“What do you think you’re doing, young man?” Mrs. Petingill, the mayor’s wife, startled me.
I gulped and turned to face her, stuffing my hand and what it was holding into the pocket of my Levis. Only if you were a short kid like me, you didn’t ‘face’ Mrs. Petingill; you squinted upward, like tryin’ to see a tree at the top of Mount Everest. She caught me red-handed.
You see, her husband was runnin’ for re-election. His opponent, Abner Snagel, owner of the hardware store in Dairyland, had challenged Mayor Petingill to a contest. Whoever collected the most campaign donations at the county fair would have the first dance with the County Fair Swine Queen, Flora Sue Nicker. And Flora Sue was enough of a looker that many a red-blooded healthy young man wished he had entered the mayoral race, too.
Whoever lost had to give Fred Gimple’s prize sow Queenie a kiss on her muddy snout.
Mrs. P. kept me from stuffing a one-dollar bill into her husband’s contest jar.
She shook her finger at me and shooed me from the spot. I had a feelin’ it wasn’t so much she wanted Abner to win as she wanted her husband not to. To know why, all you needed was to have a look-see at Flora Sue.
I liked Mayor P. He did things for kids, like telling the town council to dig deep in their pockets so we could have a ball field with benches and everything. All Abner ever did was yell at us to stop leanin’ up against the wall of his store.
The grownups were evenly divided. This mayor’s race seemed likely to explode into a dispute as big as the Civil War.
Whoever won this contest would probably be our next mayor. And neither candidate wanted to kiss Queenie.
The fair board manager placed the contest jars at the information booth. Nearby was a pen for Queenie with a canopy over the top. The pen was to be a kind of petting zoo, but I’m guessin’ the fair board thought that fairgoers would be more inclined to give if they could see what the loser would have to kiss.
They set up Flora Sue in the booth, but she took to sneezin’ and complainin’ of allergies to the smell. Some Swine Queen!
Four o’clock the contest officially ended. I found out Abner had told several relatives from neighboring counties to stuff his jar. If our beloved mayor were to keep his office, we kids had to find a way to distract Mrs. P. and level the playing field.
By noon, we had our plan. A little before three-thirty, Sid Malmo and his baby brother Gus wandered over to Queenie’s pen. About that time Susie Howes dropped her snow cone on the grass and started screamin’ somethin’ terrible. Sid waited until Fred’s attention was on her and made his move. Quickly, he undid the pen door and let it swing open. But Sid forgot that Gus was gnawin’ on a corn dog, and that Queenie was inclined to go after anyone who had food.
Scripture says somewhere that you shouldn’t cast your pearls before swine. Gussy obviously felt the same applied to corn dogs because when he saw Queenie gruntin’ and movin’ toward him, he clutched his even tighter and skedaddled.
The crowds parted and Gus ducked for the only place that seemed to offer protection, the information stand where Mrs. Petingill and the fair board manager stood.
Confused by the cries of “Gussy, drop the dog!” and “Catch that pig!” Mrs. P. didn’t see Gus until he flew into her legs. She toppled backward, arms windmilling. Two glass pickle jars shattered on the pavement, showering money everywhere. Gussy scrambled to his feet, shovin’ the corn dog into Mrs. Petingill’s hand. Queenie straddled the mayor’s wife and happily munched away.
Some effort went into collecting the money and driving the distraught Mrs. P. home. The fair board, after a hasty conference, declared a tie. Both candidates would kiss Queenie and dance with Flora Sue. The money would be divided.
Abner Snagel would have none of it. Faced with Queenie’s moist snuffling snout, he conceded the election.
I was happy to see Mayor Petingill stepping out for his dance with Flora Sue. But the best part of all was what he taught us kids that day. The humble mayor not only kissed Queenie smartly on her snout but shook Abner’s hand in friendship.
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