Sunday morning, Michael and I were watching a story about Spam on CBS Sunday Morning, when I said "My mom judged the Spam cook-off at the State Fair one year. She's got a Spam apron to prove it." Michael looked at me sideways and said "there are so many things about that sentence that I can't even..I don't even know how to respond." It was something about the words "state fair", "judge", "Spam cook-off" all tucked in together in the same sentence that made his head spin. I replied with "what? You never entered things in your state fair?" and he responded with "what year have you traveled here from?" A few nights later I told him that Mom's pickles won first prize at the Tulsa County Fair this year. His brain nearly exploded.
I thought everyone entered stuff in their county and state fairs. No really. I'm thirty nine and just now realized that not everyone sewed a garment, grew a squash or painted a ceramic dish and then submitted it to be judged at the county and or state fair. Usually, if you won at the county level, you were automatically submitted to State. When I said that out loud to Michael, he nearly fell off the couch. It was like I had just walked out of some black and white TV show wearing a gingham dress with pony tails and a straw hat. Needless to say Michael and I had very different childhoods. I am a country mouse who has learned to be a city mouse. Michael has always been the city mouse.
Mr and Mrs McAfee were our 4-H leaders in Collinsville, but they were also the caretakers of the fair exhibits. Mr McAfee was always roaming around the exhibit hall making notes on what picture was crooked and how that flower arrangement needed to be shifted over. He was also acting security, deterring people from touching or taking someone's prize jar of pickles. I cannot think of any fair without thinking of Mr McAfee. Sure he listened to countless hours of speech practices and was always present to taste test a pie, but it was his constant presence at the fairs that I remember the most. One year at the Tulsa State Fair, Dad had given me $10 to ride some rides. I was helping out in the 4-H exhibit hall that day, moving things around, answering questions. When it was time for my break, I reached into my pocket for that money and found it missing. I had managed to lose it somehow. Later in the day Mr McAfee came up to me and handed me $10. He said he'd found it over in some corner or other, but I knew that wasn't true. He found that money in his own wallet.
I suppose it is almost fitting that Mr McAfee would decide to leave this planet on the same week as the Tulsa County fair. Mrs McAfee passed several years back, but Mr McAfee was still going strong. In fact I was surprised to hear of his death. I don't know why, but he just seemed like this immortal figure. He was ninety two when he passed, making him almost immortal. Mr and Mrs McAfee were part of the village that raised me. I will be forever grateful for both of them, for the generosity and the countless hours both of them spent helping kids like me become better citizens.
I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty and my hands to greater service. For my club. For my community. For my country. For my world.
These are the lessons they taught me. I am truly thankful for the impact both Mr and Mrs McAfee had in my life. Here's to a blue ribbon weekend and a truly Thankful Friday.