The county fair in Sailor’s Harbor was a huge affair. Attracting the village of 3,000 with a joyous symphony of sights, sounds and smells. Food vendors, local craftsmen, antique dealers and dealers in junk, stretched along the boardwalk, sharing space with gaming vendors and livestock attractions.
The aromas tickled the senses and emptied many pockets: fresh hot-roasted peanuts, cotton candy, buttered popcorn and Neapolitan ice cream squares sandwiched between piping hot waffles. Blend that with the pungent odors of pigs, sheep, cattle, manure and hay, and you have yourselves a county fair.
The hot-air balloons were a given at the fair. Dozens of balloons hovered over the fair grounds, displaying the most amazing array of designs and colors.
That’s what Terence McMichael O’Day had in mind when he woke from his dream this morning.
“Can we go for a balloon ride, Mom?” said Terence.
“Oh, dear,” she said. “It’s says on the sign twenty five dollars per person. We certainly can’t afford that. Not with your father off selling elephants in the Congo. But we’ll have some money soon. I Promise. In his last letter your father told me he was going to wire us some of the profits from his elephant sale. And he’d be home a short time after that.”
Terence was disappointed, but didn’t complain. He never did.
“How about we go play ourselves some games?” said his uncle Phil.
“Sure,” said Terence. “Sounds like fun.”
And up the boardwalk they strolled, not knowing which game to play first.
“Step right up! Step right up!” cried the barker behind the counter. “Knock all six milk bottles over with one mighty toss of this here ball and win a free ride on a hot-air balloon! Three balls for a dollar! So step right up! You‘ll be up in the air in no time! How about you, young man?”
“Mom!” said Terence. “Only a dollar!”
“You’ve got ten dollars of your own, dear” said his mom. “Have yourself some fun.”
“I’ll give it a try, mister,” said Terence.
“Here’s my dollar.”
“And here’s your three balls,” said the barker. “Good luck.”
“A word of advice,” his uncle Phil whispered in his ear. “Don’t over-think it. That’s the key. Just imagine the ball being three times its size, then throw with a natural ease. Like knocking down weighted down milk bottles is as normal as falling asleep. And, here, try some of this.”
“What is it?” said Terence.
“It’s elbow grease,” said Uncle Phil. “You rub it in real good and it’ll give you that extra oomph!”
“Oh, that’s just an old wive’s tale,” said Terence. “Your just trying to have some fun with me.”
“Humor me, Terence,” he said. “You won’t be disappointed. I bought it from an ancient greens keeper while golfing in St. Andrews, Scotland. And damn if I wasn’t knocking balls clear over the White Cliffs of Dover! It didn’t improve my game any, but boy could I drive that ball!"
"But the White Cliffs of Dover aren't in Scotland," said Terence.
"Exactly right," said Uncle Phil.
Terence thought it best to humor the old bong meister, and allowed him to apply the elbow grease.
“I’m ready,”said Terence.
With that, the young boy gripped the ball in his right hand and went into his wind up - major league style. When Terence was good and focused, he unleashed the ball and watched as the fiery projectile plowed through all six milk bottles, the back wall, and several stacks of hay that were piled up several yards behind the structure. The structure itself, realizing it had no back wall, tumbled from lack of support. It was all the barker could to to scramble to safety.
“You’re paying for this!” said the barker. “And no balloon ride for you!”