"Strange Times"
by Jack Blanchard

These are strange times in America.
The slightest hint of political difference
brings out the worst in people.

I wrote a mild article
that, a few years ago nobody would have paid attention to.
I got some strong supportive letters,
and some lynch mob stuff.

Nobody ignored the article.
Everybody is fired up today.

So I’m shifting gears back to lighter material,
until Americans come together again.
Here’s a true story from the road...


Millville, Pennsylvania, has never been the same
since my wife ran through the firehouse
in that surprising condition.
We had just come from one of our better bookings
at a large midwestern fair,
and were looking for the next town shown on our contract:

We bought three different maps,
looking for Millville.
Two of them had completely overlooked our destination,
and the third showed TWO Millvilles, several hundred miles apart.
When we finally saw a sign pointing to our Millville
we were skidding around in a sea of mud.
At the end of the mud was the tiny town of Millville.
We learned that we were to play at the Annual Firemen's Picnic.

At the picnic grounds,
a Don Knottsish gentleman showed us to our stage:
a pile of logs with plywood laid on top.
The spotlight was a bulb hung on a pole.
There was no tent or cover of any kind
and the sky threatened rain.
We agreed to do the showonly on the condition that someone stand by
tarpsto throw over our instruments in case of a storm.Everyone seemed 
when we asked where our dressing rooms were.
They opened up the firehouse for us,
about a mile down the road,
and said we could use the back room.
It was hot and humidand we had to leave the doors and windows open to 
survive.This meant dressing in the darkbecause the sun was already
That didn't keep the mosquitoes from finding us.

There were hot dog stands, games, a merry-go-round,
and a few other amusements on the lawn,
and a goodly crowd was there.
Hundreds of people gathered around the makeshift stage
as a metallic loudspeaker barked about "show time".

An elderly dwarf, who called himself "Shorty "
jumped up and down in front of the bandstand,
ordering the audience to "Shut up" and "Stand back,
He had no official capacity,
but nobody knew that
He kept it up throughout our show.
You could look into Shorty’s eyes
and see that nobody was driving.

The audience made up for the rest of the day
and after the first show,
they gathered around for autographs.
We sold completely out of records and pictures.
They really ruined our sulking.

We were eating a chilidog when I felt a drop of rain.
I looked up and got a bucketful!
We ran to the stage
and tried to get all of the equipment under the canvas.
The rain never let up
and eventually we had to load everything back into our trailer,
in the rain.

The second show was canceled.
All the firemen tried to help
and everyone was running into everyone else.
We were all soaking wet and the mud, now ankle deep,
was spattering everywhere.
It looked like mud wrestling...
or slapstick comedy.

Misty was wearing a brand new dress
which she was trying to protect with a small plastic umbrella.
To her embarrassment,
the dress began to shrink fast, right before our very eyes.
The long ruffled sleeves were creeping up past her elbows.
The skirt, formerly a mini,
was now getting X rated!

She held the umbrella with one hand
and tugged at her hemline with the other.
She wanted me to stand in front of her,
because the crowd was gathering for a new kind of show.
We made a mad dash for our car,
not looking back.

Meanwhile, back at the firehouse,
the troops were already drinking beer,
playing cards, and counting the day's take.
I went in and explained the situation
and all present agreed to turn their backs
as our heroine ran the length of the main meeting hall
to the back room where she had her other clothes.
Firemen are real gentlemen.

Later, when they offered us a beer,
you'd better believe we accepted.

We stood in the doorway by the big fire engine,
looked out into the dark,
and waited for the rain to stop.

© 2004 Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.

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