Mashing dirt, popcorn, cotton candy and hay
underfoot, Eben marches down the midway.
There was betting going on at the track.
It was tempting, but he held back.
There are more honest ways
to make ends meet. Ma's pastries
lost to Em Gale's again -- says
more, he thinks, about the judges' taste
than Sarah's cooking -- and his whittlings
never stood a chance. Those little things
make a good hobby, but no living.
So much for contests. Gov'ment's giving
handouts at one booth. He won't stoop
to begging. Even the horses lost.
He'll have to sell them. Won't recoup
their real worth. What did they cost?
At carnivals young men win
prizes for their gals (dolls, mostly) in tests
where, to ring a bell, one swings a mallet.
There's a couple with a kewpie. In jest
the boy flexes, but his thinned wallet,
Eben posits, is no joke.
Sarah won't like being broke.
They were that couple. At twenty
Eben won the anvil lift. The money,
since they'd been taught thrift, went to the farm.
Should have bought her a gift. What harm
would that have done, in the long run?
Fading day; melting midway.
On the Plaza Stage, Alf Landon speaks.
For a governor he is meek
in his white suit, and no great wit.
Folks like him, dry as he is.
Not voting for him may prove a chore
but, two years hence, they won't. They adore
F.D.R. and lean years will claim casualties.
What's that behind Landon? Eben sees
the anvil and his thoughts cease. Big Bill
Dee mounts the platform when the speech
is finished, announces John "the Bull" Laroque,
who won last year and, all suppose, will now.
Bill calls for comers anyhow. "Bull" mocks
potential lifters, tenses his red neck
and flares thick nostrils. Numbed but not cowed,
Eben drifts on stage to humble him. The crowd
all laugh at the old man. Let them.