-- Late evening, Aug. 9, Portland, OR, airport:
Definitely Oregon. Matrons in overhauls.
The lady at the rent-a-ChumpMobile counter looks like a soggy dishrag. "It was 95 here today! We're not used to that!" exclaims she.
My heart pretty much bleeds. Aside from a brief flirtation with jacket weather in Butte, smack up against the continental divide, I've been living with ~100 for more than a week. I'm not too happy about that, either.
-- Aug. 10, shortly after noon, Tillamook, OR, fair grounds:
Neener, neener. I have made it well before first post, despite some ugly construction on the beautiful drive. $2.00 earned for UPF. I had to don my jacket, though, because as soon as I crossed over the Coastal Range, the weather got substantially cooler and cloudier than what I left in Portland. Brrrr!
Preferred parking: $6. Fair admission: $6. Mind you this was all taken at once, so the pain was substantially reduced. Program: $3. And what a program it was! Kind of a combination small pocket program, and useless 2" wide pp's. You could get 4 races worth of these pp's on an 8" x 10" sheet. And they did. Things like recent workouts and medication were omitted for the sake of brevity. Although maybe this was okay, as on the front this was adverstised as a "racing forum" with past performance lines, and when you're doing a forum you don't have to mess with that extra stuff. (In fairness, this stuff could be found on the separate program pages.) But best of all, the citizens of Tillamook had gone all out in their quest for a tagline for the 2001 fair. "2001: A Fair Odyssey" is what they'd come up with, after much agonizing no doubt, and a picture of cartoon cows in a flying saucer leaving earth was included on the program cover to reinforce the theme. Why they were leaving earth when the banner they trailed read "Tillamook County Fair or Bust" was somewhat of a mystery.
But I was there early, and had time to kill before the races. Why bother handicapping beforehand?
There was quite a good display of farm implements down to the far side. Quite good. Some really excellent John Deere and other fine manufacturer products. Just across from that they were holding a rabbit showing competition in a barn there, kind of like the pig and beef showing competitions I saw at the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, except with rabbits it seems the goal is not so much to beat their ass with a stick as to get them to calm down and then flop their ears as far forward as possible for the judges' perusal. This was quite educational.
Yet a little of this goes a long ways, and I felt compelled to visit the Arts Barn, where I discovered that the local citizenry was quite accomplished in photography, but maybe not so accomplished in painting.
Ah the value of an hour. Never it seemed so long.
But wait. There was more.
It seemed that a certain Brad had brought all his World Reptiles to this fair, and they were on display for all to see, just out back of the stage behind the racing grandstand, where some local talent was also currently treating us to selections from the accordion classics of the ages. I struggled mightily to absorb the written history of the Lesser Eastern Blue Gecko, but still the accordion maestro dominated my senses, until, out of the blue, an older gentleman, unknown to me, leaned next to me and whispered, in a low and confidential voice:
"Do you know what the definition of a gentleman is?"
I was forced to admit I probably didn't, having been involved with horse racing for too long.
"A gentleman", he said, "is a man who knows how to play the accordion".
And then he added, "But doesn't."
LOL! I knew then this was going to be an okay fair.
Finally, however, it was almost race time, and Our National Anthem was played. Actually I think it was sung. Rather slowly. And then the fair queen or rodeo queen or whatever she was rode down the track real fast on her horse, as rodeo queens often will. And usually that is all the use that rodeo queens serve, but as we shall see, at the Tillamook fair, they have found additional employment for her.
Out front is found a small grandstand of ancient wood construction, with an ancient wood roof held up by ancient wood columns. Maybe 10 rows of wood bench seats, with some small boxes down front. Smoking is not allowed, and that's a good thing. Not-so-ancient gray corrugated metal covers the outside of this. It is, all in all, a pretty cool old grandstand. Small announcer's booth hung off the front of the roof. Small asphalt apron out front, and the betting windows located at the back, near the stage, where there was now a young woman of Asian descent engaged in some spirited karaoke to some popular girl-performer type tunes, and doing some kick-ass dancing. The crowd seemed to like her.
To the right of the grandstand is a set of bleachers, and to the right of that a very friendly little beer garden (Pelican Cream Ale $3.50, Coors $2.50). This beer garden got going pretty good during the day, as there were obviously people there who enjoyed their beer. There was also some entertainment, as one woman tried to talk friends and acquaintances into buying for slaughter a hog that one of the 4-H kids had raised, but the friends and acquaintances weren't all that enthused about the idea of half a hog in their freezer for the winter. I am not sure where this finally ended up.
To the right of the beer garden was the small paddock, six uncovered stalls surrounded by a wood chip walking ring, and to the right of that something that looked like a two-sided outhouse, but this was the jocks' rooms. This might seem a bit limiting, but as the biggest race had only 5 runners, and there were a grand total of 5 jocks at the meet (4 girls, one guy), I suspect there was plenty of room for everyone except maybe in the girl jocks' room. In front of the jocks' quarters was a cardboard box, a "box o' silks" as it turned out, where the color coded silks were tossed after each race, only to be later picked out by the jock destined to ride that number in the next race. By the end of the day, these looked a bit limp. They also weren't of quite the standard scheme, and as all the saddle cloths were black, sometimes I wasn't sure what the heck was happening out there until the numbers were posted.
Jocks at this meet were sort of familiar, from somewhere. Shawna Barber with her big smile and cute blonde pigtail was an obvious crowd favorite, and played to them. Ty Dangerfield was also familiar from somewhere.
To the left of the stands is just some apron and non-racing type space.
The track is a 4f bullring with a chute to make 5f races just two turns, and as 6 of the 7 races on the card were run at 5f, this chute was used rather heavily on the day. Rodeo setup in the infield, also used rather heavily on the day, as there were some horse events going on during the races, and I will say I've seen better barrel racers than the girls of Tillamook. Also some bleachers, a rather cheesy minimum-function tote (which showed payoffs to the $0.05, and had me mystified until I realized they were showing the payoffs for the minimum $3 win bet at the fair), and the rest of the infield grass. Barns along the backstretch, the immediate neighborhood kind of a subdivision, and then mountains, mountains and low-hanging clouds all around. Quite a pretty setting.
The racing itself was tough, given the abbreviated pp's. 7 thoroughbred races, from 4 to 5 horses per race, with one mile race added to all those 5f affairs. The jocks rode all these pretty carefully, as there were no backup jocks if anyone got hurt. $1500 purse for $1500 claimers, and the same for $6250 claimers, and in fact $1500 for everything except the feature race of the day, the Tillamook Handicap at 1 mile, for which $1800 was offered. And I couldn't pick a winner for the life of me. In fact I managed to piddle away $13.80 of the spare change bankroll, not hitting anything until the quinellas in the 6th and 7th.
Meanwhile, out back on the stage, a couple karaokied through some couple type tunes, and I had a corn dog ($2) and a beer sausage ($2.50), and these were quite good. Also explored the fair, and was pleased to note that they had all the good rides, for instance The Zipper, and Tilt-A-Whirl. Roundup was not in evidence. And then a young man took the stage to do some country tunes, and damn if these people had not shown any inclination toward a country accent up until that point, but as soon as this young man hitched his thumbs in his jeans and started in on the country tunes, you'd think citizens of Tillamook twanged with the best Tennessee had to offer.
Oh yeah. The rodeo queen.
Like about the 2nd race I noticed that in the program there was a notice under each race "Cheese for horse racing provided by Tillamook Safeway". And then before the 4th I saw the rodeo queen walking back of the saddling stalls and placing a big brick of cheese on the back of each stall. I turned to a gentleman next to me in the beer garden (I just happened to be in the beer garden right then, unlike some other times that day, when I wasn't in it), and asked, "Does everyone get a brick of cheese?" "Yes", he replied, "And the winner gets a 5 lb wheel down in the Winner's Circle".
My immediate thought was that all horse racing would be vastly improved if there was cheese on the line, and my 2nd thought was that I think someone told me about this custom at Tillamook in the past, but I'd forgot about it. I think maybe someone with initials WR, and sorry for forgetting it!
Anyhow, horse racing eventually ended. I'd lost all hope of ever picking a winner and just picked a horse out of the blue for UPF, L Diamond in the 4th, but she lost. I entertained thoughts of leaving. BUT there was something called Pig-N-Ford races scheduled just an hour after the horse races finished, and my thinking was "Hey! Are you ever likely to be back this way?" So I decided to stay and see what these Pig-N-Ford races might be, filling in the time by buying a huge bbq pig sammich and managing to get pig grease all over my pants during the eating thereof.
The grandstand filled to overflowing. The announcer whipped us into a frenzy, at least those of us without pig grease on our pants. Eight ancient Model T Fords, very noisy, all stripped down to chassis and engine, made their way into the rodeo area, whereupon the owners/drivers of these proceeded to shut them off, and then jump out and crank start them and leap into the driver's seat, again and again and again. Meanwhile, a small set of box stalls was set up on the inside rail of the racetrack, and a number of small pigs was dumped into the box stall area. The noisy Model T's took a lap around the track, popping and sputtering. 4 of the Model T's retreated to the rodeo area, while 4 lined up by the box stalls, right in front of the stands. Their drivers turned them off, and walked to the outside rail. And then ...
Well, the best way I can descibe the Pig-N-Ford race is that it is sort of like Indian Relay racing. 3 laps around the track, with some relaying activity in there, with the added difficultly of hand-crank starting an 80-yr-old Model T Ford before each lap.
The judge calls go. The drivers on the outside rail rush over to the box stalls and pluck out one of the small pigs. With pig under arm, he then hand-cranks his Model T until it starts, then jumps in, and races a lap around the track, with pig still under arm. At the finish line, he stops the Model T, takes the pig over to the box stall, dumps it in, picks up another pig, and repeat. For 3 laps. First pig/driver combination across the line after 3 laps wins. There may have been some penalty for injuring a pig, but luckily no pigs were injured in the running of these events.
As you might imagine, the McChump Tour found these quite entertaining.
I didn't stay long enough to see what happened with the winners of the various heats, but instead headed back to Portland, got myself involved in a nice gettin' lost incident which introduced me to downtown Portland and its funky near east side. During this particular incident it was noted that on the oft-referred-to map there were references to an Interpretative Center for the "End of the Oregon Trail", and also to one "Portland Meadows", but these were not visited, as there are rarely intentional visits to anywhere during the Gettin' Lost Incidents.
Overall, the Tillamook Fair gets a huge thumbs up. It was, without a doubt, a blast. Right up there on this year's candidate list for Podunk Track of The Year.
Total miles traveled to get to this track: 1240 (628 ground; 612 air)