Dick Herfindahl: Remembering the fair and fun years passed

Published 8:54 pm Friday, August 9, 2019

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl


Now that the “six best days of summer” are behind us, it seems like summer will soon be bidding farewell for yet another season. Although I always embrace fall as my favorite season, summer seems as if it will be ending prematurely. I have always been one to accept change, sometimes begrudgingly, but the fact remains that change is inevitable. I have never been a fan of starting school two weeks early so the school year can end early. This has just never made sense to me and is especially so if you have a student athlete who is involved in spring sports or have someone in 4-H who makes it to the state fair with an animal or project. This is just my opinion, which is obviously not shared by anyone on the school board. They are our elected officials and I respect their choices.

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I have to admit this is the first year in a while that I did not make it to the fair for at least one day. The fact is the only time I have gone to the fair in recent years was when my grandsons were showing their 4-H projects. I also used this day to check out all of the different displays and of course, partake in some of the delicious fair food.

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the fair. I was a big fan of the stock car races that were held at the fairgrounds on Friday nights. During the fair they usually held the stock car races during the day on Saturday. There were usually an extra number of participants on that day and it was an exciting time. Eventually the people that lived near the fairgrounds started to complain about the noise and the change that was inevitable finally came. I do believe the last stock car race that I attended during the fair was on the half-mile track and there was an accident in the northeast corner where a car went through the fence and ended up on Richway Drive. I believe this might have been what spelled the beginning of the end of racing at the fair.

In the next couple of years that followed they had midget car races, which were entertaining but a serious accident in a feature race pretty much sealed the deal and marked the end of racing anything that didn’t eat hay. They had harness racing for years after that, but even that eventually faded into oblivion as far as the fair goes. Harness racing is still going strong today at Running Aces and Casino and various county fairs throughout the state. It is a fun event to watch, although I haven’t attended one for many years.

I grew up with a mom and dad (especially dad) who loved horses. I was probably sitting on a pony before I could walk. In looking back, I know my dad had visions of me riding horses with him as I grew older. Unfortunately, I never did have his interest in horses running in my blood. I loved playing cowboys as a young kid, but when it came to horseback riding I just never embraced it.

My sister Judy, on the other hand, was dad’s long awaited horse person as she showed horses in 4-H and did a lot of riding in local horse shows, which she had gotten into while I was away in the service. I was glad for my dad because he finally had his cowgirl to teach horsemanship to.

As I grew into my teens I would from time-to-time go riding with my friend Pat Smith and I actually kind of enjoyed it. My dad had two Tennessee Walker horses named Dole and Pedro. I could ride them both and whenever Pat and I would take them out for a ride, I wasn’t partial to either one because they were both good horses. In looking back, I have to say that I did learn a lot about horses and caring for them just by hanging out with my dad at the horse barn. Eventually we did do some riding together, which I know made him happy.

In looking back, I have to say I did spend my fair share of time picking myself up off the ground after getting thrown off of various horses. If I learned one life lesson from that, it was the old cliché that you have to get back on the horse that tossed you to let it know that you weren’t afraid. The only horse that threw me off more than once was my friend Pat Smith’s horse, which was named scout. The reason for his horses’ name was that he looked a lot like Tonto’s horse of the Lone Ranger Show fame. Whenever the fair was just around the corner, Pat would show up at my house on Scout and ask me if I wanted to ride with him to the fairgrounds to check things out. In a moment of weakness, I would agree, knowing full well that Scout was not a big fan of having someone ride double on his back. Once he had bucked me off and had established some ground rules, mainly, that he could shed me from his back whenever he wanted. Then, and only then, would he let me stay there. Even though he did let me stay on his back I seemed to have a few trust issues, which made me feel a little uneasy and probably brought a little horse faced smirk to his face. I did manage to survive my years as a horse jockey, of sorts, even though there were a few bumps and bruises along the way. In looking back, those were fun and carefree times where just the simplest of things were what really mattered.

Please remember to keep our troops in your prayers. We must not let ourselves forget those who are still putting themselves in harm’s way so we can enjoy all of the wonderful freedoms we have today.