I covered a volleyball match at Mount Airy High School Tuesday evening.
As I exited the school, the sky had darkened, except for lots of flashing lights across the creek at Veterans Memorial Park.
The fair is back in town.
I haven’t been to the fair in a few years. I went many times as a kid to enjoy the rides. Then when I had a kid, I went with my camera to take shots of Sarah having a blast.
These days my creaky back won’t let me ride anything fun, and my daughter is off in her first year of college.
But I have plenty of good memories — and bad ones, too. But aren’t some of the most memorable times a little of both?
My freshman year, I was still the little guy waiting for my growth spurt while all my friends were nearly finished growing.
My buddy Daniel Boyles and I rode everything that looked interesting. He even convinced me we should try the giant slide, even though no one over the age of 12 was on the ride.
I agreed, and soon we stood at the top of the long multi-tiered descent with only a burlap sack as our vehicle. Daniel went first, with me close behind.
The slide was surprisingly fun, but at the bottom my feet got all tangled up in the sack, and I couldn’t stand.
Coming down the slide behind me was a 9- or 10-year-old boy riding on his belly. Before I could get free, the boy crashed head-first into my lower back.
The pain was excruciating. I looked back over my shoulder, expecting to see the kid’s neck bent 90 degrees with his unseeing eyes pointing at the heavens.
Nope, the kid hopped right up and took off to get back in line. He was fine, and it was all I could do to get out of the way of the next boy flying down the slope.
That was only the first of my bruises on the evening.
A little while later, Daniel spotted some friends waiting to go on a ride, some version of the Scrambler with cars that spin around in circles while the whole thing also turns.
Daniel had a crush on one of the girls there and insisted that he should ride alone with her. That left me without a partner. Others paired off, and I was left with a stranger.
But oh what a stranger.
I had been muttering under my breath about this violation of the guy code (but as it turns out, ditching your pal for a hottie is a very acceptable practice in the guy code — I just didn’t know any better).
I stopped muttering.
She was beautiful and so petite that me at 5-foot-3 and 120 pounds meant that I was the heavier of us two.
We sat down in the car and the operator came over and yanked the safety bar down across our laps. Well, in the general vicinity of our laps. The bar was some inches shy of touching my jeans.
The ride started, and we found that it was impossible to remain strangers on a ride that constantly throws the two of you together like those metal orbs in the Newton’s cradle ball clicker.
She apologized to me, then I had to apologize back on the next spin. Then I decided that I had to be chivalrous and protect the lady from my flailing form.
I grabbed the bar with both hands and held on as strongly as I could, determined not to fall into the tiny beauty by my side.
Unfortunately, with my arms reaching out to hold the bar, I had no protection for my torso. Over and over this young woman slammed into the left side of my rib cage while I silently prayed that I wouldn’t cry like a baby before it was all over.
By the end of the ride I knew what a college running back felt like on Saturday night.
Still, maybe my friend Daniel was on to something with his crush because going through that experience did create sort of a bond, like soldiers in a foxhole perhaps.
Whether it was the fairgrounds and the ride or maybe it was her smile and laugh, but I was smitten with my new companion.
Unfortunately for me, it turned out that she was two years older than I was. And if you remember that girls develop socially faster than boys, then time is expanded. Like dog years. She was 14 years older than I.
Still, from that time until she graduated and moved on, I only had eyes for my fairgrounds gal.
Jeff is the associate editor of The News and can be reached at 415-4692.