"Hey You Boys" It's Got To Be The Joint From Hell!

by John Robinson


It was 8:45 PM Friday evening and with great anticipation I laid out my band uniform.  I had to be to the school by 5:30 AM with instrument in hand.  We were headed for the annual Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio California.  Not only was I going to march in the parade, I was going to go to the fair.  Now the Date Festival was not just any fair, it was the fair, it was the festival, and best of all it was the carnival and we got free admission tickets.  What more could you ever ask for, what more could you ever want.  Well I was young then!


The day started off as always, I arrived at 5:20 with horn in hand. It wasnít any horn it was the big horn, it was the John Philip Sousaphone as we called it.  All the sleepy kids loaded as quickly as sleepy kids can into the bus and off we go it was 6:30 AM.  It was 90 miles to the festival so that meant and hour and a half or so of sleep before we had to unload and get ready for the parade.


For some reason my uniform pants didnít seem to fit quite right that day.  I know I had the right uniform because I had picked it up from the band room a few days earlier that week.  Anyway it had been a cool morning so I had worn my sweater underneath my jacket.   After arriving we all piled out of the bus.  The band director had us grab our instruments and follow him about three blocks from where the bus had parked to the area where we were to line up and wait for our turn to head down the parade route.  Now all of this was just in the way of getting to the carnival.  If it had been up to me there would have been no parade, no uniforms, just the sights and sounds of the midway.  We could hear all of the sounds and laughter from our location just a few blocks from the fair grounds.


I think as children that all of our parents have advised us not to go out of the house with dirty cloths.  I had heard this as far back as I could remember.  My parents would say, what would you do if you weren't wearing clean underwear, got hurt and they had to take you to the hospital.  For some reason, at that time in my life, I wasnít quite sure why, but I knew I should at least wear clean underwear every time I left the house.  I know you are thinking to yourself right now, what does clean underwear have to do with anything.  That morning I put on the cleanest underwear I could find, right out of the washing machine.  There was only one problem they were the holiest ones I owned.  Not holy, but holey as in many, many holes in them.  I figured that if for some reason I was run over by one of those camels (which they race at the fair) or fell off of some ride on the midway the doctors weren't going to see me in dirty underwear.  I thought I would be safe because my parents never said anything about holes.


Back to the parade!  It was our time so we formed 7 full ranks, this left me in the rear by myself in a one man line, the 8th rank.  It wasn't as bad as it sounds, I didnít have to stay in line with anyone else.  All I had to do was keep in step, keep in beat and play all the right notes as we marched along the parade route.


About halfway through I started hearing laughter from people along the parade route.  Looking around to see what they where laughing at, I was quite puzzled as I didnít see anything that funny.  But as I marched they would laugh.  We had about 2 blocks to the end of the parade route and all of a sudden I felt cold coming in the back of my pants.  So I reached around with my right hand and to my horror the back of my pants had split completely out.  Now let me tell you I would have traded any pair of my dirty underwear for the holey ones I had on.  I finally found out what all the laughter had been about.   All I could think about was those 100 million people that had been on that parade route.  They had seen the split in my pants, the holey underwear and most of all my little pink cheeks that had be hanging out for who knows how long.  Right at that moment I remembered the hat on my head.  Off it went, into my right hand and over the hole in my pants.   For the time being I had fixed the problem, the parade was over, but the best part of the day was still ahead.  Now you need to remember that I had arrived at the bus dressed in my uniform.  Not an extra pair of pants to be had anywhere.   But that morning had been cold so I had wore my sweater under my jacket.


I was saved, I took my sweater off from underneath my jacket, tied it around my waist and off to the fair I went.  I caught up with a couple of my friends, we entered the fairground passing the great Arabic Domes that set to either side of the entry.


I have attended many fairs since that year of the holey underwear.  I stop to visit all of the exhibits along the way, the young artist working at a frantic pace trying to get the 1000lbs of butter shaped into Bossy the Cow before opening night.  I stop by to visit with Mr. Kirby who says his vacuum can suck the bowling right out of the ball.  Mr. Watkins tries to sells me his dark salve, it is so thick that it could be used to pack the bearingís in the wheels on my car.  But as a child I remember my mother putting it on the cracks on the bottom of my feet and the next morning magically they had all disappeared.


You know as an adult you visit all of those things at the fair you wouldnít have been caught dead in as a child.


Back to the midway, with my sweater around my waist and my two best friends by my side we entered the most wonderful part of the fair the Great Midway.  Wanting to ride every one of the rides, see every one of the worlds largest, the worlds smallest and the worlds weirdest.  It was going to be a magical time, we could hardly wait.


Walking down the midway we were watching all of the other kids playing games, standing in line waiting with great excitement to ride.  You could her them telling each other how brave they were, I told Charley I thought they were crazy for riding that one.  But in my heart I was hoping that they would survive that ride.  I knew that they would have to be very, very lucky, if not there would be kids thrown all of the midway.  I remember last year hearing one of those cars coming loose and 2 kids had been hurt really bad.  Well, I knew I wasn't going to ride that one!  Everyone on the midway was just having the best of times.  All of a sudden we hear, "hey you boys", looking all around to see if the voice we heard was addressing us.  "Yes you boys, come over here, come over here right now, donít you want to win one of these great prizes?"  Prizes! Prizes werenít what we had on our minds at all right at that moment.  All we were trying to do was get over to the other side of the midway where we could get on the Big Wheel.  "You boys come over here, come over here right now!"  We donít want to play his game right then, all we wanted to do was go over to the rides.  "I told you boys to come here and I mean you come here right now."  Now I wasnít sure what to say to that guy, but I know what Charley had to say wasnít the right thing.  "We donít want to play your f*$%ing game."   About that time Charley looked right at me with the strangest look on his face.  I looked over to were that guy had been, he had jumped over the counter and right out of his joint, his face was all red and he was yelling, "you little #*&%@ Iím going to kill all of you."


Well the first thing that ran through my mind was.... you got to get out of here and fast.  Not a thought of my friends crossed my mind, in fact as I was running around all over the place trying to get away from this manic,  all I could think about was why is this guy chasing me?  Iím not the one that said anything to him.  He needed to go after my friend, the one that opened his big mouth.  Now I was the one that was going to die and I didn't have anything to do with what had happened back there at the joint.


Well I rounded a corner and straight under the grandstands, I guess he hadnít seen where I had gone.  I waited under there for what seemed to be hours, my heart pounding, and you think scare tactics are Scary.  Finally I got the nerve to climb out from underneath the grandstands and avoiding all of the rides, games and everything else that I thought he would be looking for me in and around.  I slipped down the backside of the midway and found my way out of the fair grounds and back to the bus.  It had only been about 45 minutes since we had entered the fair, but I couldnít go back in there. I knew both my friends had been killed by that guy.   


So for the rest of the day I just waited around the bus until the others returned.  What was I going to tell the band director?  Hey Mr. Band Director you know that Charley smarted off to one of those guys in the fair and him and Jack got killed. Well, I was never so happy to see my friends when they showed up at the bus and both of them were alive.  But I was ready to smack Charley for smarting off to that guy in the game booth.  We all talked about that day and as time passes we get many laughs out of our experiences at the fair that day.  Life has never been the same for me .  


I still think of that carnie jumping out of his joint every time I go to a fair or a carnival.   I donít play the games, but I guess I should be thankful because I never lose any money on those joints.  I see others playing them all of the time and know if you are very lucky you might have a slim chance to win. To this day I still can't remember what type of game joint it was. BTW I always wear clean underwear without any holes in them.


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