By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 12, 1932.
I am forced to attend three or four fall fairs every year by Jimmie Frise. He says it is to help me understand human nature. So while I wander around amongst the agricultural implements and mammoth pumpkins studying human nature, Jimmie watches the trotting races. Oh, I see through him, all right!
The “lucky number” idea has hit the fall fairs. When you buy your admission to the grounds, they give you a piece of paper with a number on it. Late in the afternoon they call out the lucky number, and you get a prize. Sometimes it is a prize donated by one of the exhibitors, like a plow-share or pint bottle of Somebody’s Ready Relief, good for man or beast, for cuts, aprains, burns, bruises and internal disorders. Sometimes it is a prize cheese or ten pounds of butter or a bag of taties.
Last week Jim took me to the Parkville Fall Fair. That isn’t its right name. But it isn’t sixty miles west of Toronto.
The man taking our money stuffed a little square of paper in my hand as we drove through the fence into the fair grounds. It was the usual lucky number, printed in pencil on a bit of cheap paper. I stuck it in my pocket.
Jim headed straight for the track to see the trotters running around. And I put my hat on the back of my head, pulled some of my front hair out under the brim of the hat, pulled my necktie crooked, and thus disguised as one of the local boys, I proceeded to mingle with the crowd to study human nature.
About four o’clock a voice started bellowing through a megaphone and all hands began moving toward it. It was the lucky number draw for five handsome prizes.
“Two seventy-one,” shouted the man with the megaphone. “Two hundred and seventy-one. Lucky number. Everybody look at your tickets, folks. The lucky number, first prize, to two seventy-one.”
I pulled the bit of paper from my pocket and looked at it
“Here,” I shouted. “Here you are, 271!”
And everybody smilingly made way for me as I worked my way forward to the man on the wagon box.
“The first prize to-day, ladies and gents,” said the announcer, “goes to No. 271. The prize consists of a magnificent Large White. This Large White is a prize winner, donated through the kindness of our distinguished neighbor, Mr. Robertson. The lucky winner approaches. Here y’are, mister. Just step right up here.”
Willing hands and elbows hoisted me on to the wagon box amidst the throng. I stood up beside the announcer and bowed to the cheers and applause.
“What’s the name, mister?”
“Clark,” said I.
“That’s great,” said the announcer. “Ladies and gents, I’d like to introduce Mr. Clark, winner of the first prize in the lucky number draw. Mr. Clark comes from Toronto, our big sister metropolis. It goes to show that the fame of Parkville is spreading when gentlemen from Toronto come here to return the compliment of our visits to their fair. Mr. Clark, your prize is there. Harry, bring forward Mr. Clark’s prize.”
At first I thought a Large White might be a chicken, which would be very handy for Sunday.
Applause For the Winner
Through the crowd came a young farmer in overalls. He was holding a stout rope which was tied to the hind leg of one of the biggest pigs I ever beheld. He was prodding the large, pink pig with a sharp stick, and as it came through the crowd, shaking its head violently from side to side, with its foamy mouth open, it was emitting noises like five o’clock and all the factories out.
“There you are, sir,” said the announcer, loudly. More applause. “Give the gent the rope, Harry.”
Harry held up the rope which I took.
“Thank you, Mr. Clark. Now the second prize winner, number eighty-nine. Number eighty-nine!”
And he signalled to me graciously that he did not need me anymore.
I handed the rope to a man below the wagon and got off the far side. My idea was to make a run for it and disappear in the crowd, but just as I got to the ground, the pig made a sudden charge and dragged the man who was holding it around before me.
“Here she is,” said the man, giving me the rope.
The pig continued to squeal in a voice that ought to have torn its windpipe. It gave a sudden jerk and the crowd opened and away we went, with every jump its roped foot kicking up mud and sawdust into my face. It was all so sudden, from start to finish, from the moment I found the lucky number in my pocket until I found myself fastened to a 300-pound pig that I couldn’t believe it.
The pig ran down the row of tents and suddenly ducked under a tent rope. Before I could decide whether to let go of the rope altogether or to duck under the tent rope, too, I had done the latter. I just went down and under that tent rope as slick as the pig did.
Suddenly the pig stopped. I never knew anything in the world to be so sudden as a pig. The one minute he was galloping clumsily on his three legs and kicking out with the one I was tied to, and the next instant he was standing there thinking, and I was on the ground beyond him where I had tripped over him. Several gentlemen and ladies came and helped me up and one of the men held the rope.
“Gracious!” said the Iady, “I guess you don’t understand pigs.”
“There are a lot of things, lady, I don’t understand, and pigs is one of the newest.”
“Where is your crate?” she asked.
“I came in a friend’s car,” I said. “It somebody would please hold that pig for a minute, I would go and get my friend. He was born and raised on the farm and he would help me.”
“George,” she said, “tie that pig up for the gentleman.”
So they tied the pig to the fence.
I found Jim sitting on the steps of the judge’s stand. He seems to know all the judges in the world.
“Hullo,” said Jim. “Have you been in fight?”
“Worse,” I said. “Listen, Jimmie, we won the first prize in the lucky number.”
“Hurray,” said Jim.
“But, listen, it’s a pig,” I said. “An enormous pink pig as big as a Union Station policeman.”
Jim slapped me on the back. “Good for you,” he said.
“Us, you mean,” I corrected. “The man at the gate gave us the one ticket, didn’t he? Well, that means it is our pig.”
“Nonsense,” said Jim. “You took the ticket. It’s your prize.”
“Excuse me, Jim,” I said, “we came in your car, didn’t we? And the one ticket was handed to us. Then it is your prize. Good for you, Jimmie! You won the first prize.”
“She’ll Be Just Like a Pet”
“Now lookit here,” said Jim, “there’s a race just starting here in a minute. Run along and look after your prize. I gotta watch this race.”
“Jimmie!” I pleaded.
“Where is it?” he asked.
“It’s tied to the fence down there.”
“It won’t run away.”
“You don’t know this pig,” I said. “Come and look at it and see what we are going to do?”
“We?” said Jim. “It’s your pig. You claimed it. Look after it yourself. And incidentally, you don’t figure I am going to let you take that pig home in the back seat of my car, do you?”
“Quit kidding me, Jim,” I said. “This is the worst jam I’ve been in since the war. Come and help me figure it out.”
“Listen,” said Jim. “You don’t figure I am going to miss the trotting races just because you go around winning prizes at fall fairs, do you? Now, you go and gloat over your prize and when the races are done, I’ll come and give you a hand.”
So I went back to the far side of the fair grounds. There was my pig standing in defiant attitude, tied to the fence. A half dozen people and some boys were standing admiring it.
“Well, sir,” said one man, “you sure won a pig. That’s a real pig.”
“How old would he be?” I inquired.
“She,” said he. “It’s a she. She’s about two years old, I’d say.”
“I don’t know what on earth to do with her,” I confessed. “You see, I live in the city, and there is a law against keeping pigs in your back yard.”
“She won’t be no trouble,” said the farmer. “Just like a pet.”
“But you don’t know the neighborhood I live in,” I said. “They object to dogs, even. I think I’ll sell her.”
“You won’t get much of a price for her,” said the farmer. “But you’d be foolish to sell her. Premier Bennett was just announcing the other day that this country’s future in tied up in the pig. He says we are going to be shipping forty million pigs to Britain by 1942.”
“I can’t keep this pig ten years,” I gasped. I had only had her about ten minutes.
“But she’s a breeder,” said the farmer. “You could raise a herd of a thousand pigs off of her in ten years. She’s a regular Bennett pig. Why don’t you be patriotic and start helping out Mr. Bennett with this here for a start? There’s maybe a fortune in it for you.”
The lady standing beside the farmer said:
“Perhaps this gentleman doesn’t understand your kind of jokes, Abner.”
Several more people came along, and everybody had nothing but admiration for my pig. They told me all kinds of interesting things about pigs. They estimated the amount of bacon on her. I sat down near her and passed the afternoon away. By the time it began to get dusk, I was a pretty good pig farmer. And then I began to watch for Jimmie.
The last man to leave the track, he came just before dark, with that swinging, jaunty air of a man who has put in a profitable and worth-while afternoon.
“Well, sir,” he cried. “Here you are, both of you. Now, what will we do with you?”
“She’s valuable,” said I. “She’s one of the best bacon breeds in the world. If the market were any good, she’d be worth something.”
“It’s your pig,” said Jim. “If she was worth a hundred dollars I wouldn’t claim fraction of her. Twenty-five years ago I took a solemn vow that I would never have any dealings in pigs again as long as I live, and I’m not starting now.”
The people were leaving the fair. They had been leaving for an hour. Car lights were on and there was a general air of departure.
“How will we get her home?” I asked.
“She won’t ride in my car,” said Jim, flatly.
“Would she lead behind?” I suggested.
A Funny Sense of Humor
“We could sort of tow her, like a rowboat,” I said.
“Cruelty to animals,” said Jim. “I’m a great friend of the Humane Society.”
“Well, for Pete’s sake, say something,” I cried.
“Why didn’t you arrange, then, to get one of the farmers that has a truck to deliver her the next time he comes to the city?”
“Because,” I said, “I still think you are entitled to a share of this pig and I didn’t want to do anything without you being in on it.”
“Get this straight,” said Jim. “That’s your pig or nobody’s.”
“If I do get somebody to bring it to the city, what will I do with it?”
“Get a cage for it and hang it in the sunroom,” said Jim. “Dear little piggie-wiggie.”
And he poked her in the side with his foot. She squealed with that torn sound again. Pigs are sensitive things; they can tell whether people like them or not.
“I’ll sell it,” I said. “I’ll go over there and ask some of those people if they would like to buy it.”
“Make it snappy,” said Jim. “We’re going to be the last out of here.”
I went over and mingled with the remaining people standing about their cars and waiting their turn to leave the fair grounds.
“Would anybody like to buy a pig?” I called. “Anybody like a pig?”
Nobody did. I went up to one man who had a trailer to his car loaded with pumpkins and baskets.
“Sir,” I said, “how would you like to buy that pig I won for first prize?”
“No, sir,” he said. “I’ve got more pigs eating their heads off over at my place than I know what to do with. I wouldn’t take it for a gift.”
“But surely somebody would like it?” I protested. “Couldn’t you take it and give it to some needy family?”
“No, sir,” said the farmer. “It was me donated that pig to the fair committee for first prize.”
Jim came running over.
“It’s all right,” he called. “I’ve got rid of her for you.”
“How much did you get?”
“I gave her away,” said Jim.
“Gave her away?” I shouted. “What’s the idea of giving my pigs away? I like that.”
I caught the farmer giving Jim a wink. Jim laughed.
“Good-by, Alex,” he said to the farmer I had been talking with.
“Good-by, Jim,” said the farmer.
At the gate the fellow who took the admission was holding a lantern to show folks out.
“Good-by, Jimmie,” yelled this man as we drove out.
“Do you know that guy?” I asked suspiciously.
“Sure, he’s my cousin.”
“You knew that other guy that I was talking to when you came over?”
“That’s another cousin of mine, Alex Robison.”
“You’ve got a lot of cousins at these fall fairs, haven’t you?”
“Yep,” said Jimmie. “That’s what I like about the country. You know everybody. It’s a great place to study human nature.”
“I learned plenty to-day,” said I, watching him narrowly.
“I thought you would,” said Jim.
And if you think what I think, I ought to keep away from the country when I’m with Jim Frise.
The country has got a funny sense of humor.
Editor’s Note: As this is one of the earlier stories, it does not follow the pattern of the standard pattern of the later stories, where they discuss something philosophically, and then do an activity where antics ensue. So it seems a little odd that they are separated for most of this one.