The ferris wheel

By Randall Franks

As I held tightly to my mother’s right hand, I gripped the striped-red string that held my blue, green and yellow balloon we bought from the bright-colored clown. I knew if I didn’t hold on to both with all my might they might get lost amidst the crowd moving between the fair rides. I never saw so many people bumping into each other in my life. It was wall-to-wall people.

We waited in line to get a chance to ride the huge, white, wooden roller coaster. Burt Reynolds years later blew it up in one of his movies, but today it was one of the biggest rides I had ever seen, and I want to tell you I was a little scared and excited at a chance to ride it.

I was not sure if my stomach would keep down the combination of cotton candy, popcorn and hot dogs that had been the diet I pleaded for from my parents. Only a candied apple remained on my list of items I just had to have.

My mother told me I had to wait.

I watched as dad pointed the gun at the ducks, knocking duck after duck down. He was a very good shot. Then I watched my mom take a turn, and she out-shot him. My dad helped me hold the gun and use one of his turns. I was so excited when I hit the bell. I am sure my dad played a big part in guiding the aim of my intentions.

We walked away with an arm full of odds and ends as prizes. I am sure they were glad to see us move on to the game where you try to get the rings on the bottles. We did not do as well at that.

There were judgings for pies, preserves and all kinds of foods. We moved from building to building, where farmers young and old brought their best livestock hoping to score a blue or red ribbon.

Throughout our visit to the Southeastern Exposition at the Lakewood Fairgrounds near Atlanta, Ga., I knew one thing—whatever we did, we had to wait. Patience for a four-year-old like me was not something that came easy. I gave it my best shot, but I am sure there was some squirming and squealing involved.

Of all the experiences at my first visit to a fair, it was the bright colors of the rides, the musical sounds and all the people smiling that stick most in my memory.

Over the years as an entertainer, I have been to many fairs, but for some reason in my mind none of them ever quite measure up to my first one.

Throughout my youth, I was a regular rider of the rides that spin you around faster and faster. I remember getting on one of those rides 18 times in a row. For some reason in my late teens my constitution changed. After my date and I got off the short ride on a large ferris wheel, lets say that cotton candy, hot dogs and popcorn I ate when I was four finally caught up with me. Since then, I have not been able to enjoy many rides, but I still enjoy the sights and sounds.

Although we are many weeks away from the fair season in my region, there is something about the heat of August that pulls me to those childhood fair memories; perhaps it’s the thought of a tall cool glass or fresh squeezed lemonade.

Whatever brings you a breath of fresh air, I hope my little trek down the midway helps you find it.

Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest CD release, “Mississippi Moon,” is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “Encouragers I : Finding the Light.” He is a syndicated columnist for http://cts.vresp.com/c/?ShareAmericaFoundati/cb3dc72eb9/23ed38dad7/7db2538a63 and can be reached at rfrankscatoosa@gmail.com.

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