More than anything, Maryanne wanted the snow-white bear sitting on the tent’s top shelf. From the red ribbon nestled around the bear’s neck dangled a sparkling heart. She was sure the sparkles must be diamonds.
She spied the bear the moment she entered the midway. To take him home, she only had to throw five balls and topple three of the wooden blackbirds. She planned to name him Snowy.
Maryanne and five other members of her 4-H club had won a trip to the county fair for having the best projects. The plant-cuttings and seeds she had grown in Mom’s glass canning jars—filled with soil from the chicken yard—flourished. Dad declared the miniature tomatoes to be the best he had ever tasted.
Finally the day arrived, she dressed in the green skirt and white blouse Mom made especially for the occasion. She felt taller when wearing the 4-H club colors.
“Maryanne, stay with Miss Anderson and the other fourth graders and don’t lose your money,” Mom instructed as she placed Maryanne’s spending money in the corner of a handkerchief and tied it into a knot.
I can hit those blackbirds.
She removed a coin from the knotted handkerchief. Handing the carnival worker her money, she noticed that “Harold” was stitched above his shirt pocket. He gave her five game balls.
Her first ball tipped the side of a bird, causing it to sway but remain upright. The next ball was on target and the bird flipped over backward. She squealed with delight...just two to go.
Squeezing one eye shut and taking careful aim, she pitched the third ball with all her might, but it missed its target.
The next ball flew through the air and sent the second bird spinning. One more bird to go, and Snowy would be hers.
She took aim and threw the last ball, only to see it land on the sawdust floor with a thump.
“You were so close to winning the bear, ‘Missy.’ I know you can do it. Watch how easy it is.” Harold stood beside her and threw five balls in a row, sending the wooden birds in a backward spin off the perch.
Maryanne handed him another coin from her handkerchief, but that game also ended with Snowy remaining on the shelf.
She dried her tears with the handkerchief and walked the few yards to where her friends were riding ponies.
Snowy was temporarily forgotten when Maryanne’s friends coaxed her to the food tent where they devoured hot dogs smothered in ketchup and, for dessert, cotton candy and candied apples. Next, they raced to ride the Ferris wheel. Everyone shrieked with glee when it stopped at the top and one of the boys rocked the gondola.
Maryanne laughed as she saw the tiny people below the Ferris wheel riding the merry-go-round and Tilt-A-Whirl. This is the best day of my life, she thought, until her eyes wandered to the crowded game tents and she saw Snowy, on the top shelf. She reached in her pocket for her knotted handkerchief, feeling the one remaining coin in the cotton folds.
Back on the ground, Miss Anderson announced, “We have one hour until we must leave.”
Maryanne decided what to do. She plucked the last coin from her handkerchief and marched back to Harold’s tent.
The first ball she threw smacked a bird and it toppled over backward.
The second ball was too far to the right, missing the bird, but hitting Harold.
With careful aim, she launched the third ball—it found its target.
Taking the next ball, she spit on it—as she had seen her brother do—she tossed with all her might. The bird was knocked from the perch.
Snowy was hers.
Harold placed the snow-white bear in Maryanne’s arms. She nuzzled it close and was surprised to find that the bear had an unpleasant odor almost like Duke, Dad’s hunting dog.
“Mom will know what to do with Snowy,” she told her friends.
Only then did she notice cotton stuffing falling from Snowy’s right paw and the sparkling heart charm was gone.
“Grandmama, that’s my favorite story. Tell it again.”
“Not now, or we’ll be late to Sunday School.”
“Grandmama, are you the little girl in the story?”
“Well, what do you think, Karyanne?” I smiled and handed my tiny granddaughter her Sunday School money tied in a handkerchief.
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