So today I went to the North Carolina State Fair!
My buddy Otter, her husband, and Kevin and I all tromped out to eat Fried Thing On A Stick and risk E. coli in the livestock barns. Unfortunately they’ve apparently had way too much E.coli around, because there was very little livestock comparatively—half a barn, no more. I was sad. I wanted to see draft horses with gigantic rumps and interesting chickens. No luck. Did get some shots of donkeys and sheep and had much better luck at the petting zoo, where a cow licked Kevin and Otter was menaced by Unsettling Camel Lips. (Definitely my next band name.)
We also met The World’s Most Satisfied Goat.
But no enormous horse butts. I looked for a place to drown my sorrows.
That should do nicely.
In case you’re curious, Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie Onna Stick will drown a LOT of sorrows. Nearly all of them, in fact. I’m pretty sure that I could learn that I was single, destitute, and had foot herpes and I would greet this news with equanimity, if it came with Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie Onna Stick.
Other fair food of note included Alligator Onna Stick (Kevin rated this as “Chewy, but not bad.”) roasted earns of corn dipped in butter, and Buffalo Chicken Rangoon, which was a little heavy for rangoon but otherwise tasty.
Then we went to the sideshows.
I cannot do sideshows with humans in them because that’s just…urgh, no. But things in jars! I will go leave eyeball tracks all over a three-headed pig in a jar!
One of the two was mostly live animals, generally livestock with extra bits. They had a sheep with an extra leg and one of those four-horned goats (Jacob Sheep, google tells me, and holy crap, if you want a strange experience, look up "fat-tailed sheep." Yowza. Sheepy's got back.) and a steer who probably had a couple of extra legs but was laying down. Plus a Zonkey. Can’t argue with a Zonkey.
The seriously bargain basement sideshow, though, was…well, it was a thing.
It had a half-dozen deformed plastic babies with large signs saying that this was EDUCATIONAL ABOUT THE HORRORS OF DRUGS. (…’Kay?) They had what purported to be a shrunken head, a Genuine Figi Mermaid (sic)* and a plastic bust of the Long Necked Woman, which would have been more impressive if it hadn’t been a plastic mannequin head with the neck wrapped in steel cable.It had, for no apparent reason, a paper-mache chupacabra. It had a pickled octopus and a number of unfortunate fetal pigs and what claimed to be mummified pygmies from “Astralia.”**
It also had a turtlope, a taxidermied tortoise with a jackalope head hanging out of it, whereupon Otter demanded to know why I had not drawn it already.
But the high point of one of the most cut-rate, tacky, inferior sideshows I have ever seen—nay, the high point of the entire day—was Swamp Man.
Photography was not possible in that space, owing to poor lighting and reflective dusty glass, but on the way out, before we reached the entirely legitimate 200lb Alligator Snapping Turtle, underneath the taxidermied 2-headed raccoon, there was a…thing.
It appeared to be a human face, or something close to it, with a rather strange white beard and an open, frowning mouth with four teeth. The eyes were painted, although fairly realistically. There was something odd going on with the nose. It was all covered in dense white hair, with tan sideburns that swept forward.
Otter was gazing at it, baffled (more “Why does this exist?” than “What is it?” I imagine) but something about it was naggingly familiar. I took a step back and felt one of those mental clicks, like when you see a magic-eye puzzle flip the other way and suddenly what you thought was a bowl of fruit is actually a young woman with large kumquats.
“My god,” I said, starting to laugh, “it’s a white-tailed deer butt!”
The tail was the beard. The eyes had been shaved and painted, and they’d done a little work on the nose. And that meant that the mouth was…was made out of…had previously been the deer’s…
Oh dear god.
Teeth and everything.
When we had collected ourselves and gone outside to try and explain the Miracle of Swamp Man to Otter’s husband, I went to Twitter. And an alert reader—god help us all—informed me that no, this was not a singular deviation, this was, in fact, a thing.
(Includes Bonus Photo Of Deer-Butt Doorbell!)
These are all much better than Swamp Man was, if “better” is a term that can be applied under these circumstances.
“The thing that amazes me,” said Otter, as we struggled off into the Midway, where the big thing these year was giant stuffed Rastafarian bananas–
–”the thing that really amazes me is that you looked at it for like five seconds and you knew it was a deer’s ass.”
“It’s a gift,” I said modestly. “Evidently.”
“Clearly you need to update your resume.”
So that was our trip to the fair. I leave you with Man In Squid Hat Who Does Not Approve Of These Shenanigans.
*All in keeping with the grand sideshow tradition! I take my hat off to the Mermaid. Not sure where Figi is.
**It’s near Figi.