," I'll lead one and I've got two
daughters here who could help." The owner looked at us. I wanted to
become invisible but he addressed me directly, "Do you think you could
hang on to this one?" he said pointing to a hornless Hereford. My father
answered, "Yes, we have a cow. She can do it." I was trapped and scared
out of my wits.
The owner took the animal out of the pen, showed me how to hold the
halter with two hands. With heavy seriousness he said, "No matter what
happens, never let go of this rope. If s/he(?),it(?) starts to run just
keep up and NEVER let go of this rope." He required a promise and I
answered, "Yes, sir, I understand. I won't let go of the rope."
I'm sure I knew something about cattle but now I can't remember if it
was a cow or a steer. I do know it wasn't a bull because his prize
winning bull came 4 animals behind me. He had a huge ring in his nose
and the ring was attached to a long 2X4. You could tell that it hurt his
nose when the pole was twisted or dropped. I didn't like the looks of it
at all but the owner was going to lead the big fellow.
It took a while for the parade to get onto the track. By this time it
was dark and the stage was aglow with bright lights and the grandstand
was also lighted up but not quite so brightly. My animal was big, heavy
and swayed from side to side. To keep from getting stepped on I had to
almost jump from side to side with each step. Actually I believe I was
holding the rope too close to its head but I never moved an inch from
where the owner had placed my hands. I could hear the people clapping as
the loud speaker gave the names of the winners that were front and
center. But I hadn't even gotten in front of the grandstand and was
already getting very tired. I didn't know the race track was so long.
About that time I heard shouting and a commotion and looking behind me I
saw the bull charging straight ahead with the owner trying to hold onto
the 2x4. I knew I was going to get run over by the bull or caught by the
2x4 which seemed to be flailing through the air. I was so scared I
thought I was going to pee in my pants. But I would die first before I
would do that in front of all the people in the grandstand.
The bull and the owner continued on past at breakneck speed until the
bull saw an opening into the infield and headed for that grassy area. I
could breath again and set about praying that I would make it all the
way around the back side of the track to the barn before I collapsed.
The leaders who had gone first put their animals away and came to help
us get our animals back to the right barn and in their pens. The owner
probably would have thanked me but was very engaged with his prize bull
that was thinking about getting back onto the track.
Papa Steele, Virginia and I walked quickly through the grounds and out
to the parking area. With three of us looking we found his salesman
coupe quickly. I silently vowed that never again would I accept an
invitation from my father to go to the Greenbrier Valley Fair. I believe
I was asleep before we reached Ronceverte.