Sure, I’ve had my share of fame: the occasional certificate of appreciation, a 6th grade science fair medal for my Popsicle stick bridge. But nothing prepared me for my reign as Pig Queen.
My kids spotted the NASCAR-style pig race shortly after we arrived at the NC Mountain State Fair. Bleachers surrounded the sawdust racetrack, and brightly colored farmyard animals in safety helmets were painted across the tin backdrop. The sound system blared country tunes heavy with fiddle and fatback. A billboard listed tonight’s racing contestants, such as Piggy Gordon and Hoggy Jarrett.
“Mom! Can we please come back to watch the race?” My children pleaded with me, eyes full of hope, chins aquiver with traces of maple syrup cotton candy.
“We’ll see,” I replied, thinking they’d forget about it. But no such luck.
The countdown to the race continued throughout the day. At three hours til race time, we were in the petting zoo, feeding carrot medallions to an adolescent camel who preferred to nibble my straw hat.
At two hours til, my son was pounding a trout stamp onto a leather bracelet while my daughter watched a woman in a bonnet and cotton apron spin alpaca hair into yarn.
At one hour til, we washed the roasted corn from our hands and paid $15 for our kids to throw darts at a wall full of balloons. Each child won a stuffed animal (white wolf, purple panda) with a combined suggested retail price of $1.75.
Finally, at 20 minutes til, we left the swirling splendor of the ferris wheel behind and headed to the race. The Hogway Speedway announcer was calling out to passersby. “This is the height of entertainment, folks! Don’t miss out on the event of the season!”
My daughter’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. She grabbed her brother’s hand and the two of them threaded their way to the kids’ section up front. My husband stayed there while I worked my way around to a spot directly across from them, camera at the ready.
In retrospect, that move may have cemented my bid for the crown. To the observer, I wasn’t a parent dragged to the Hogway Speedway by her kids. Nope, I was in it for me. Just me and the mobile bacon, bonding at the fair.
The announcer explained there would be a series of races—pig, duck, pygmy goat. Each contestant would represent royalty, a member of the crowd selected randomly. “And our Pig Queen is this woman in the pink jacket and straw hat!”
I looked up. The announcer was grinning at me while my kids jumped up and down shouting, “That’s our mom! That’s our mom!”
Yes, I had just been chosen as liege to the porker in the indigo silks, #11, Hammy Hamlin. I accepted my paper crown, complete with pig ears. “Pigs go best with Tabasco©!” the crown said. If that didn’t motivate my little champion, nothing would.
I saw Hammy waddling into position and wondered if he had what it took to win. As Queen, could I have him exiled if he lost? Would I have to knight him in the event of swinal victory?
An electronic bugle call rang out and the piggies shot from the gate. Encouraged by the clamoring crowd, Hammy took the early lead. I cheered in spite of myself. “For honor and the kingdom!” But alas, it was not to be. Much to the chagrin of his Queen, #11 stopped to relieve himself halfway around the track. Obviously refreshed, he then began rooting through the wood chips for some light refreshments. He didn’t even finish the race. He squealed indignantly as his handler scooped him up and carried him back to his trailer.
I examined the tattered remains of my monarchy. My reign had been so full of promise, but glory had slipped through the cloven hooves of fate. Life would never be the same. Or would it?
“Now,” said the announcer, perusing the crowd, “we’re going to need some Duck Queens!”
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Angela Dove is an award-winning humor columnist and author of the true crime book, No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder. She welcomes feedback at www.AngelaDove.com