Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. The next night after surviving the parade, we donned boots and jeans - no doubt in an effort to look like we might have a horse and it was just taken ill, leaving us unable to ride and participate in the real pageant – and assembled at the back of the rodeo grounds. There we were pinned with the sashes bearing the names of our various sponsors – Miss Co-op, Miss Silver Star Café, etc. One of my good friends, Maria, had also been suckered into participating. Maria was in a wheelchair. This became significant.
After a few minutes of milling around, not unlike cattle in a pen, a truck arrived, pulling a large stock trailer with the sides removed. “Oh no!” you say.
Oh yes. We were herded onto the trailer. The rodeo queen contestants all ride around the arena and are presented to an adoring crowd. We, the poor unfortunates, were not to be denied the same opportunity. The rodeo queen contestants rode horses. We vied for the honor of being Fair Queen. That rates a ride around the arena in a stock trailer.
You wouldn’t think it possible, but the irony of this seemed lost on everyone at the time. Everyone, perhaps, except Maria and I. Have you ever tried to wheel a chair into a stock trailer? There is no ADA requirement there. Someone provided a couple of 2 x 4’s and I managed to help wheel her aboard. She locked her wheels and I clung to the chair’s handles in an attempt to remain upright for the ride. Rodeo arenas are meant to be traversed by four-hooved animals, not pickups.
It turned out, much to our expectance, that neither Maria nor I were destined for Fair Queendom. I don’t know about Maria, but I couldn’t hope but feel that was a good thing.
The next year brought big changes to town. I left to go to college and Lizzy Johnson even moved on herself, down the road a few miles to the brighter economic prospects of prison guard employment in a neighboring town. I don’t know what happened to the Fair Queen. I don’t even really remember who became Fair Queen. But Lizzy’s well meaning lapse into social equality has served me well over the years. It seems each time I begin to feel too “big for my britches” I’ll come across a box in the back closet. I can’t help but open it. And there, on the top, every time, is that sash – Miss City Grocery and Deli.
Its good to remember where you came from. Especially if you are headed in the opposite direction.