2022 Local County Fair

For some pretext, last winter I made the executive decision to dramatically trim down my time at the local county fair in 2022. In the abstract, it was a tough choice given my decades of tradition of attending this fair five or even six nights on the first week of August, but lately events have been making the decision much easier for me. The demographic trends of my home county are aging and depopulating, and for a good decade now, replacement smoker numbers among the youth in this county have been flatlining more quickly than elsewhere. Furthermore, my life situation has changed some and the reward for using up so many vacation days to attend this county fair has diminished. Since I grew up in this county, I run into a lot of people I know at this fair which is inconvenient for sidetracking me from fetishing, and dangerous in terms of my getting caught in a fetish-fueled moment by somebody I know well.

But what pushed me over the edge this year was that I finally hit a wall with their grandstand entertainment selections. Ever since I was a young boy, this fair has done an awesome job recruiting top-shelf country and classic rock performers. I took it for granted for so long but looking back it’s striking how incredible they did at picking the right performer at the right time, booking them a year in advance, and then welcoming a superstar to the stage the following August. Suffice it to say the economics of live music have changed in recent years and the county fair circuit can’t compete with dozens of music festivals that book everyone who’s had a hit in the last 20 years every weekend of every summer. This trend has been worsening for a decade now and my county fair has been reduced to calling in favors from extremely “retro” acts who performed there decades ago to make geriatric return visits. The result for 2022: a grandstand lineup of Neal McCoy, Lee Greenwood, Ted Nugent, 38 Special, and the Christian group King and Country. Sorry county fair, but not this time. If there was any reasonable expectation to see attractive young female smokers at any of these shows, I wouldn’t hesitate for a nanosecond to attend, but for obvious reasons that is unlikely with this lineup. Once all of these 75-year-olds quit performing, I don’t know what’s next for this fair, but I don’t like the life expectancy of its business model any better than the life expectancy of Lee Greenwood.

Ultimately I decided to head up to my parents’ place for the weekend to attend this fair for two nights, hoping I could salvage something on these weekend evenings. Here are the results….


It was a toasty summer evening heading to my first (and possibly only) night at the county fair. The forecast for Saturday was hour after hour of torrential rain so I went in the gate pessimistic that I’d even get two nights at this fair, meaning I had to make the most of Friday, provided there was anything worth seeing. It was extremely odd to be handing over a $10 bill for admission at the ticket gate since every previous year I’d purchased a season ticket to attend every night. I walked inside feeling only a blip of the surging adrenaline that I felt a decade ago when I entered these fairgrounds. Setting foot in these grounds used to represent the wide-open frontier of a new fair season beginning, with the assurance of seeing something at least semi-remarkable every night. It hasn’t been the same for the last several years knowing that entire nights of deep disappointment had become more common than nights of impressive finds. Still, the sights and aromas of the fair lifts my spirit at least some. Tonight, the sun was shining and the girls’ shorts were very short, so the possibility of greatness still existed.

I explored the grounds for about 15 minutes and the first pass wasn’t too promising. Crowds were decent but unremarkable, and there wasn’t much of a line to get early seats for 38 Special. It would be about 15 minutes until I spotted the first sighting, a late 30s blond with a decent body draped in a white T-shirt and jean shorts, a freshly lit cigarette protruding from her fingers. She had a bit of a hard look but her feminine presentation was sexy enough to take a nominal interest in given that she was the only game in town with a cigarette between her fingers. Most people who were smoking seemed to be doing so near the bathroom or off to the side of the grandstand, so it was nice to see this blond unwilling to submit to peer pressure and walk through the grounds with a lit cigarette. It felt good to say I got at least one sighting at my county fair in 2022.

I continued to explore the grounds and saw a late teen blond with a rectangular package in the back pocket of her tan jean shorts that struck me as having the shape of a cigarette pack. She was a hot girl and kind of looked like a smoker so I followed her and her boyfriend a bit, but as I studied that box in her butt I became less convinced it was a cigarette pack as it didn’t seem thick enough. I would run into this girl several more times before the end of the night and never fully resolved the mystery as she never smoked and that box remained in her back pocket. I wonder if it was a program booklet for the fair. Whatever the case, I was satisfied by evening’s end in my presumption that she didn’t smoke.

But following her the first time did lead me to a couple of worthwhile finds. Emerging from the parking lot was a late 20s husband and wife with a daughter who looked about four years old. The parents were both smoking as they entered the grounds. The brunette mom was a tick chubby and only reasonably attractive. It would have been the kind of sighting that wouldn’t have even registered as a footnote a decade ago but seemed like quite a find last night given that she seemed reasonably wholesome and was under 30 but nonetheless wielded a cigarette in front of her young daughter. I’d see this couple and their daughter on the grounds again later but they weren’t smoking the second time.

As I followed them into the grounds past the north side fence of the beer gardens, I spotted a mother and daughter hovering in the back of the grounds smoking as well. The daughter looked early 30s and was only modestly attractive, but seeing two women smokers only seconds apart got me as close as I’d get last night to “momentum”.

Within the next 15 minutes, I thought I might be about to hit pay dirt as I was perusing the perimeter of a set of trailers behind the grandstand and came across two 30-something Hispanic women both lighting up. A very convenient bench was right there giving me a front-row seat so I took it. It was a reasonably good show, but I couldn’t quite figure out if the women worked for the carnival or were locals who were simply hiding out of sight to smoke a cigarette in peace. One woman was slender but only modestly attractive, while the other gal was chubbier with a prettier face. Neither of them constituted anything so special that they would turn my night around, but it was nice to be able to sit there and watch two women younger than me converse and smoke for the next few moments.

I ran into my cousin Judd at some point before I got my next sighting and was nervous I might be saddled with him the rest of the night. Judd is my age and I was very close to him when we were boys. He has since completely fried his brain with drugs and alcohol but is amusing to be around for a few minutes before his hyperactive shtick gets exhausting. Thankfully, I’d get just the right dose of Cousin Judd last night as he had a couple of friends eating while he talked to me. He indicated he couldn’t stay very late and wouldn’t be able to attend the entire show, but I still feared I might be sitting next to him for a portion of the show. Luckily he walked away without spoiling my pre-concert schedule too badly.

I remember some significant detours that Cousin Judd had been responsible for in the past, and one in particular from 10 years ago. For whatever reason, that county fair from 2012 (exactly 10 years ago) popped into my head quite a bit last night. It was the last hurrah before things began to take an aggressive turn in the wrong direction at this fair, and to a lesser degree for my fair sightings tours generally. Back in 2012, a wide array of attractive smoker girls could be counted upon to grace every evening visit. Clouds of smoke from fresh-faced teenage girls could be seen every late-night visit down the midway, with little concern about being hassled by fairgrounds police. The smoking area and beer gardens were assured of producing smoking ladies and girls before and during every concert. And I had never once seen a vaping device touch youthful female lips on any of my fair visits. It’s hard not to let those moments of nostalgic bliss creep into your mind as you’re slogging through a lackluster present day. A lot can change in a decade, and unfortunately 2022 is shaping up about as I expected it was poised to back in 2012. The county fairgrounds themselves were almost indistinguishable from what I encountered back then, but the lives of its attendees have changed considerably, and not at all in my favor.

I had six sightings on the night at 8:15 when I bought my delicious gyro and slogged into the grandstand, half-empty as expected in the moments leading up to 38 Special taking the stage. At least I didn’t have to endure the mindlessly invasive security checks that the fair incorporated last year. The beer gardens was pretty crowded and it was still daylight as I took my seat, so I scanned the crowd in hopes of any girl who would light up my night. There have been a number of years when this beer gardens area has produced some of the biggest legends in the history of the FCF. You definitely can’t count on that night every night but I was at least hoping to tick my numbers up with a few respectable finds. I wouldn’t get much….

The prettiest faces in the beer gardens crowd who I took an interest in either didn’t smoke at all or put a vape device to their lips. A blond mother and her early 20s daughter were perhaps the most heartbreaking as I had the closest and most reliable vantage point of them throughout the concert. The middle-aged mother smoked but the daughter was drawing from some oddly shaped pink vape device, turning her face directly toward me whenever she exhaled a snootful of water vapor. Beyond them, a group of 20-somethings who I took an interest in as soon as I watched them walk through the front gate that night proceeded to never put anything to their mouth except their drinks. One brunette had a large set of shiny earrings that proved cruelly deceptive because after dark, the street lights reflected off of those earrings whenever she turned her head, giving me a split-second mirage of a lighter sparking up a cigarette. It was that kind of night. One marginal mid-30s gal in the front side of the beer gardens lit one up, making her my only sighting connected to the 38 Special concert.

I’ve never been a huge 38 Special fan as I’ve found their music pretty bland and soulless. I’d hoped that being a weekend rock concert on a nice summer night that they’d at least bring out some party girls to the beer gardens, but that crowd seemed as disconnected to them as I was. 38 Special was old news the last time they showed up at my county fair…..in 1997. Now it’s a quarter century later and the fair has to call them back for a geriatric encore. It all contributes to what makes this fair’s decline so depressing for me. And as I endured an hour and a half of all-too-familiar discomfort sitting on those unforgiving aluminum bleachers, looking frantically for any sign of tobacco consumption by any pretty face in the vast crowd, I knew I made the right choice to have cut most of this fair out of my annual roster.

I left the concert at about 9:45 to see if anything better was going on elsewhere in the grounds. It wasn’t. I still tried to take everything in knowing there might not be a tomorrow, letting my eyes feast on all the pretty girls in their tanktops and daisy dukes. I also looked at the vendor booths in hopes of a 2022 encore from the duo of smoker girls who spoke to each other in eastern European accents at the end of the night. When I didn’t spot either of them working at the respective stands they tended to last year, I thought maybe they enlisted with the Ukranian military to fight for their homelands, but eventually I spotted the main event girl from last year’s sighting working at another stand. She was still cute, her light brown hair in a long ponytail with a slender figure and a face resembling country singer Jana Kramer. Unfortunately I noticed tattoos on her upper arms last year and that obnoxious ink had spread its way down to her lower arm this year, likely disqualifying her from consideration in 2022 outside of a marquee smoking moment. As it turned out, she was still working the booth at 11:30 when I left so I never got the chance to see her smoke at all.

The evening would produce two more sightings before I left, one a barely qualifier but the other on the borderline for being an extra-base hit. I was exiting a loop of the midway when I laid eyes on a blond from several yards away who looked like she put an unlit cigarette between her lips. As I got closer, my suspicion was confirmed. The long-haired blond was decently attractive as well, looking to be in her mid-20s and wearing a blue windbreaker and a pair of tight black leggings that really flattered her figure. Those leggings really sold the show as it felt great to couple analog tobacco consumption with a lovely female form as her waist, hips, and ass were chiseled to perfection by the spandex and polyester. She was with a chubby boyfriend and a very obese young boy who looked about 10. I’m not sure of the dynamic of this trio but there’s no way the blond was old enough to be this boy’s mother. The trio began wandering among trinket stands on the edge of the midway, and blondie’s unlit cigarette remained in her mouth as she explored. I followed in hopes of seeing the light-up, but she was gonna make me wait a while…

She wandered in and out of that vendor area selling the trinkets, her boyfriend and the young boy doing exploring of their own in the same general area. She kept alternating the unlit cigarette between her dangling lips and between her fingers. A good three minutes passed before they began wandering off again, this time to another vendor stand selling hats. The cigarette remained unlit, mostly dangling from her lips. I was beginning to wonder if she’d quit smoking and was simply keeping the unlit cigarette around to satisfy her oral fixation, but finally a lighter emerged from the pocket of her windbreaker and she lit it up. I had to be creative to keep tabs on her as she encircled this vendor stand with others occasionally wandering in front of her or generally standing in my way and corrupting my vantage point. But I saw enough a number of drags and exhales to get a decent handle on her style. There were no screaming bells and whistles to it, but it sure was nice to see trickles of smoke pour out of the face of this blond, especially since it appeared the boyfriend didn’t smoke.

About 20 minutes later, I’d see this same trio and the blond was once again standing there with an unlit cigarette between her lips. I’ve seen a variation of this tick before in another smoker girl, but it’s been quite a while. And unfortunately, this one wouldn’t have a happy ending as she began to drift off toward the BINGO stand with that cigarette hanging from her mouth and then just disappeared. I followed in her general direction but couldn’t find her, leading me to believe she probably hid somewhere to have her smoke as so many smokers do these days.

The crowd was still big enough when the 11:00 hour arrived that the midway kept the lights on. This surprised me a bit as the county fair midway had been attempting to power down well before 11 in recent years. I made a couple of passes before leaving for the night but I wish I hadn’t. Vaping had not been a major story thus far on the night and I’d been trying to convince myself it was no longer cool with the kids anymore. But on these evening midway passes, I took note of a mid-teen girl holding her phone up to her face and noticeably wrapping her lips around something. It was obvious right away that it was a vaping device but the lengths she went to so she wouldn’t be noticed made me roll my eyes. Same story on my next midway pass where I saw two more mid-teen girls in line for a ride, very carefully sneaking draws from their vaping devices. Once again last night, this took me back to the 2012 county fair as I recalled girls their age not only still smoking cigarettes, but not taking nearly such deliberate effort to conceal it. Clearly if teens feel this terrified about getting caught with vaping devices at a fairgrounds, there will never again come a time where they won’t live in fear about sneaking a cigarette.

Just as depressing was the ever-evolving form these vape devices take. The flash pod-style Juuls have all but disappeared, replaced by these three-inch devices that look like markers. I noticed several of them bore a light pink hue. It’s not the Vuse devices that I’ve heard have become Juul’s top competitor, so I’m not sure exactly what these are. I also saw demographics of people vaping who I never figured would be likely to make the pivot to vaping, including some men and women who appeared to be working-class and in their 50s and 60s. Just as was the case last year, it was truly alarming to see how few people of any profile were smoking. I read that cigarette sales dropped in the neighborhood of 3% last year, but I’m kind of shocked it wasn’t 30%.

I left the grounds at about 11:40 with a total of nine sightings. My expectations were low going in so I wasn’t surprised by my level of disappointment, but I was nonetheless disappointed. How could one not be given that these fair sightings adventures have been my only source of unbridled joy for most of the last 20 years? It didn’t help that the weather forecast for Saturday called for hours of rain before and during the time when I was supposed to be going to the fair, meaning the lackluster Friday visit could be all I get. Time would tell if the local fair would get a second chance to redeem itself, but my snapshot of the smoking culture from Friday suggested redemption might not be in the cards even if the night stayed dry. How I wished I could turn back to the clock to those comparative glory days of 2012 that kept popping into my head over the course of the night.


It didn’t look at all encouraging yesterday afternoon with heavy rain forecast for much of the evening. There was some indication the worst of it would go north but even in the best-case scenario I suspected substantial disruption and diminished attendance. I may have even considered not going at all had it not been for my annual mid-afternoon meet-up with my friend Corey and his wife. I hesitated before handing the attendant my $10 to get into the grounds, hoping I wouldn’t be forced out after an hour because of endless rain.

Luckily, it appeared my best-case scenario played out and most of the rain headed either north or south. There were a few spurts of steady rain over the course of the 6:00 hour, but compared to what happened 10 miles up the road over a much longer time period, we dodged a serious bullet. I visited with Corey until 6:15 when he left and the skies opened up soon thereafter. I took the opportunity to grab a gyro and mini-donuts, finding cover under a canopy when one opened up and killing some time while I ate. I never expected I was giving myself a front-row seat for a decent sighting, but I was facing the entrance to the beer gardens area and out stepped this late 20s blond who clearly worked inside the beer gardens, unlit cigarette in hand.

The ponytailed blond was a tick chubbier than I’d prefer decked out in her work blouse and black leggings, but she had a pretty face and was the rare breed of woman from her demographic delivering nicotine to her bloodstream the old-fashioned way, so I sat there with bated breath eager to see what would happen next. The rain was coming down very lightly at this point so she casually wandered to the middle-aged guys checking IDs at the entry gate as they stood under a canopy, proceeding to chat them up as she lit her cigarette. I have no idea if these guys were annoyed to be sharing this limited airspace with her carcinogenic exhaust, but it was a bit exciting to imagine that they were. She was definitely smoking like a girl on a smoke break, taking precise drags to feed her dependency, and talking out most of her messy exhales as she conversed. She had pretty decent hold times before the smoke started spraying out of her face, and while it never drifted directly into the faces of the nonsmoking middle-aged guys she was talking to, there wasn’t exactly much opportunity for them to avoid it under this canopy. It’s a rare treat to be conveniently located with a front-row seat for a farrow-to-finish sighting, but I was able to watch her smoke this one to its conclusion, dropping it to the grass and stomping it out before heading back inside to presumably work the rest of her shift. It was a real possibility that this would be the only sighting I’d get last night that was worth mentioning, so I was pretty thrilled to have gotten it.

I wandered the soggy fairgrounds for the next hour, only occasionally feeling some light sprinkles of rain fall upon me but always concerned that more could be on the way. The crowd size was not impressive for a Saturday night but there was a pretty decent line of hearty Jesus-loving souls standing in line for the grandstand show by Christian duo King and Country. Now perhaps in the not-so-distant past it would have been plausible to see a mom holding an umbrella over the heads of herself and her mid-teen daughters smoking cigarettes while wearing their “Virginity is Awesome” T-shirts, but I wasn’t confident such a scene was remotely plausible in the year 2022. This crowd didn’t seem like my kind of people!

But at one juncture it seemed possible something crazy was about to happen as I wandered past the gate on the south side of the grandstand, spotting one mediocre early 30s smoker gal but finding a trio of extremely wholesome 20-something women standing in the general area. They didn’t fit the profile of modern-day smokers at all but why were they lurking here? From there, they drifted a bit closer to the edge of the stage but were still hovering suspiciously in the general proximity of the port-a-potties. After about five minutes waiting them out, I decided they had a different agenda and drifted away. Now this sidebar didn’t have a happy ending as far as smoking was concerned, but imagine my surprise an hour later when this trio got up on stage to sing the national anthem before the concert! I didn’t catch their names but there were all part of the same family. I’m sure glad I didn’t stand over at the south side of the grandstand for that entire hour just in case they smoked!

I took my seat in the quarter-filled grandstand at around 8:15, sitting further back than usual so I’d be under the canopy in case it started raining again. The beer gardens crowd looked bleak, with a fraction as many people as populated the space the previous night for 38 Special. The one upside is that there were a decent number of attractive 20-something females out there, and the lack of a crowd made it easier to keep tabs on them. I wasn’t expecting much, but maybe if I was lucky one of them would come through.

My radar was immediately popping when a duo of early 20s chicks came out and ventured to the back of the beer gardens. It was already dark enough that I couldn’t see faces but the blond in this duo left a hell of an impression just in silhouette, decked out in a pale green sweatshirt with a tight pair of medium-blue jean shorts gorgeously framing her ass. She and the chubbier brunette friend drifted to the far corner where they were mostly out of sight. Unfortunately it was only a matter of moments before I noticed the blond wrapping her lips around something plastic and then exhaling a giant vape cloud in front of her face. This sad display continued for the 20 minutes or so that she was in the beer gardens, but on two occasions I was caught off-guard when I also spotted her flicking a lighter to life. The fact that she carried a lighter in her purse gave me some hope that she may have also had cigarettes in there. The convenience of vaping in these kinds of social settings can’t be overstated, and it was depressing and infuriating to know she probably smoked cigarettes when able to do so but chose to be “courteous” to a judgmental crowd by hiding in the corner and vaping while at the fair. I’d see these girls again after the concert and unfortunately there would be no moment of redemption as there often used to be in these write-ups.

But after blondie and her friend left, it allowed me to focus my energies on the rest of the crowd, and doing so managed to lead me in the direction of a couple of rewarding discoveries. And the find of the night was made possible, ironically, amidst another brief spurt of rain about 15 minutes into the concert. There was a large circular table in the middle of the grounds with a half dozen or so 20-and-30-something encircling it, including a couple of guys smoking cigarettes. As the rain picked up, the crowd started to disperse and drift back into the roofed beer gardens structure. But bucking the trend was a long-haired blond in short shorts whose face I couldn’t make out because of the dark but who had a first-class body and presentation. She stood in the company of the two remaining guys at the table and began to open her purse. I suspected a cigarette was about to be produced, and while she had her back to me for about 20 seconds, I’d ultimately get confirmation as she turned toward the stage and approached a freshly lit all-white to her lips. It’s only after seeing dozens of flashing blue lights from vaping devices before you can fully appreciate how much you’ve taken for granted the beautiful sight of a glowing red cherry of a traditional cigarette being dragged from by an attractive female face.

And in the moments ahead, I’d have absolutely no obstruction preventing me from seeing the glowing red cherry of her cigarette every time it touched her lips because the guys headed indoors and left her the only person left standing at this table. She proceeded to pick her sweatshirt up by the hood and place the hood over her head, letting the rest hang loose and providing her just enough cover from the light rain to continue smoking her cigarette even as the rest of her group bailed on her. It was a sight for sore eyes as she alternated between tending to her phone and approaching that cigarette to her lips, alerting me to the exact moment of her respiratory pleasure every time that cherry glowed and then giving me further proof seconds later when a blast of smoke exited her face. She made the cigarette last about five minutes before surrendering it to the moist earth below her feet, continuing to stand there alone as the concert progressed onstage.

And several yards behind her, under the canopy, I spotted another silhouette of an attractive woman with a cigarette between her fingers, standing off to the side away from the crowd and indulging in her smelly addiction. After witnessing the first burst of smoke exploding into the evening sky, she followed it up with a pretty impressive lugie that launched even further than the smoke that blasted from her face. Now I couldn’t see her face closely enough to give much detail, but based on the way she carried herself as well as the surrounding friends’ group it was clear she was late 20s or early 30s. A light brunette with shoulder-length hair wearing a sweatshirt and shorts, I wish I could have seen the face to match the explosive exhales filling the evening sky but such are the limitations of this vantage point.

At this point, the rain ended for good and some of the friends’ group of the blond wearing the sweatshirt hood over her head began to filter out again and gather round that table where she continued to hover. My eyes remained concentrated on her as I suspected an encore performance was likely before either she departed or the concert ended. I’d only have to wait about 10 more minutes before my premonition came true. She was fishing around in her purse and I hoped this time to see the light-up, but once again I wouldn’t get to. She relentlessly flicked a lighter that appeared to be out of fluid, failing to ignite a spark. She solicited some help from one of the guys in her group who also failed to ignite a flame, before finally beckoning him to use his own cigarette to help light hers. Within seconds, the familiar glow from her cherry shined like a beacon once again and would continue to do so for the next few minutes every time the cigarette approached her lips.

She was positioned so I could study her slender profile a little more closely in this cigarette and I decided she was probably a little older than I anticipated. Her silhouette and those silky smooth legs made it seem like she could be no older than 25 but at this point I expected she was at least 30. I hoped she wasn’t significantly older than that or it would take a little bit away from the sighting. I was intrigued enough by this girl that when she finished this cigarette and departed the beer gardens area a few moments later, I decided to leave the concert and see if I could track her down. I wouldn’t do so immediately but within about 20 minutes I’d locate her sitting at the BINGO stand. Getting a closer look at her face I suspect she was somewhere between 30 and 35, but even up-close it was easy to see why I mistook her for a young lass based on her slender profile, her golden mane of long blond hair, and those incredibly well-toned legs coming out of her pair of tight gray shorts.

I wouldn’t get completely shut out of the rest of the night but it wasn’t particularly impressive either. I listened to the final songs of the concert as I mulled around. It was about what I expected I guess, with the generic vocals and instrumentation that define most Christian music. It sounded fine, and with the help of more smokers in the beer gardens, it served as a more successful soundtrack to the evening than 38 Special did the evening before. Anyway, the concert was over and now it was just a matter of surveying the declining population of attendees hoping I could salvage something else. It was at that time I saw another familiar face from the beer gardens and had an epiphany.

The blond and her chubby light brunette friend who were briefly vaping in the back corner of the beer gardens were back. The attractive blond’s pale green sweatshirt and incredible jean-short-draped ass instantly called to me as I laid eyes on her, but now I wanted to see her face. Once I got a look, I realized why I was so instinctively drawn to her. This girl was my best smoker sighting from the 2019 county fair, attending the Hairball concert with her boyfriend and smoking three cigarettes in about an hour. There was no longer a boyfriend on her arm, but at least thus far, there also hadn’t been a cigarette. But having seen her twice flick her lighter inside the beer gardens, I had some renewed hope, especially now that I knew who she was and how impressive of a show she put on in 2019. So I kept close tabs on her and she and the friend explored the fair. Unfortunately I wouldn’t get any further clarification. The chubby brunette was constantly pulling from her vaping device and filling the evening sky with her water vapor clouds, but I’d only see blondie hit her vape a couple of times. I continued to speculate that she probably still smoked cigarettes, but I never got the opportunity to see it.

At one point near the beer gardens gate, I’d get my last find of the night and she sidetracked me from pursuing the blond any further. Jumping into my field of vision from out of nowhere was this incredibly glamorous young female in a tight package of a body, arm in arm with a male suitor who seemed way too plain for her flashy presentation, and a half-smoked cigarette protruding from the fingers of her right hand. She looked like was probably a light brunette but her hair hung in tight curls over her shoulders with a strawberry-lavender hue that she pulled off better than the description suggests. She wore a skimpy white tanktop exposing about three inches of incredibly well-toned midriff that flowed into a pair of extremely tight blue jeans. Especially with the cigarette in her hand, she evoked the aura of the lead singer of an 80s girl band…..like a character from the “Gem” cartoon come to life. My heart began to flutter as I followed close behind, ingesting her exhale and basking in the smell of secondhand smoke from a glamorous female for the first time this fair season and admiring her ridiculously tight ass and the pack of cigarette stuffed into the back pocket.

As if this presentation wasn’t commanding enough, she was taking complete bodily ownership of her husky nonsmoking boyfriend as they walked together, tightly gripping his arm with her own and marching down the fairgrounds corridor with unbridled spunk. It was such a powerful display and I respected her greatly for it, even to the point of helping me get over the annoying tattoo on her arm. I followed for about two minutes but the downside of following is that you don’t get to see their faces as they drag. By the time I caught up with her to get a close look at her face, she had disposed of the cigarette. I wouldn’t say she had a “hard” look, but she definitely dolloped on the makeup in a way that matched the rest of her presentation and made it hard to guess her exact age. My suspicion is she was in the second half of her 20s, which matched the look of her boyfriend.

Unfortunately, even this sighting lost some of its shine as I ventured to the midway about 10 minutes later and saw this couple in line to go on one of the rides. The second I laid eyes on her, I saw another explosion from her face, only this time it wasn’t cigarette smoke coming out of it….it was water vapor. The fairgrounds used to be a place where young females were more likely to openly smoke cigarettes…whereas today now even regular smokers make sure to come to the grounds with an alternative nicotine product in their possession so as not to expose the whiny masses to their secondhand smoke. As I watched this girl pass the vape device to her boyfriend as they stood in line, it reinforced how close to over things are for me with these fairgrounds runs.

I was poised to leave the fairgrounds with six sightings on the night, walking out the gate around 11:15. I had a few memorable girls among those six, but even accounting for the low expectations, it was a pitiful start to the fair season. Over two nights, I got 15 total sightings at the county fair. Last year, I got 40 sightings over six nights, which was barely half what I’d gotten two years earlier and barely a third of what I’d gotten a decade earlier. Obviously two nights this year versus six nights last year isn’t a fair comparison but nothing I experienced on Friday and Saturday this year made me wring my hands about missing Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Part of me would have liked to have gone to the demolition derby on Sunday and I would have assuredly spiked my numbers at least a little and possibly gotten to see something truly memorable, but without a season ticket this year, it wasn’t worth the $10 gate admission and the risk of another possible rainout to test my luck.

I try not to panic in the aftermath of a weak county fair, and particularly not this year given that I was only there two nights, but I don’t go into this coming week’s Iowa State Fair with much hope for a substantial reversal of fortune. Last year’s trends seem to be accelerating and while vaping prevalence does appear to be declining, there’s no indication that combustible cigarettes are benefiting from vaping’s decline. And from every conceivable logistical metric, it doesn’t make any sense that they would. I’ll continue to keep tabs to some degree on all of these fair venues and try to make sure I’m there if cigarettes ever become hip with the young people again, but it’s really hard to see how that happens, particularly with the FDA pouncing on the current weak state of play in the tobacco business and pushing for a de facto prohibition with hardly anybody pushing back against it. But merely “keeping tabs” doesn’t mean committing to multiple nights of intensive exploration anymore, especially at this fair. Moving forward, I wouldn’t anticipate this fair gets more than two nights of my time very often, or possibly ever again.

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Gretchen’s Sister Ties The Knot

It had been several years since I last attended a Paulson family wedding but I was watching one unfold this sunny June afternoon, enjoying my front-row seat for the pending outdoor ceremony as I awaited the wedding party’s arrival.  Gretchen’s middle sister Tina was about to exchange vows with her fiancee Mitch, and it was a courtship that everybody in the family was over the moon about.   As the organ music in the background filled the air, I looked to the two teenage girls sitting to my left to get a look at the person who I knew was most ecstatic about the pending wedding, and the beaming smile on Kilee Paulson’s face said it all. 

For as far back as Kilee could remember, her mother had eschewed the dating scene.  She didn’t know the exact reason, but correctly assumed that her mom had been burned by Kilee’s father and had closed the door on romantic relationships moving forward.  Kilee had likely assumed, along with the rest of us, that her mom would never allow herself to become vulnerable enough to give herself away to any man, but the sweetness and sincerity of Mitch Finstad managed to break down Tina’s defenses.  As I watched Kilee fight back the tears through her smile as the processional was about to start, I caught myself in my own moment of emotional weakness.  While I felt a loose investment in seeing Gretchen’s middle sister finally find the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with at age 37, Kilee had a much more direct investment, and it was a rare moment of unambiguous joy to witness in the eyes of a 14-year-old girl.

Seconds later, the innocence of the moment was corrupted by my own 14-year-old daughter Kaitlyn, who proceeded to pull out her pack of Marlboro Reds 100s from the pocket of her pink and white dress and pluck out two cork-filtered cigarettes.  Kaitlyn broke her cousin Kilee’s concentration as she handed her a cigarette, quickly flicking Kilee’s cigarette to life before igniting her own.  It was the inaugural blast of a smoky aroma that I knew would be a mainstay of this ceremony, as well as the reception and dance in the hours to come.  And I also knew that there would be plenty of people in the crowd who wouldn’t be thrilled about that.

The beginning of the processional redirected my attention as the groom strutted past me, arm in arm with Gretchen and Tina’s mother Jennifer.  Much of the rest of the wedding party followed, and the expected aroma of additional cigarette smoke came with them.  I winked at maid of honor Gretchen as she strolled past, freshly lit Marlboro 100 in hand, and then observed the rest of the wedding party line up on either side of the bride and groom.  Tina’s nonsmoking best friend Suzy stood to Gretchen’s left along with Gretchen and Tina’s cigarette-wielding baby sister Melissa, the groom’s nonsmoking 30-something sister Samantha, and the groom’s 16-year-old niece Isabel.  As I observed the friends and relatives of the groom in their tuxedos on Mitch’s side of the processional, I was more content than ever to have not been asked to be part of the wedding party.  

I made eye contact with Gretchen, lost in the moment and taken by her beauty as the sunshine beamed upon her full mane of platinum blond hair. But the smug satisfaction of watching this wedding from the cheap seats must have been obvious on my face as she sent a playful yet icy glare my way, dangling her Marlboro Red from her lips as she tended as subtly as possible to the wedgie that the lush pink bridesmaid dress was giving her. 

Gretchen’s annoyance quickly transitioned to motherly pride at the sight of our four-year-old son Brayden, serving as the ring bearer of this ceremony, approaching the altar with a small box holding the ring that would soon be on Aunt Tina’s finger.  Approaching the altar ostensibly parallel to Brayden was his cousin, Melissa’s four-year-old daughter Olivia, acting as flower girl.  The two blond children of obvious Nordic lineage elicited good-natured giggles from the crowd as they worked their way to the altar, with Brayden ultimately zooming ahead and Olivia dutifully sprinkling flower pedals down the aisle.  Brayden ultimately delivered the ring to the best man, looking up affectionately to his mother but then frowning as a stream of her cigarette smoke drifted into Brayden’s eyes.

Kaitlyn and Kilee were oohing and aahing in observation of the wedding party as Olivia and Brayden wandered off, and I gently waved my hand their direction as a nonverbal cue to quiet down.  The girls cooperated and quit talking, approaching their cigarettes to their lips for respective drags.  Catching my eye from the wedding party hovering in front of me was teenage bridesmaid Isabel, who couldn’t take her eyes off of Kaitlyn and Kilee smoking cigarettes in the front row.  The cute light brunette teen in the lush pink bridesmaid dress was clearly in the throes of significant temptation as I watched her breathe in to savor the smoke coming from Gretchen and Melissa near her with the two nonsmoking bridesmaids.  I didn’t know Isabel well and had never seen her smoke, but I’d been around enough female smokers in my day to where I recognized an urgent cigarette craving when I saw one.  Just as I was beginning to feel sorry for her, she did a hard pivot and turned her back to the crowd, appearing to reach into the cleavage of her bridesmaid’s dress.  I knew what was coming next and could hear the flick of a cigarette lighter breaking through the rhythm of the organ music.

Sure enough, Isabel turned around moments later with wisps of smoke spraying from her mouth and nose after her inaugural drag, making a flimsy effort to cup her hand around the freshly lit cigarette as she stood there.  I marveled at the sight of a girl Isabel’s age smoking a cigarette so publicly in front of her family, only a few years removed from what seemed like the imminent cultural erasure of cigarette smoking.  As I averted my gaze over to Gretchen dragging intently from her Marlboro Red with no inhibition, I was reminded that she pretty much single-handedly changed the course of history only four years removed from her hostile takeover of Philip Morris.  Gretchen had retired from her stint at Philip Morris CEO last year, but her legacy was on open display amidst this bridal party where three of the five females, including one teenager, were wielding cigarettes while standing at the altar awaiting the bride’s arrival.  As the shutter of a nearby camera went off incessantly, I was thrilled that a wedding photographer was on hand to capture this surreal moment.

I was struggling to contain my amusement at the sight and smell of all of this cigarette smoke invading my airspace and my line of vision, but I did my best to wipe the smirk off of my face as I caught the icy glare of mother-of-the-groom Barbara Finstad sitting on her chair on the opposite side of the wedding aisle.  The icy glare wasn’t directly aimed at me but I figured it would be soon enough with Kaitlyn and Kilee sitting next to me smoking their cigarettes.  I felt kinda bad as the organ melody of “Here Comes the Bride” began playing as Barbara’s mind was clearly elsewhere, her rage hidden behind a Stepford smile that was thinner than the bride’s veil as she watched her granddaughter Isabel shamelessly indulging her rookie smoking habit with a fairly intense drag. 

Seconds later, Barbara’s eyes shifted to Gretchen as she took a drag from her cigarette, immediately connecting the dots of the corrupting influence on her granddaughter, her face turning red as she stewed.  Sure enough, Barbara’s eyes then shifted my direction and focused on Kilee, soon to be the latest addition to the Finstad family, two years younger than Isabel but already deeply addicted to cigarettes.  All things considered, Barbara had composed herself as a proper upper-middle-class matriarch through the wedding preparations, but her face said it all about her thoughts on her son marrying into the family of “the most hated woman in America”.

Barbara’s attention, along with my own, was finally redirected where it should have been as Troy Paulson walked his daughter Tina down the aisle.  I stole another glance at Barbara and saw a hint of joy flash on her face as she admired the beaming blond bride in her dazzling white dress approach the altar hand in hand with her father.  I had noticed in the past that Barbara seemed to have a soft spot for soon-to-be daughter-in-law Tina despite her misgivings of the Paulson family generally.  Perhaps it was just a matter of being pleased to see her son meet his soulmate, but Barbara’s smile seemed to be directed specifically to Tina in observance of her lush wedding gown as Tina ascended the altar to greet her smiling fiancee Mitch.

The pastor soon approached the couple on the altar and officially opened the ceremony, reading from the script he held in his hand with the exchange of vows language.  “Thank you all for coming.  We have all come here today to celebrate the love of Tina and Mitch.  Tina and Mitch have chosen each one of you to be here today and they’re so happy to share this moment with the ones who are closest to them.  They have known you many years.  You have watched them grow up.  You went to school with them.  Or you worked with them.  Because you’re the ones who have supported them so well for so long, it only made sense for you to join them to help celebrate the most important day of their lives….”

My eyes continued to wander from the bride and groom to the bridesmaids, picking up on the escalating emotion on everybody’s faces as the moment had arrived, occasionally giving a side-eye to my left to see the most emotional attendee of all.  My niece Kilee really felt the impact of the pastor’s opening words, taking a drag from her cigarette to help absorb the emotion, but ultimately giving in to the moment and raising her hand to her eyes to wipe away the soft flow of tears simultaneous to the soft flow of cigarette smoke rolling from her mouth and nose.

I diverted my attention back to the happy couple as they continued to look into each other’s eyes and listen to the pastor’s words, but I couldn’t concentrate of them as closely as they concentrated on each other with the otherworldly visual of three smoking bridesmaids indulging in cigarettes during the ceremony.  As Gretchen took a final drag from her Marlboro Red, I was curious what she planned to do with her spent butt and watched with a smirk as she tilted her head upward to release her final exhale and then tossed the smoldering cork filter butt behind her where it just cleared the altar.  Gretchen then proceeded to reach to the panty line of her dress and attempt a stealth adjustment from the rear, and it was endlessly amusing to witness her discomfort in this bridesmaid’s dress.  I had a nagging suspicion another cigarette was forthcoming, and it only took a moment for a pack of Marlboro Red 100s and a lighter to appear from a pocket in her dress.

A small but mildly audible gasp emerged from the crowd as Gretchen casually approached the cigarette to her lips and flicked it to life, dangling the freshly lit cigarette for a moment and entirely unconcerned about how it played with the crowd.  I watched in amazement as the inaugural blast of exhaled smoke from Gretchen’s new cigarette drifted directly into the pastor’s face as he read Tina and Mitch’s vows.  The pastor handled it like a pro, never flinching as the stream of Gretchen’s smoke completely invaded his airspace.  My eyes drifted leftward to observe similar encounters amongst the rest of the bridal party, where nonsmoking Suzy and Samantha were sandwiched between Gretchen, Melissa, and Isabel who were all smoking cigarettes. 

For whatever reason, this visual was matched by the sound of a cacophony of lighters flicking behind me, triggering me to turn my head over my shoulder to observe that a mixed-gender selection of about a dozen attendees, some familiar faces and others not, were smoking cigarettes.  No sooner did the astonishment of this observation hit me than the flicking of lighters from the chairs directly next to mine drew my attention, with Kaitlyn and Kilee firing up another round of Marlboro Red 100s for themselves. 

And as I looked back up to the wedding party, I couldn’t help but notice the youngest groomsman’s eyes were trained on my daughter and niece, unable to look away from their youthful consumption of cigarettes.  I didn’t know the 16-year-old brunette kid personally, but I knew his name was Elijah and that he was Mitch’s nephew and the twin brother to bridesmaid Isabel, the latter of whom was finishing her cigarette and following Gretchen’s lead in tossing it behind the altar.  Making a quick mental comparison of the apparently nonsmoking Elijah and his twin sister turning her head rightward to exhale her smoke away from the crowd, it struck me that Elijah probably had some complicated emotions going on in his head right about now just as I did when I was his age.  I had no idea if Elijah had any sort of fetish or not, but there was no question that seeing your female contemporaries become cigarette smokers at such a transformative time in a young man’s life has a tangible and often confusing impact on his perspective for better or for worse.

I then scolded myself for taking my eye off of the happy couple and redirected my attention to Tina and Mitch just as they began their formal exchange of vows.  “Mitch,” the pastor inquired, “Do you take Tina to be your wedded wife?  Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and to remain faithful to her as long as you both shall live?”

I recognized Mitch’s life-affirming smile as he parted ways with his bachelorhood forever, confidently responding, “I do.”

The pastor turned to Tina and repeated the same question to her.  I couldn’t see Tina’s face from the angle I was sitting but could tell by the tone of her voice that she knew she had turned a corner toward happiness after so many years in purgatory as she exclaimed her own “I do!” in response.

As they exchanged rings in the moments ahead, I flashed back to my own wedding day with Gretchen nearly 18 years earlier.  I knew I had found my soulmate, and everything about Tina and Mitch’s vocal inflection and body language affirmed that they were destined to experience the rest of their lives as a couple as well.

“And so now….” the pastor pressed forward to the climactic finale of his presentation, “….by the power vested in me, it is my honor and delight to pronounce you husband and wife.  You may now kiss your bride.”

The pageantry of the afternoon hit its crescendo as Tina and Mitch locked lips for the first time as a married couple while the crowd clapped and cheered.  Tina had resisted the urge to smoke a cigarette during the ceremony in the way that three of her bridesmaids did, but all I could think about when I watched the nonsmoking Mitch kiss her was that her breath probably still had the residual taste of tobacco smoke.  I know Gretchen certainly continued to taste like cigarettes on the first kiss that consummated our marriage 18 years ago.  I chuckled as I then mused that this could well be the least smoky kiss Mitch would ever get from Tina over the course of their marriage.

“Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Finstad,” the pastor closed with a flourish, eliciting another eruption of cheers and applause from the crowd.

I got my first clear look at an elated Tina as she faced the crowd, seconds before progressing hand in hand with the groom, camera shutters snapping from all directions.  The rest of the wedding party followed and they formed the receiving line several yards behind the seating arrangement to greet guests.  Sitting in the front row, I was one of the first to depart and go through the receiving line.  Unsurprisingly, Gretchen and Melissa quickly lit up a fresh round of cigarettes but the bride resisted the urge.  I hugged Tina and wished her the best while going through the line, but I could feel from her embrace that she was dying for a cigarette and would light up her first as a married woman as soon as everybody had passed through this receiving line.  Moving on to Gretchen next, I gave a sympathetic smile that she immediately picked up on.

“Another 15 minutes and this damn dress is coming off and staying off!” Gretchen whispered to me declaratively with her trademark husky voice, wisps of smoke spraying from her mouth and nose as she spoke.

I nodded affirmatively in response, knowing Gretchen’s aversion to wearing dresses would ultimately lead to a change into more casual clothes in the near future.  Kaitlyn and Kilee exchanged pleasantries with Gretchen before we proceeded down the line, touching base with the bridesmaids and groomsmen.  And as I greeted the twins Elijah and Isabel and observed the typical awkward eye contact between teenage strangers as they made eyes with Kaitlyn and Kilee, it struck me that it could be an interesting reception and dance this evening.


Fifteen minutes later, Gretchen hustled on out to our parked car, freshly lit Marlboro Red 100 dangling from her lips.  She held up her dress as she progressed, careful to keep the hem out of the grass and dirt but almost crawling out of her skin to slip out of it as quickly as possible.  She had asked Kaitlyn, Brayden, and I to give her a few minutes to change before we returned to the car, and was about to take full advantage of this time for a secondary mission that we were kept out of the loop about.

Gretchen climbed into the backseat of the car, still pumping out smoke through her dangling cigarette, as she laid out of sight and unzipped the dress and slip underneath.  In seconds, she was stripped down to her bra and panties, feeling even greater relief to be out of this dress than the nicotine relief she felt every time she took a dangling drag from the cigarette.  She reached down to the waiting white tanktop and pale blue jean short cutoffs lying on the car seat that she had the foresight to bring along.  She couldn’t help but chuckle through her dangling cigarette at her own immaturity streak when it came to changing out of her maid of honor dress and into her casual rags, but as she slipped on the white tanktop and slid into the tight, hip-clutching jean shorts, she sighed and reminded herself that only now would she be able to enjoy her sister’s wedding day. 

Gretchen squeezed together the buckle on the jean shorts and zipped up the fly before finally ashing her cigarette out the cracked window.  With the most important matter at hand taken care of, it was now time to take care of the second-most important in the limited time she had, putting her phone to her ear and clicking the “Sophia” icon on her call log to dial up her closest associate.

Gretchen took a long, deep drag on the cigarette while awaiting a response on the other end of the phone line, quickly hearing the voice that she wanted to.

“Hey there,” Sophia Fiorentino responded cordially.  “Got a new brother-in-law yet?”

“Oh yeah,” Gretchen responded with a mix of happiness and exasperation.  “The ceremony just ended and I think you’ll be getting some pretty quality shots by the end of the day.  Between your recommended wedding photographer and the plants in the crowd, we should have some great images to work with.”

Sophia listened intently, a mischievous smile beaming on her face as she leaned back into her chair at the CEO’s office at Philip Morris, dragging deeply from her Parliament 100 until the cherry lit up the room like a laser beam and contrasting nicely with her dark brown hair and tanned features.  A satisfied follow-up exhale filled the already smoky room with even more carcinogenic smog. 

“Can’t wait to see them,” Sophia responded coyly.  “These shots should be the perfect launch for our smoker-friendly wedding package promotion.  The photographers are gonna keep working the reception and dance tonight right?”

Gretchen beamed with pride at her protege’s ongoing ambition, using the cherry of her nearly-spent cigarette to light up her next one before responding.  “Damn right!  We gotta ride this train for as long as it lasts before the regulators figure out a way to derail us as you keep saying.  I feel a little sketchy doing it at my sister’s wedding, but those images are gonna be gold for selling this experience at our subsidiaries.”

“Absolutely,” Sophia replied with an affirming smirk, taking another intensely deep drag from her Parliament before snap-inhaling it into her dark lungs.  “So this is still entirely between you and I?” she asked, the smoke slowly trickling out of her mouth and nose as she spoke.

“Yeah,” Gretchen responded with a hint of guilt.  “My sister wouldn’t love finding out she’s a lab rat for Philip Morris at her own wedding but she’d get over it pretty quick.”  Pausing to take a drag from her Marlboro Red, she then added, “But there are some other people who attended today who would probably be a little less forgiving,” the image of a scowling Barbara Finstad immediately popping into her brain.

An increasingly husky laugh coming from Sophia’s end reinforced to Gretchen that Sophia’s smoking habit was slowly taking its expected bodily toll on her caramel-skinned Italian protege.  “Business is business,” Sophia responded, justifying their ruthless tactics on behalf of Big Tobacco with the flamboyance of a mob boss stereotypically associated with her ethnic profile.

Gretchen was then caught off-guard by a child’s voice in the background on Sophia’s phone.  “Hi Gretchen!” thundered the boisterous greeting of Sophia’s six-year-old daughter Jordyn in the background.

“Hey Jordyn!” Gretchen greeted back, shifting her vocal pitch to the appropriate tone for addressing a child.  “You’re in the office with mommy today, huh?”

“Yep!” Jordyn responded.  “Mommy brought me in to show off my dolls.”

Gretchen furrowed her brow in confusion.  “What are you up to, Sophia?” she asked as she listened to Jordyn’s footsteps running out of the room.

Sophia smirked again as she responded.  “Just trying to make some partnerships with toy companies.  Jordyn’s gonna give our board of directors a little demonstration and give them some help deciding which products would be most helpful to align ourselves with.”

Gretchen’s face continued to elicit a mixture of confusion and amusement.  “Are you gonna try to get the dollmakers to put cigarettes between the fingers of Barbie?” she asked.

Sophia responded with another husky laugh and added, “A little more subtle than that.  More like getting the toymakers to color-coordinate their design schemes with our products.  Offer discounts to parents who purchase our cigarettes.  Maybe alter the voice of their dolls so they sound more like smokers.  I have quite a few ideas actually,” she crowed.

Gretchen was thoroughly impressed by what she heard.  “I knew that place would be in good hands after I handed the baton to you and you’re proving it a little more every day.”

“Thank you,” Sophia answered like a proud daughter getting praised by the mother she idolized.  “As we’ve discussed before, we gotta plant seeds in as many places as we can if we want to keep sprouting buds and weather that next inevitable regulatory hammer.”

Much as Gretchen wanted to continue talking shop with Sophia, she looked up to see me approaching the car with the kids and knew she needed to cut the conversation short.  Lowering her voice a tone to tip off that she’d soon have company, Gretchen bid her farewell.  “Looks like I’ve run out of time here, Sophia.  Mark and the kids and coming to the car.  But let me see those wedding shots first thing in the morning and feel free to ask me any questions.” She paused before adding, “And Sophia….keep up the good work.”

Gretchen abruptly ended the call a split second after Sophia thanked her for the compliment as myself, Kaitlyn, and Brayden were almost at the car.  She opened up the back seat door and was about to slip into the passenger side of the front seat.  After being a couple for nearly a quarter century, my radar was always raised whenever I detected a hint of deception from Gretchen, and seeing how quickly she ended that phone call just as we were approaching tipped me off that she had a secret agenda going on.

Kaitlyn looked at her mom and then into the backseat where her discarded bridesmaid’s dress lied in a rumple on the seat and giggled.  “I can’t believe you don’t want to wear your dress to the reception, mom.  It looks so pretty on you.”

With a hint of nervous energy, Gretchen responded “Well you’re certainly welcome to stay dolled up in your dress all night if you want to.  I value comfort.”

Gretchen closed the door and sat down in the passenger seat of the car, her presentation matching that trademark Gretchen Paulson image dating back to the first time I laid eyes on her in her freshman year of college. She slipped on her sunglasses to fully authenticate the image, the half-smoked Marlboro Red 100 dangling from her lips as she crossed her tanned and perfectly toned legs flowing out of the tight pale blue denim. When I looked a little closer, I could see the crow’s feet around her eyes and draw lines on her mouth, but never would I have imagined back on our wedding day that my bride would be superficially identical at the doorstep of turning 40 as she was when she was 22. I smiled as I recalled how she was all too often up to no good then just as she clearly was today. So many things simply hadn’t changed since 2004.

But I was reminded of the one big thing that had changed since then as I prepared to back out of the parking space and looked in the rearview mirror to see Kaitlyn behind me lighting up a new Marlboro Red 100. My eyes then briefly drifted to Brayden sitting next to her. He was already clearly uncomfortable with his mother’s secondhand smoke drifting into his airspace, and was now giving Kaitlyn a nasty side eye as she lit up and added to the air pollution. I had a suspicion Brayden wouldn’t be thrilled about the atmosphere at the indoor reception hall we were heading to next.


Two hours later, forks dinged against glasses throughout the reception hall.  Gretchen knew the time had come for her maid of honor speech, and seemed unusually nervous as she mentally prepared herself for the big moment.  She grabbed hold of a Marlboro Red 100 from her pack and sparked it up in a rapid flourish a split second before rising to her feet.  A combination of laughter and groans emerged from the crowd as they realized Gretchen would be giving the speech with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and dressed like she was about to sing karaoke at a country bar, but Gretchen was undeterred.

“I’m Gretchen Ellsworth, older sister to the bride,” Gretchen opened in her trademark husky tone, cork-filter cigarette bouncing up and down between her lips as she spoke with a swirl of fresh smoke enveloping her face.  “I’m not really one for making speeches…..” she continued with a wry smirk, eliciting laughter from the majority of the crowd who knew her professional history. 

“….Around this time last year, I swore off ever giving speeches again….and I swore off ever getting dressed up again.  But just for you, Tina and Mitch, I broke one of those promises.”  Laughter again ensued as Gretchen drew attention to her casual presentation.  “Tina, we’ve known each for thirty-…..” she paused with another smirk, “….well, many years.”  The intermittent laughter continued as Gretchen’s comic timing fed off of the engaged mood of the crowd as she removed her cigarette from her mouth to ash.  “My first memories of you were sneaking animal crackers out of your crib while mom wasn’t looking, so we didn’t exactly get off to the best start…..you’re probably just finding out about that now.  Looking back at those early days when I was stealing your animal crackers, it’s pretty clear I had an unfair advantage in our sisterly relationship. I guess that’s still true today since I’m up here roasting you as your maid of honor and back on my wedding day you were still in high school so you kind of missed your chance to send some public humiliation my way….”

Tina laughed with the crowd listening to Gretchen’s opening lines from one chair over.  Gretchen’s words of an unfair advantage were resonating at many levels, and at this very moment they were connecting at the most visceral level as Gretchen’s cigarette smoke was drifting Tina’s way.  Tina was desperately craving a cigarette right now just as both of her bridesmaid sisters were currently indulging, but was gonna restrain herself from participating as a proper presentation was still important to her.  Tina’s eyes drifted the same direction mine did to look at the stone face of her unamused mother-in-law.

While most of the audience was laughing at the ongoing punchlines of Gretchen’s maid of honor speech, Barbara Finstad was hiding behind her ongoing Stepford smile and taking a therapeutic swig of champagne from the long-stemmed glass in front of her.  Barbara continued to be disgusted beyond words at Gretchen’s crude display, resentful to her core that she needed to maintain the necessary etiquette to put up with the obnoxious maid of honor not only on her son’s wedding day, but in all future encounters with her daughter-in-law’s extended family.  After watching Barbara take another swig of champagne, I diverted my eyes back to my wife to listen to the rest of her speech, sensing the tone was about to turn more serious.

“….I’m very lucky right now to be able to raise my son Brayden alongside my sister’s daughter Olivia,” Gretchen opened, looking over to youngest sister Melissa seated two chairs over and smoking a cigarette.  “We got to see how well those two worked together a couple of hours ago as ring bearer and flower girl.  It really helps to be able to raise kids with a close partner, and I learned that the first time around when Tina and I were first-time parents raising our daughters together.  We were both learning as we went along and were better for it.  We got to experience the joys and the hardships together….offer each other advice when needed and a shoulder to cry on when appropriate.  It brought us much closer as sisters and it killed me a few years ago when I had to move away for a while and leave you and Kilee alone,” she continued, referencing her three years living in Virginia as the Philip Morris CEO.  “I cherish all of our memories together and lament the moments I missed out on.  But in the years before I moved away, I always felt like I had that unfair advantage because I had another shoulder to cry on when needed and for so many years Tina did not….”

Gretchen looked over warmly to make direct eye contact with her sister.  “Tina, you and Kilee will now have that extra shoulder for support under your own roof….and I truly couldn’t be happier for the two of you,” she continued, clutching her dangling cigarette stub in her lips to try to contain her emotion before directing the rest of her speech to her new brother-in-law before stubbing the cigarette out in the ashtray in front of her.  “Mitch, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well in the past year, and the only regret that I have is that I couldn’t have been here to see when you and Tina met.  I instantly picked up on the amazing chemistry the two of you had when I first spent time with you, but after so many years waiting for Tina to meet Mr. Right, I just wish I could have seen that magic in your earliest encounters.  Tina and Kilee have been deserving of the angel in their lives that they’ve been praying for for quite some time.  I knew right away that you were that angel, and today you sprouted your wings and are carrying them both away to their long-awaited Neverland.”

The audience swooned at Gretchen’s characterization as she approached the end of her speech.  “Now, Mitch, I just hope you can recover your reputation after being complimented by the most hated woman in America,” she closed, calling back to the Time magazine cover from her days as a tobacco CEO, eliciting a final wave of laughter before letting the best man take the baton for his speech.

Gretchen sat down in her chair as I smiled at her from the nearby table, nodding approvingly at her speech.  She smiled back as she lit up a new cigarette, winking at me and then doing a visual sweep of the crowd, first looking at Kaitlyn and Kilee sitting next to me with freshly lit cigarettes, a wide spectrum of emotion on their faces.  But as Gretchen’s visual scan progressed through the sea of familiar and unfamiliar faces in the crowd, she made abrupt but fleeting eye contact with Barbara Finstad, who maintained a rigid scowl that was no longer even being camouflaged by the Stepford smile she’d maintained through most of the day.  Gretchen knew that for at least one person in that reception hall, she remained the most hated woman in America.


Two hours later, the reception had transitioned to the wedding dance.  Two lines had formed leading up to the dance floor for the dollar dances with the bride and groom.  I was next in line to dance with Tina, standing with my dollar in hand and looking forward to having a brief moment of small talk with the new bride.  Looking over to the adjacent line, Kaitlyn and Kilee were standing immersed in conversation with their dollars in one hand and their respective cigarettes in the other.  I tried to grab their attention to remind them to lose the cigarettes before stepping up to the dance floor, but they were too distracted by the loud music and their teenage conversation.  It was my turn to have a dance with Tina so I stepped up with a smile, admiring the beauty of the blushing bride even though she definitely hadn’t aged as gracefully as Gretchen, the hardened lines on her face telling the story of a stressed single mom who finally got to have some of the burden lifted off of her shoulders.

“How is your evening, Mrs. Finstad?” I inquired as I grabbed hold of Tina’s waist and she wrapped her arm around mine for a platonic slow dance.

“Oh, you know, kinda slow.  Not much going on,” Tina teased back, our banter consistent with our long-time lighthearted jesting.  “Bet you thought I’d be a spinster with only a houseful of cats to keep me company as soon as Kilee left home, didn’t you?” she inquired with a smirk.

“Eh, there were some times I pictured a lot of quilts being knitted in your future,” I joked back as we slowly worked over the dance floor.  “Seriously though, it looks like you waited as long as you did for a very good reason,” I added, looking over to Kilee about to step up to dance with Mitch, a flash of startled guilt on Kilee’s face as she realized it was her turn and she was about to dance with her new stepfather with cigarette in hand and no ashtray in sight.

Tina made eye contact with me as if her mind was suddenly elsewhere before she finally responded, “The best reason of all,” she responded cryptically, looking back at Mitch and Kilee about to dance. “And I think Kilee is just about to find just how much we’re about to be a family.”

Kilee nervously flashed a smile as she grabbed Mitch’s hand and put her right arm, along with her cigarette-wielding right hand, behind Mitch’s back to dance.  “Sorry Mitch.  I got distracted in line and forgot to put my cigarette out,” Kilee shyly apologized.

Mitch laughed gently, a hint of tension in his own voice as he dismissed Kilee’s concern.  “You’re okay.  Between you and your mom, I think I’m getting used to being around cigarettes,” eliciting a return smile from Kilee who quickly relaxed and enjoyed the dance.

As Mitch made loving eye contact to the 14-year-old girl whose mother he just married, he realized his time was short to make his second big declaration of the day to the second woman of Paulson family lineage.  “So I’ve been thinking Kilee.  I just made a lifetime commitment to your mom earlier today.  I think it’s a perfect time to make a commitment to you too.  How would you feel if we went to the courthouse tomorrow and started the adoption process.  I think of you as my daughter just as much I think of your mom as my wife….and if you’ll have me I’d like to make that official.” Mitch offered warmly.

My dollar dance with Tina had just ended but as I yielded the bride’s arms to another man, I kept my eyes locked on Mitch and Kilee.  I couldn’t hear them over the music but learned everything I needed to know by the body language as my niece became instantly overloaded with emotion to a greater degree than I’d seen at any other point in what was an emotional day for her.  Kilee buried her head in Mitch’s tuxedo lapel to hide her tears from the crowd, but I was close enough to see the discharge rolling down her cheek.  Mitch put his hand lovingly on the back of Kilee’s head as I read her lips as she declaratively responded with a “yes” before continuing to softly speak with the man about to officially become her father.

I struggled to maintain my own emotion as I continued to observe them and tried to process just how much this meant for Kilee, who had only visited her derelict birth father a handful of times in her life and who struggled through her formative childhood years without a father figure.

All too quickly, their dance ended and Kilee yielded the dance floor to my daughter Kaitlyn, who could tell that Kilee had just had a big moment and was clearly curious what it was all about.  Kilee darted off the dance floor in a hurry, eager to seek a quiet space to process her emotions and inserting her half-smoked cigarette to her lips, her cheeks hollowing in a desperate but fruitless attempt to reignite the cherry of the cigarette that had been neglected for two minutes before the dance.  I continued to observe her fast-walking her way toward the her abandoned table to get hold of her lighter so she could be alone with her thoughts and her Marlboro companion for the brief window of time until Kaitlyn rejoined her.

As Kilee wandered off, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one watching her.  Sixteen-year-old Elijah a few positions behind me in the line for the dollar dance couldn’t take his eyes off of Kilee just as he hadn’t for much of the day and evening, clearly having realized something momentous had just occurred with her. 

As I’d been doing all night, I then averted my eyes to Barbara Finstad, who continued to sit stoically in her seat staring at her son Mitch with another layer of regret and concern in her eyes.  It was pretty clear that Barbara knew more than I did about her son’s plans to adopt Kilee going into tonight, and it was also clear that she realized the question had just been asked and that Barbara was even less thrilled with this development than she was about Mitch marrying into the Paulson family in the first place.  Barbara took another sullen but resigned swig of champagne from what seemed like a bottomless glass that had been in front of her since the reception began.

Several moments later, Kaitlyn and Kilee had found a table to themselves and were clearly chatting at length about Kilee’s big news.  I gave them their space as I casually observed from a distance, but it felt good to see Kilee so happy and to see how personally invested Kaitlyn was in her happiness, hugging her several times.  I couldn’t help but notice Elijah’s wandering eyes their direction from a few tables over, engaging in the same voyeurism as I was only for a different reason. 

The girls were just wrapping up another round of cigarettes when my attention was diverted to Gretchen’s youngest sister Melissa firing up a big cigar and beginning to make the rounds through the dance hall looking for customers, as she so often did during celebratory evenings in the Paulson family.  My eyebrow raised with intrigue as I observed the wedding photographer slinking around the room with her camera photographing Melissa passing out cigars to several interested wedding attendees of both genders, a few of whom still didn’t look remotely familiar.  I had a hint of suspicion that someone may have had a secret agenda as it applied to the wedding photographers and some of the wedding guests during the ceremony, but my radar was really elevated now watching the camera flash lighting up the room every time someone else grabbed hold of one of the cigars Melissa was offering, and I smiled as I began to put the puzzle pieces together in my mind.

I watched from a distance as Melissa approached Kaitlyn and Kilee’s table with her box of cigars, and as expected, both girls jubilantly grabbed hold of one, accepting an extended light from Melissa’s torch.  My eyes reflexively diverted to Elijah and I correctly predicted his eyes would be fixated on my daughter and niece upgrading from their steady diet of cigarettes to Churchill-sized cigars.  My smirk grew wider as I pondered the mixed emotion likely going through Elijah’s head as his extended observation of Kaitlyn and Kilee’s smoking just got taken to the next level. 

Melissa chatted with Kaitlyn and Kilee for a few moments as it was clear the girls were passing along Kilee’s exciting news.  It was endearing to witness such a heartfelt moment shared between two teenage girls and their hip aunt amidst the backdrop of thick cigar smoke destroying the air quality in this already smoky reception hall.  I was used to seeing it, but I wouldn’t have been if I was Elijah’s age.  As Melissa got up to continue her cigar distribution tour, I noticed Elijah stirring around his table, hitting up older groomsmen for something.  It would be very interesting to see how this played out.

Meanwhile at the girls’ table, Kilee continued to open up to her cousin.  “I just never thought anything like this was gonna happen for me.  I got used to the idea of it just being me and my mom for our whole lives.”  She paused to take a hard and contemplative draw from her cigar before adding, “We both owe Mitch so much.”

Kaitlyn clasped Kilee’s hand with shared elation but also sought to partially correct her.  “This is what you and your mom have deserved all along, Kilee.  Don’t ever let yourself think you deserve anything less, okay?” she added with her usual charisma and spunk, drawing even harder from her own cigar than Kilee just had and belching out a massive blast of thick, dirty smoke as she exhaled.  The girls had been sharing these kinds of moments since they were young children, but as they looked in each other’s eyes, they evoked the kinship of best friends for life whose relationship would always transcend their shared blood line.

But this tender moment took a surprise detour as both girls watched a young groomsman approach their table carrying three glasses of champagne.  Looks of instinctive teenage attraction filled their faces as the handsome brunette Elijah navigated through the dense and smelly haze of cigar smoke until arriving at their table, where he sat the three champagne glasses down.  He fought through his discomfort, both with the cigar smoke and the general anxiety of approaching attractive teenage girls, and formally committed to courting their affections.

Elijah focused his glare primarily at Kaitlyn, who he was more attracted to and had a less direct familial connection to.  “If you’re interested, I was able to get my hands on something to drink that didn’t come from the punch bowl,” he opened with a proud smirk for having procured these glasses of champagne for a duo of girls he figured would be thrilled about it.

Kaitlyn flashed him a sweet smile, finding him attractive, but instinctively preferring to play hard to get.  “I would have never guessed you were 21,” Kaitlyn flirted, looking to Kilee and asking “Does he look 21 to you?”, eliciting a far more bashful smirk and nod from Kilee.

Elijah smiled back, confident he had Kaitlyn where he wanted her.  “Oh I got some connections!” he responded.

“Well I don’t know if we should be flattered or insulted that you think we’re 21,” Kaitlyn replied with a giggle, drawing from her cigar and blowing the smoke toward Elijah’s face without being too obvious about it.

Elijah held his breath to avoid the obnoxious cigar smoke as much as he could but sat down at the chair in front of her, confident that he had an invitation to socialize with the girls.  “Since you’re smoking, I figured you had to be 21 and didn’t ask for an ID,” he said. 

“I see,” Kaitlyn continued to flirt.  “And maybe after a drink, you thought you could get a dance too?” she asked.

Elijah smirked awkwardly, suddenly realizing Kaitlyn might not be as easy of a mark as he originally anticipated.  He shrugged and responded with visibly declining confidence. “Not too many other people around her our age so if you want to do some dancing, your options are limited.”

Kaitlyn smiled back, evoking her whip hand as she took another deep draw from her cigar, blowing more smoke into his airspace and responding.   “Well maybe before the night’s over we can talk about it,” Kaitlyn equivocated.  “But right now Kilee and I are kind of having a moment.  She just got some big news!”

Elijah made eye contact with Kilee for the first time and offered a halfhearted “Congratulations” without digging any deeper, tipping off to Kaitlyn that his priorities were probably pretty sketchy and reinforcing her original uneasy vibe about this pretty boy.

“Thanks,” Kilee said bashfully, indicating a combination of reserved interest in Elijah and disappointment that he instinctively began hitting on Kaitlyn first as so many boys did.

“Maybe we can catch up with you later in the night….” Kaitlyn said dismissively, exhaling her cigar smoke to Elijah’s face more deliberately.

Elijah resumed eye contact with Kilee, who still had a twinkle of interest in her eye, as though she was a consolation prize, which didn’t set well with Kilee, especially after reminding herself that they were now technically related through marriage.  Gaining confidence after Kaitlyn spurned Elijah, Kilee responded “Don’t look at me.  I already have a boyfriend,” referring to Kaitlyn’s ex-boyfriend Mason back in Virginia, who she continued to refer to as her boyfriend despite having only seen each other a couple of times since Kaitlyn returned to Minnesota.  Kilee blew cigar smoke in Elijah’s direction just as Kaitlyn had, feeling empowered at the idea of pushing away a cute guy whose vibe didn’t feel right.

Kaitlyn offered up a halfhearted smile to Kilee, proud of her for rejecting Elijah’s lackluster game but disappointed that she was still clinging to Mason rather than seeking out boys closer to home.  Kaitlyn confidently clutched her large cigar between her teeth and looked up to Elijah to give him the final blow-off, mumbling through the cigar in her mouth.  “It was sweet of you to bring the drinks but I think we’ll pass for now.”

Elijah’s humiliation transformed to a spurt of anger as he gasped for breath with a swirl of Kaitlyn and Kilee’s cigar smoke enveloping his face.  His face turning a mix of red and green, he wrinkled his nose and made sure to get the last word.   “That’s okay.  On second thought, I couldn’t put up with all of the smoke anyway,” he snorted, turning around and heading back to the groomsmen’s table while listening to the girls giggle as he walked away.

Kaitlyn kept her eyes trained on Elijah until he sat down, puckering her lips tightly around the cigar still clutched between her teeth.  Elijah still had a bit of a pretty boy appeal for her, and she suddenly found him more attractive after he stood up to her.  She took a mental note as she watched Elijah sit down to sulk with the fellow groomsmen, still prepared to keep her word to him that they might share a dance before the evening ended.  

Kaitlyn then looked up and became a bit startled as she noticed the frosty eyes of Barbara Finstad were trained on her, staring her down with a passive-aggressive glare.  Kaitlyn broke eye contact at the first opportunity just as she had when she noticed Barbara looking at her disapprovingly earlier in the day, and wondering how much she had just witnessed of her grandson getting rejected by the naughty Paulson offspring.

Soon it was another member of the Finstad family that Kaitlyn found herself looking at.  Seeing 16-year-old Isabel wandering around in her bridesmaid’s dress like a fish out of water, self-consciously clutching her lighter and pack of Marlboro Ultra Light 100s as if looking for a friend, Kaitlyn decided it would be a perfect opportunity to become the friend she was looking for, and probably piss off grandmother Barbara and twin brother Elijah as a bonus.  “Hey!” Kaitlyn called out through the cigar still clenched between her jaws, drawing Isabel’s attention.  “Is it Isabel?”

Isabel looked back at Kaitlyn nervously with a deer-in-the-headlights glare, nodding affirmatively at Kaitlyn’s question but suspicious about her agenda and at least as intimidated by her profile as brother Elijah was.

“Come on over,” Kaitlyn invited warmly, hoping that Kilee knew Isabel better than she did to make it easier for them to bond.

Isabel hesitantly approached the two younger teens smoking the big cigars, intimidated but also welcoming the company.  She looked at Kilee since she at least nominally knew her through uncle Mitch.  “I know Kilee,” Isabel awkwardly introduced herself, “….but I don’t think I know who you are.”

“I’m Kaitlyn!” Kaitlyn formally introduced herself with cigar smoke spraying out of her face.  “I’m Kilee’s cousin.  My mom Gretchen was the maid of honor.”

As introductions and early small talk progressed, Kaitlyn sent a quick side-eye to Elijah and, as expected, Elijah was fuming from across the room, annoyed that Kaitlyn was connecting better with his sister than she was with him.

Kaitlyn took the opportunity to hold her cigar up toward Isabel to draw the girl’s attention.  “Would you like a cigar?  I can hail down my aunt and she’d be happy to give you one.”

Isabel wrinkled her nose.  “No thanks.  I don’t think it would be for me.”

Kaitlyn laughed.  “It’s okay,” she responded, training her eyes on the pack of cigarettes in Isabel’s hand.  “Looks like you’re a fellow smoker though.”

“Oh yeah,” Isabel replied with a nervous laugh.  “I started about a year ago.  All my friends were doing it so I decided I wanted to.  You know how it is….” she added.

A smile beamed on Kaitlyn’s face, knowing how heartened her mom would be to hear that because of her efforts as the Philip Morris CEO that teenage girls as sweet as Isabel were once again facing the peer pressure of friends who smoked just as was the case when Gretchen was in high school back in the 1990s.  Kaitlyn finally nodded in agreement with Isabel’s assertion as Isabel plucked an all-white cigarette from her pack and lit it up.

“It was pretty badass seeing you light up at the altar of the wedding,” Kaitlyn complimented. 

Isabel laughed and nodded as she took an intense inaugural drag from the long all-white cigarette, pulling the smoke in as hard as she could to get the needed nicotine in her bloodstream before she began to vocalize her response.  With smoke trickling out of her mouth and nose, Isabel eventually began speaking.  “With your mom and aunt’s cigarettes so closeby, I couldn’t resist.  I’m sure my family was thrilled seeing me smoke so publicly,” she said with a giggle, adding “….especially my grandma.”

Kaitlyn and Kilee both laughed, making a pretty good connection with Isabel as they watched her take another deep drag from her cigarette and then pump out a middling exhale that contributed to but ultimately paled in comparison to the dense presence of tobacco smoke in the dance hall, particularly at that table.  Kaitlyn eyeballed Isabel’s Marlboro Ultra Lights 100s pack more closely and decided to chime in.  “Not telling you what to do or anything, but I’d probably smoke four packs a day if I was smoking your brand.”

Isabel laughed.  “Some of my friends tell me that,” she said, taking another extremely deep drag and growing the length of her ash by a quarter inch with one pull.  “I guess it’s the brand I’m used to though.”

An evil smirk emerged on Kaitlyn’s face as her hand instinctively grabbed hold of her pack of Marlboro Reds 100s.  “Want to try one of mine?” she asked.  “Just to compare them?”

Isabel’s curiosity was piqued as she pondered the offer before ultimately accepting.  She took a final deep drag from her Ultra Light before stubbing the two-thirds-smoked cigarette out of the ashtray before grabbing hold of the Red that Kaitlyn offered.  Without too much hesitation on her face, Isabel inserted the cork-filtered cigarette between her lips and fired up.

Kaitlyn and Kilee watched with mischievous anticipation as Isabel took an instinctively hard pull from the Marlboro Red 100 just as she was used to doing with her Ultra Lights.  It took less than a second after inhaling before Isabel realized what she had done, her eyes enlarging like saucers and the rich smoke spraying out of her nose.  She avoided coughing as intensely as Kaitlyn and Kilee expected, and her discomfort quickly morphed into a smile.  After regaining her composure Isabel responded with a giggle, “You two are tougher than me if you can smoke these all day!”

Kilee took the reins, increasingly comfortable with Isabel as she responded “I bet if you smoked them for a week, you wouldn’t be able to go back to your normal brand.”

Isabel took another more modest drag from the cork-filtered Red 100, a more pleasing nicotine sensation now flowing through her bloodstream and she smiled at Kaitlyn and Kilee, replying “Maybe,” as though she could be convinced.

Amidst the girls’ increasingly comfortable banter, Kaitlyn looked up to see her annoyed younger brother Brayden walking around through the dance hall, rubbing his eyes from all of the smoke, and looking unkempt with his bow tie loose and coming undone.

“Brayden!” Kaitlyn called out upon seeing how disheveled her younger brother was.  “Come here and let me fix you up!”

Kaitlyn’s exclamation drew many eyes her way, including the usual suspects of Elijah and Barbara who observed as a whining Brayden drifted reluctantly in the direction of the table full of heavy-smoking teenage girls.

Brayden’s frown deepened as he got close to the heavy stench of cigar smoke.  Engaged with her cousin and Isabel, Kaitlyn failed to pick up on the extent of her brother’s discomfort as usual.  She clutched the half-smoked cigar in her mouth and distractedly grabbed hold of the fussing Brayden.

“Nooooo!” Brayden protested as he found his way deeper into the fog of his sister’s cigar smoke.  “Leave me alone!”

“I’m just trying to fix your bowtie, buddy!” a tone-deaf Kaitlyn responded through the cigar in her mouth as she picked Brayden up and set him on her lap so she could tend to his bowtie more closely while still listening to the conversation between Kilee and Isabel.

Brayden looked fearfully to the giant smelly cherry of Kaitlyn’s cigar only a few inches in front of his face and began to pull away just as Kaitlyn was retying the bowtie around his collar.

“Hold still!” Kaitlyn commanded as she finalized the knot, with Brayden twisting his head every which way and finding no reprieve with Kilee’s cigar smoke coming at him from the right and Isabel’s cigarette smoke coming at him from the left.  “Jeez, Brayden.  I’m almost done!”   Kaitlyn finally tightened the knot to her satisfaction before letting Brayden out of her lair.  “That’ll work!” she finally declared victory, showing him off to Kilee and Isabel and asking, “What girl could possibly resist this guy, now?”

Brayden quickly sprung to his feet and ran away.  The girls giggled as he departed, figuring his fast departure was out of embarrassment about his big sister’s fawning, failing to realize that the thick smoke was what was really scaring him off.   As Brayden drifted out of sight, he began incessantly rubbing his red eyes as he let the ammonia-fueled tears squeeze out of his eyes, providing him the faintest bit of comfort until he wandered as far out of the smoky environment as was possible and settled upon a remote table in the corner of the dance hall.  He sat there alone, continuing to rub his eyes, his anger beginning to burn as red as both his eyes and the Marlboro 100s packs that were constantly within arm’s reach of his mom and sister.  He wasn’t old enough or wise enough to appreciate that most boys his age didn’t have to live like this and, until recently, hadn’t had to for the past generation, but he instinctively found it appalling and unfair that he did.

Elijah’s eyes drifted back and forth from his twin sister Isabel–cigarette in hand as she so often was in recent months, cutting it up with the cigar-chomping Kaitlyn and Kilee–to young Brayden, sitting alone in the corner trying to escape the smoke.  Elijah found himself empathizing with the young blond boy fruitlessly seeking refuge from the offensive and omnipresent odor of tobacco smoke by the females closest to him in life, and also empathizing with him for having just been humiliated by the likes of those same tobacco-smoking females.  One female in particular was responsible more than anyone else for their mutually miserable night, Elijah mused, as he sent a shady glare at Kaitlyn as she once again exhaled a toxic blast of dirty cigar smoke.

Elijah decided he’d seen enough and quietly rose to his feet, slinking around the perimeter of the room and approaching the back corner table where Brayden continued to sit alone. He didn’t want to frighten Brayden so he announced his presence from a few yards away.

“I think we’re doing the same thing here,” Elijah opened, compelling Brayden to take his hands off of his eyes.  “Mind if I sit back here with you and try to get away from all the smoke?”

Brayden shyly nodded even though he didn’t welcome this older boy with a mysterious agenda sitting near him.

Elijah sat down across the table from Brayden, breaking the awkward silence after several seconds.  “Smells disgusting, doesn’t it?”

Brayden again nodded in agreement but avoided eye contact.

“That’s my twin sister over there,” Elijah pressed, pointing subtly in the direction of cigarette-wielding Isabel still mingling in the company of Kaitlyn and Kilee.  “She was one of the bridesmaids.  Is that your sister across from her?” he asked, feigning ignorance about Kaitlyn’s identity.

Brayden nodded again, beginning to become comfortable with Elijah’s banter.

“Yuck!  She and her friend are smoking cigars!  They’re even nastier than cigarettes, don’t you think?’ Elijah continued to press.

Brayden nodded in vigorous agreement and finally spoke up.  “That’s my cousin next to my sister.”

Elijah feigned ignorance again.  “Oh yeah?”, he asked rhetorically, sneaking a peek over his shoulder and then adding.  “They seem pretty cool I guess but I can’t deal with the smoking.  I think you and I should hang out over here for a while and stay away from all of that.”

Brayden smiled in agreement and began to engage more thoroughly with Elijah, pointing out others in his family and doing most of the talking for the next several moments as Elijah nodded along and tried to appear interested in Brayden’s barely coherent descriptions and commentary.

Over the course of the prolonged interaction, Kaitlyn’s eyes wandered in the direction of Elijah and her brother, taking a vaguely uneasy mental note of their commiseration at this back corner table.  At one point, she nudged Kilee to draw her attention to it as well, but ultimately decided it was harmless enough to not investigate further, even being a bit flattered that Elijah might be interrogating Brayden to get more intel on her.

Elijah punctuated his extended conversation with subtle glances at the direction of Kaitlyn, Kilee, and Isabel as well, increasingly annoyed at how aloof they continued to seem along with the incessant obnoxious tobacco smoke that was increasingly unavoidable.  Elijah was also finding himself increasingly annoyed at Brayden’s continued monologue, feeling some buyer’s remorse for having joined him at this table 15 minutes earlier.  

Finally, Elijah had enough, cutting Brayden off mid-sentence to pass along his escape plan.  “Sorry buddy, but that smoke keeps drifting our way and I gotta get away from it.  I think I’m gonna head outside for a bit,” Elijah explained, quickly rising to his feet and moving toward the nearest exit.   In moments, Elijah was outdoors, breathing in the fresh evening air on the warm June night and wishing he’d thought of stepping outside earlier.  He inhaled the fresh air as deeply as he could and was struck by just how prominent the stench was on his own clothes after a few hours in that reception hall.

Elijah only got a few seconds to himself though before the side entrance door opened, with Brayden coming out to join him.  Elijah quietly sighed that he hadn’t successfully shaken off his pint-sized follower but remained civil with the kid.  “Couldn’t take the smoke any longer either huh?” Elijah asked.

“Nooo!” Brayden exclaimed with obvious conviction, coughing in tandem with the verbal disdain for the air quality in the room.

Elijah was overcome with sympathy, realizing based on his observations of both Gretchen and Kaitlyn tonight that this poor boy is probably choking on polluted air almost uninterruptedly.  “Let’s enjoy this fresh air while we can, buddy,” Elijah responded.  “Nice night, huh?”

Brayden agreed and continued with his lengthy monologue from earlier, trying Elijah’s patience again and compelling the older boy to begin to wander around in the dark, hoping that Brayden would be afraid of the dark and wouldn’t follow.  But Brayden kept following Elijah even as the latter wandered to the back of the reception hall, the lighting getting increasingly sparse as he ventured to a rear door.

Elijah squinted his eyes to make out the word “maintenance” printed out on the rear door and, almost as an afterthought, turned the door handle, fully expecting it to be locked.  He was surprised with the door handle twisted and opened the door, enabling him access to the small room.  He reached his hand inside and flicked on the easily accessible light switch, illuminating the room.

Elijah exchanged mischievous smirks with the suddenly silent Brayden as they looked inside this maintenance room, their mutual boyish instincts for adventurism kicking in as Elijah led the way by stepping inside and Brayden followed.


The dance floor was beginning to fill up in the reception hall as the music got louder and the attendees were getting more drinks in them, my own wife included among them.  I sat alone at my table taking in all the ensuing activity as Gretchen mingled with the crowd that wasn’t already out on the dance floor, heartily nursing several glasses of champagne and burning through reams of Marlboro Red 100s.  As I observed Gretchen hips and feet become increasingly mobile to the beats of the music played by the band, I anticipated it would only be a matter of time until Gretchen would coax me onto the dance floor.

Seconds later, the trigger would be tripped as the band announced they were “gonna play a few hits from Journey.”  I smirked as my premonition came to life as Gretchen abruptly ended her conversation with Tina’s friend and bridesmaid Suzy to turn around and explore the crowd until she laid eyes on me.  I sat there waiting with a broad grin splashed across my face, letting Gretchen know I anticipated being beckoned at any moment.  With a come-hither smirk on her face, Gretchen placed her half-smoked Marlboro Red 100 between her lips and dangled it as she walked toward the dance floor, pointing at me and motioning for me to join her.  Watching her incredible curves stretch out that white top and jean shorts, I began to approach, resigned to some aggressive dancing on my very near-term horizon.

Even in this incredibly smoky room, the intensity of the tobacco aroma grew as Gretchen and I stepped closer to each other, and really hit critical mass as she put her left hand on my waist and her right hand behind my back.  It wasn’t particularly often that the odor of alcohol was mixed in with Gretchen’s tobacco stench, but she managed to smell like a distillery and a cigarette factory at the same time tonight as we began to sway our hips to the opening chords of “Faithfully.”

As I watched Gretchen’s eyes close with an erotic smile while listening to the music, it was pretty obvious she was fast approaching the point of total intoxication.  She dragged hard from her cigarette and let it lazily wander into my face with the same pleasured look on her face, compelling me to lower my hand down her waist and onto her jean shorts, still amazed that her body was as perfectly toned as it was the day we met.

As Gretchen pressed her face into my shoulder while we danced, I did a quick once-over of the room, noticing most of the unfamiliar faces from earlier had departed but that there was still a single photographer lurking in the background with her finger on the camera shutter.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I figured now was as good of time as any to call Gretchen out on what I expected to be going on.

“So there were some rather attractive faces at the wedding and earlier at the reception I’d never seen before today…and it seemed like they were always smoking every time I looked at them,” I opened with a playfully accusatory tone.  “But wouldn’t you know it seems like all of them left by now.  You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”

Gretchen responded with a lighthearted smirk confirming that she was busted before placing the stub of her cigarette between her lips and using her nicotine-stained finger to playfully motion me to be quiet.  From there, Gretchen guided our bodies toward an empty table at the edge of the dance floor with an empty champagne class, where she pitched her expired cigarette, successfully landing the cork filter butt inside the plastic glass from a few feet away.  She then made eye contact with me and responded through a slightly intoxicated drawl, “Instead of being friends of the groom or friends of the bride, they were ‘associates of the maid of honor’,” she confessed.

I shook my head in a futile attempt to bestow some lighthearted shame upon her.  “Let me guess.  It’s part of some promotion on behalf of smoker-friendly weddings?” I inquired.

Gretchen nodded yes as she plucked out another Marlboro Red 100, dangling it unlit from her lips and letting go of my waist just long enough to light herself up.

As a fresh blast of Gretchen’s smoke exploded into my face, I pressed.  “Your idea or Sophia’s?”

Gretchen pondered the question for a moment and then responded.  “I seem to remember us coming up with the idea pretty much at the same time when we were talking about new promotion ideas.  With smoking numbers going up again, there are gonna be a lot of brides and grooms looking for venues that allow smoking.  Thanks to Philip Morris’ purchasing power and some flashy advertising of beautiful people smoking at weddings, Tina’s wedding today may not be such an aberration moving forward.”

I shook my head once again.  “I take it you didn’t inform Tina about this?”

Gretchen nodded flamboyantly in the negative as she took a deep drag from her cigarette, exposing the deepening draw lines around her mouth and especially her lips before verbally replying.  “You’re the third person to know about this besides me and Sophia.  Hopefully we can keep it that way.”

I continued to smile and bust Gretchen’s chops, testing her critical thinking skills moderately impaired amidst her inebriated distraction.  “Don’t you think Tina and Mitch will figure out something’s up when they look at their wedding photos and realize neither of them know certain people in the crowd?  I mean, how many people that the bride and groom wanted to attend didn’t make the cut for the sake of your Philip Morris photo-op?”

Despite my mild-mannered tone, I could tell Gretchen was getting a bit annoyed by my interrogation, taking another deep drag and exposing those draw lines again.  She then thoughtlessly flicked the long ash onto the dance floor, trying to work through the implications I posed despite her being in a diminished cognitive state.  “If that happens and Tina finds out, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  She knows me too well,” Gretchen responded.   “But there are some people I’m a little more nervous will find out who I don’t expect to be so understanding,” she added, diverting her eyes in the direction of Barbara Finstad, who remained in the seat she’d been sitting in all night, her eyes already locked disapprovingly upon Gretchen as if she knew we were talking about her.

I resumed dancing with Gretchen without distraction for a few moments amidst the closing chords of “Faithfully”, enjoying the feeling of her body in my arms and her intensely foul aroma continuing to dominate my airspace just as thoroughly as she did when the dance began.

The vibe quickly pivoted once again, however, as the band transitioned from “Faithfully” to “Don’t Stop Believing'”.  Immediately after the opening chords started, Gretchen’s denim-draped hips started shaking.  She tilted her head skyward as she dragged deeply from her cigarette, hip-checking me as her filthy lungs pumped out smoke straight upward. 

Feeling her pelvis repeatedly bumping against my own, I couldn’t resist getting in a dig.  “Are you sure a woman of your vintage should be twerking her hips like that?”

Gretchen’s face playfully smoldered as bright a shade of red as the cherry on her cigarette.  “Some of us have a few more days before we turn 40.  Others of us long ago blew past that threshold,” Gretchen reminded me, being more at ease with the idea of turning 40 than she had been at turning 30 a decade earlier.

I nodded in agreement as Gretchen’s hip checks got increasingly aggressive as the lead singer began vocalizing the lyrics of Journey’s most famous song.  “I’m kind of worried about both of our hips right now if I’m being honest.”

Gretchen laughed, stepping up her game as I knew she would.  “I can’t be married to a guy that fragile,” she opened, taking the bait as she turned her ass toward me and begin grinding it into my crotch.  “At least not yet!”

I had already witnessed some grinding and other controversial moves on the dance floor tonight, but given her proclivity to control any room she sets foot in, all eyes were trained on Gretchen right now as she backed her posterior into my crotch and throttled me, those perfectly chiseled asscheeks of hers bursting out of the tight denim and grabbing hold of my erection.  The sensation was reinforced with bursts of secondhand smoke drifting into my face after every drag she took and each residual breath that followed.

After several moments of grinding, Gretchen turned around to face me, compelling me to extend my leg so she could gyrate on my thigh and give me an improvised lap dance.  With my right leg bent at the knee, she wrapped both legs around mine and foisted her crotch onto my thigh, grinding away until I could feel the burn of her pale denim shorts wear right through my black dress pants. I got lost in the moment and even with the loud music in the background, I could hear Gretchen’s damaged lungs wheeze breathlessly amidst her bodily workout.

A mix and match of laughter and scandalous guffaws filled the room and I looked up to find Kaitlyn, Kilee, and Isabel on the dance floor together. The giggling girls were fashioning a three-way variation of Gretchen’s lap dance on one another.  With two-thirds-smoked cigars in their hands, Kaitlyn and Kilee pretended to grind down upon cigarette-wielding Isabel’s thighs as she crouched down.  The three girls quickly discovered that their attempted replication of Gretchen’s moves were far more unwieldy wearing dresses compared to Gretchen’s daisy dukes, but it didn’t stop them from continuing to try and enjoying themselves doing so.

I nudged Gretchen on the shoulder and pointed out what Kaitlyn and Kilee were doing to the youngest bridesmaid, but after a few seconds of observing the tawdry spectacle, it hit me that there was probably somebody else watching this debauchery unfold from the cheap seats who found it less amusing. 

Sure enough, I looked in the direction of Barbara Finstad and instantly observed her most appalled reaction yet as she looked upon her granddaughter Isabel on the receiving end of such a disgraceful scene.  Barbara’s eyes then pivoted to Gretchen doing the same move on me, shaking her head as though she had about reached her limit for what she could sit idly by and tolerate.  I watched her take a final giant swig of champagne, draining the glass and taking a few seconds to compose herself before standing up and staggering her way slowly toward the dance floor.  I grimaced as I realized that a wedding party that had thus far avoided exposing the rigid fault lines of the two families joining as one seemed poised to have the first major shot fired across the bow.  And knowing Gretchen as I did, this did not seem likely to end well for Barbara Finstad if she followed through on the confrontation that seemed increasingly likely as her migration toward us progressed.


Meanwhile, in the maintenance room behind the building, Elijah and Brayden were in full explorer mode as they checked out the shelves full of supplies and cleaning equipment.  Elijah knew and Brayden seemed to sense that they weren’t supposed to be in this room, and both of them were getting a cheap thrill out of digging around in there anyway. 

Elijah looked up to the panel on the back wall at what appeared to be fuse breakers and other building controls.  He walked up and opened the panel, where some of the switches were labeled on a piece of masking tape to identify what they controlled.  He gave it a casual once-over and was about to retreat until he noticed a dial labeled “smoke detectors”.  An evil smirk emerged on his face as a petty little revenge strategy popped into his head, and he couldn’t resist sharing it with Brayden.

“Check this out,” Elijah alerted Brayden, drawing his attention to the control panel and pointing specifically at the smoke detector dial.  “This dial apparently controls the sensitivity of the smoke detectors in the reception hall,” he explained, temporarily unaware he was speaking with a four-year-old.

Brayden’s early excitement gave way to a look of confusion before he responded, “What does that mean?”

Elijah grinned broadly before responding with a half-truth.  “It means we get to make that room a lot less smoky when we go back in.”

Brayden smiled back as Elijah’s mischievous glee about asserting some control over the reception hall full of heavy smokers was contagious.


It wasn’t until Barbara Finstad was a few feet behind Gretchen that my wife sensed her imposing presence, turning around at the exact moment Barbara came to a stop, ready to speak her mind.

Barbara’s Stepford smile had by now yielded to an unmistakable scowl as she made eye contact with Gretchen, raising her voice so that her partially slurred words could be heard above the music.  “I’d like to have a word with you,” Barbara opened sternly, pausing for only a moment before continuing to express the grievances she’d kept bottled in all day.  “You’re an adult and can do whatever you want to yourself but can you please set a better example for the kids?”  She gave a quick side-eye to Kaitlyn, Kilee, and Isabel still clowning around on the dance floor, laying the shade on thick as she added, “If not for your own kids, at least for my grandchildren. Maybe stop acting like a pole dancer just for tonight.”

I observed with tense anticipation as Gretchen turned red while getting dressed down by Barbara’s blunt words and judgmental glare.  Gretchen took the time to pluck out another cigarette from her pack of Marlboro Red 100s, using the cherry from her current cigarette to ignite the new one, taking the opportunity for a moment of silence to gather her thoughts and to debate how heavily she wanted to get into it with the bride’s mother-in-law on her wedding day.  Gretchen then exhaled a toxic tornado of carcinogens that erupted like a stick of dynamite into Barbara’s face as she proceeded to drop the expired cigarette butt to the dance floor and stomp it out with her boot as though she was outdoors, knowing this defiant display would only raise Barbara’s ire further.

Finally Gretchen engaged with Barbara, calmly but intimidatingly asserting, “I’d love to hear your thoughts on the bad example I’m setting for my own kids and other people’s, but first can I ask you back up a couple of feet.  I’d prefer to avoid an explosion from the liquor on your breath igniting this open flame.”   Gretchen lifted her cigarette to Barbara’s line of vision and Barbara’s bloodshot eyes struggled to maintain visual control of it.

Barbara sneered with visceral disdain, the altercation beginning to turn a few heads on the dance floor.  “I barely know you but I’ve already figured out that years ago you got my new daughter-in-law addicted to cigarettes.  And that you got your own daughter hooked.  And now two of my granddaughters are hooked on your poison,” her voice raised as she pointed toward Isabel and soon-to-be-adopted granddaughter Kilee.  “And God only knows how many other people’s grandkids have gotten hooked…..or have asthma from secondhand smoke the way your little boy will soon enough.”  She paused leading up to the delivery of her mic drop final thought.  “You’re an evil person.”

I tried to rein Gretchen in, knowing we were entering the danger zone of a thermonuclear scene, but Barbara’s indirect reference to Brayden distracted Gretchen for a moment. Like me, Gretchen realized she hadn’t seen Brayden for a while and was quickly scanning the reception hall for any sign of him, feeling a flash of concern when neither of us spotted him.

Between her middling state of intoxication and the distraction of her missing son, Gretchen struggled to articulate a comeback as snappy and merciless as what she usually did, but nonetheless laid her frosty blue eyes on Barbara in a way that cut into her soul as she mused.  “When the family looks back on tonight, it’s not gonna me who will be remembered as the evil one.  Or the one who’s ruining my sister’s wedding because of “secondhand” demons.  I’ll give you one last chance to walk away and we’ll forget this happened,” Gretchen offered a rare olive branch, pausing for a second before asking “What do you say?”

Barbara raised her finger as if poised to point it into Gretchen’s face and escalate the confrontation to inevitable mutually assured destruction, but before she could bellow out her first slurred word in anger, a sonic eruption emerged from the ceiling as multiple smoke detectors began to thunder.  The band quickly stopped playing and vocal bewilderment filled the room.  But bewilderment would quickly yield to full-blown mayhem when, a few seconds later, the sprinkler system turned on, dousing dozens of attendees in a cold shower.

My eyes were fixated on Gretchen as the sprinkler water instantly doused the cigarette in her mouth that she just lit, and my eyes then diverted to my gobsmacked 14-year-old daughter, her stylized platinum blond hair going flat from the steady shower of sprinkler water raining upon her head.  The bright red cherries on the cigars in Kaitlyn and Kilee’s mouths quickly went the way of Gretchen’s cigarette, the life snuffed out of them as the soggy remains dangled lifelessly from the girls’ mouths.  What on Earth was happening?


Meanwhile, out in the control room, Elijah found himself in an even more elevated state of panic than the wet dancers in the reception hall as the consequences of his cranking up the sensitivity dial on the building’s smoke detector system were proving greater than anticipated. 

“Shit!” Elijah shouted as he could hear the distraught screams from the drenched wedding reception guests, looking at Brayden with contagious terror in his eyes as though desperate for any idea on how to fix this mess he created for himself.

Elijah then proceeded to look at the other controls on the panel and realized his best option might be to kill the power to the building.  Without having much idea of what would come next, Elijah concluded it was worth the risk and flipped the main circuit breaker on the panel, turning the lights off for the whole building.  The panicked screams from inside the reception got even louder as the building went dark, but at the very least the sprinklers seemed to have shut off.  Brayden burst into boisterous tears of his own as he lurked behind Elijah in the blackened maintenance room.

After a few moments of darkness, Elijah flipped the main circuit breaker to its original position, praying that it would turn the power for the building back on without restarting the sprinkler system.  He sighed with relief when both wishes came true.  He then looked over to the tearful Brayden and apologized.  “Sorry to scare you there buddy,” patting him on the shoulder and realizing some people inside were likely missing him by now, especially after the unintended excitement.  “You should head back inside so your mom knows you’re safe,” he added, pausing to make eye contact and then trying to intimidate the boy into submission out of self-preservation.  “But don’t tell anybody about our little secret, okay?” he closed, pointing to the control panel and circuit breakers, not particularly confident about the boy’s ability or willingness to keep this secret for him.

Brayden took off out of the room and hustled around the corner to the reception hall entrance, going back inside to reenter a soggy room full of frazzled guests, overhearing the best man on the phone calling the fire department to hold them off of coming after the false alarm.  He only had a few seconds to wander inside before Gretchen noticed him.

“Brayden!” Gretchen called out in relief, running toward her son with freshly lit Marlboro Red 100 in hand.  Her relieved mother voice abruptly yielded to scolding as she sternly and huskily inquired, “Where were you?!”

Brayden avoided eye contact as he looked to the floor and bashfully whispered, “Just went outside.”

Gretchen hugged him tightly and lovingly, my son visibly grimacing at the stench of Gretchen’s smoke now commingled with her soaked hair and clothes. 

An equally soggy Kaitlyn walked toward her mom and brother amidst their hug, lighting a Marlboro Red 100 of her own on the walk over and lovingly placing her hand on Brayden’s shoulder in gratitude of his return, but she was quickly connecting the dots in her mind regarding the timing of her brother’s disappearing act and the power outage.  As soon as Gretchen and Brayden broke apart, a flash of anger filled Kaitlyn’s face as she asked, “Where’s Elijah?”

Brayden watched as dragon flares of cigarette smoke burst out of Kaitlyn’s nostrils, her soaked dress and flat, wet hair hanging in front of her eyes evoking the image of a horror film heroine about to lay on the hurt to her tormentors.  Brayden knew whenever he saw those dragon flares from either his sister or his mother, they were pissed and he was at high risk of being in big trouble.  He shrugged, unconvincingly feigning ignorance of Elijah’s whereabouts.

Kaitlyn looked up to her mother, cigarette dangling from her lips, as she tattled.  “He was sitting there with Brayden about 20 minutes ago and then they just vanished.”

Gretchen knelt down to look Brayden in the eye, applying her maternal pressure as she authoritatively inquired, “Where is Elijah and what did he do, Brayden?”

Brayden hated being on the spot in front of everyone, and with Gretchen’s secondhand smoke once again directly invading his airspace from close range, he was on the precipice of another breakdown, defiantly whining, “I don’t know!” with the accompaniment of a new round of tears.

At that moment, the sound of the door slowly opening drew the attention of everyone in the reception hall as Elijah thought enough time had passed that he might be able to quietly slip back in undetected.  He hadn’t even gotten one step inside before noticing every eye in the room was fixated on him.  He gave a quick look to Brayden standing next to Gretchen and Kaitlyn, trying to figure out if the kid ratted on him but realizing it probably didn’t matter as the room had likely already figured him out.

No sooner did Elijah come to terms with his own exposure before Kaitlyn took two steps forward, looking more imposing than I’d ever seen her look before decked out in her wet dress with disheveled blond hair.

“You did this, didn’t you?!?” Kaitlyn asked angrily as she pointed to the water-logged room, her dragon flare nostrils firing on all cylinders with cigarette smoke blasting from her apoplectic young face.  “You ruined my aunt’s wedding?!?”

Elijah stood still with his mouth agape, his face identifying his guilt without uttering a word as he desperately looked for the verbiage needed to soften the tough crowd whose eyes were all bearing down on him.  “I mean, I guess….but it was an accident,” the words finally fumbled out of his mouth.

“An accident?!?!” Kaitlyn fired back with the pluck of a bloodthirsty prosecutor going in for the kill on an uncooperative witness.  “Look at this place!” she pressed, pointing at all the sad and disappointed faces attempting to clean up the damage.  “You didn’t just tip over a drink!!!!  And then you try to get a four-year-old to take the heat for you!?!?’ she pressed, pointing to Brayden.

Elijah shook his head, futilely searching his mental checklist for an effective comeback.  “I’m not trying to get anyone to take any heat for me!” he staggered with even less verbal effectiveness than his inebriated grandmother several minutes earlier.  “It was accident like I said.  I pushed the wrong button in the wrong place.  Look, I’ll make it up to everybody, okay.”

Kaitlyn continued to be the designated mouthpiece for every angry attendee in the room as she pressed forward.  “How are you gonna make up ruining the most important day in my aunt’s life?  And your uncle’s?  And my cousin’s? It was a very special day for all of them and look what you did!” she badgered, pointing to Kilee as she dragged from her cigarette and looked at Elijah with a combination of anger, disappointment, and pity.   “And you did all this why? Because I wouldn’t dance with you?!  Because Kilee and I wouldn’t let you get us drunk so you could have an easier time getting our dresses off??!?” Kaitlyn thundered, an audible wheeze emanating from her lungs similar to what I heard from Gretchen during our dance moments earlier.

As Elijah shook his head and kept simpishly mouthing, “No….no….no.  Nothing like that,” Gretchen grabbed her agitated daughter by the shoulder and pulled her back a bit as if pleading with her to back down.  But I could tell by the thinly veiled smirk on Gretchen’s face that she was thrilled to see Kaitlyn take the reins and dress this guy down…proud that she was grooming the kind of strong woman who could one day take on an entire room full of male board members invested in her failure but could always persevere at their expense.

Kilee had by now joined Gretchen to help rein in Kaitlyn, knowing the potential existed for Kaitlyn to make a scene disproportionate to Elijah’s misdeeds, but having married one Paulson woman and raised another, I knew Kaitlyn wouldn’t acquiesce without a cutting final word.  As she sent a final frosty glare to Elijah and locked in until he maintained eye contact, she took a deep final drag from her cigarette and added in a softer but equally cutting tone, “Just so you know….you didn’t have to throw a tantrum, ruin everybody’s night, and get my brother in trouble to get my attention.  If you’d have just been patient, I would be dancing with you right now.”

Kaitlyn turned around and spiked her spent cigarette to the floor with a flourish of adrenaline.  She walked away with Kilee, looking at the faces of the dumbstruck wedding attendees who were holding back giving her a round of applause but conveyed through their body language that she spoke their minds as it applied to calling out the teenage party crasher.  Tina in particular gave her niece an appreciative nod for holding Elijah accountable, but also continued to maintain that new bride glow as she dragged from one of the first cigarettes of her married life. She was clearly determined to avoid dwelling on this 11th hour setback in what been a magical day for both her and Kilee. Now it was a matter of trying to regain some of that momentum and salvage some enjoyment before the night concluded.

I couldn’t resist taking another look at Barbara Finstad as she had quietly returned to her table and was sipping on another glass of champagne, the Stepford smile of earlier in the evening now a distant memory.  She was clearly irate that her attempt at an intervention against Gretchen went sideways and the people she deemed the villains of this story had just gotten rebranded as the heroes.  She shook her head as she looked up to Elijah, upset with his disastrous stunt but even more upset that he was publicly humiliated by Satan’s spawn in front of the family.

The sound of Gretchen’s gruff chainsmoker’s voice again diverted my attention elsewhere.  “Now you’re gonna explain to me and your dad why you were outside sneaking around rather than in here with the rest of us, young man!” Gretchen authoritatively barked, leaning down toward Brayden, her freshly lit cigarette bouncing up and down from her lips only inches in front of his face before she guided him toward the table where I sat waiting for their return.

The pout on Brayden’s face said it all as he and Gretchen progressed in my direction.  He once again rubbed his hands on his eyes as if maximally annoyed by his mom’s cigarette smoke, before looking angrily at Kaitlyn seated at the table next to ours as she lit up a new cigarette of her own.  But he then turned his head over his shoulder to offer a final visual apology to Elijah. 

As the boys’ eyes met from across the room, the mixture of sympathy and fury on their faces spoke volumes about the unlikely kinship they established.  They were sick to death of the overbearing cigarette-smoking females in their lives rendering them physically and emotionally powerless.   Elijah seemed to be just coming to terms with this emasculating imbalance, but Brayden had worn that sentiment on his sleeve since before he was even wearing diapers.  As he ripped his hand apart from Gretchen and climbed into my lap as if looking for any ally he could with a Y chromosome, I patted him on the back lovingly and forgivingly.  Being from Gretchen’s bloodline, I wasn’t underestimating the fight the kid might have in him for the inevitable continued battles within the family–and the family business–on the horizon.  But at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that Brayden was destined to be the underdog in their pending altercations.

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All Other Fairgrounds Overview

I’m adding this new category to account for additional fairgrounds sightings venues beyond my original three.  It started in 2013 when I stumbled into the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen, South Dakota, when I happened to be staying overnight there on a night the fair was on and scored some memorable sightings.  As of 2015, I made my maiden voyage to the Missouri State Fair and scored one of the best sightings of my life.  It was clear a new category had to be added to account for these new venues and to make room for future sightings I score from fairgrounds outside my Big Three.  I returned to Sedalia, Missouri in August 2016 for another day at the Missouri State Fair and again in 2018 and 2019.  And in 2017, I visited the Indiana State Fair for the first time.  At some point, I’ll return to Aberdeen, South Dakota, as well.  Enjoy the new material….

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AOF #1. The Show Me State Welcomes Me With Daylong Chainsmoking Show By Distinctive Sexpot Trio

I had been to the Missouri State Fair for an about an hour without a single sighting under my belt on my inaugural visit to that venue in 2015, leaving me with a very wobbly first impression of the new fairgrounds I’d driven five hours to experience that day.  But in the early afternoon I was taken aback by how dramatic of an opening bid this fairgrounds ultimately made when that first sighting finally came upon me.  Walking by the livestock barns and frustrated by the not-exactly-predicted intense heat and the lack of sightings, my day and indeed my entire summer took an abrupt turn for the better when my eyes focused on the approaching image.  Twenty yards in front of me was a trio of 21-22ish summer hotties in tanktops and shorts–a visually perfect cluster of feminine youth in the summertime without a single defiling tattoo amongst the three of them–all wielding freshly lit cigarettes between their fingers.  If you’re a fetisher, you are lucky to get one image per summer as fantastic as this.  I quickly readied my camera to capture this moment.  Aligning a perfect photo while not looking at the camera and thus telling on oneself is never easy so none of the dozen or so photos I would get of them was perfect, but I still feel that I successfully immortalized their images…..

The three sexy smoker girls each had a distinct visual identity to differentiate them.  There was a long-haired blond with sunglasses in a red blouse with white shorts.  She was hot as hell, but in this group passed for the plain jane.  There was a perfectly coiffed sexpot dark brunette with long, curly hair, a revealing white tanktop and denim cutoffs showing off tremendous flesh and a beautiful chiseled body that flowed into a pair of cowgirl boots.  And then there was the third girl who immediately captured my imagination best, a slender light brunette with shoulder length hair wearing a pink blouse and short jean shorts with cowgirl boots, who had the most wholesome and heartwarming face I’d seen all fair season, albeit with a faint hint of hardening suggesting she’d been a heavy smoker for a while.  Nearly five hours worth of driving to Sedalia, Missouri, was already worthwhile and I hadn’t even seen them smoke yet!

After they walked past me, I turned around, watching them from behind to admire their asses and the image of cigarettes between their fingers.  Doing so I was able to see their smoking technique, all of which were vaguely similar at least in this context of walking with their backs to a decent south breeze which scattered their cloudy exhales northward.  This vantage point behind them was also perfect for allowing me to see the reactions of others walking past them.  Virtually everybody took note of this sexy young trio, and judging from the direction their eyes went, they also took note of the cigarettes in their hands.  One woman seemed visibly annoyed and shook her head upon observing all three girls were smoking.  I also took note that my wholesome light brunette had a pack of Camel Light Menthols stuffed into her jean shorts, ready to do business for the entire day!  These girls were nothing if not cooperative on Saturday and came to a stop at a perfect vantage point where I could lean against a fence and snap more pics as they stood there smoking.  It was only when the girls stopped that I realized this steam roller had a fourth wheel….a clean-cut college age guy….but you’ll forgive me for not putting his presence together with this trio of girls for a variety of reasons, the most substantial being he was not smoking himself!  This man was the luckiest nonsmoking guy on the planet and I hope he realized that!  I got the sense that the group, especially the guy, was wise to me but if ever there was a time for taking risks, this was it as I snapped several more pics from this sedentary location and watched these beauties continue smoking.  Just fantastic!

The blond finished her cigarette first and appeared heading for the dairy cattle barn of all places, dropping her cigarette to the pavement without crushing it out and then vanishing inside that dairy building.  The rest of the group had other destinations to visit though and pressed forward, giving me the chance to identify blondie’s smoldering cigarette as a Camel Blue.  I pressed forward to see my wholesome light brunette had just finished her cigarette as well, also dropping it to the pavement without bothering to crush it out.  I could tell by the pack in the back of her jean shorts that her brand was Camel Light Menthols, but confirmed it looking at the smoldering remains of her cancer stick.  Now it was just a matter of that sexy dark brunette, the slowest smoker of the trio.  I got to watch a few more drags from her over the next 50 yards or so before she also retired her smoldering butt to the ground.  Hers was a Marlboro Light Special Blend.  Three different distinct beauties with three distinct brands all smoking together.  The imagery and quality of the girls being what they were, this sighting would have been my best of the 2015 fair season if it had ended right there, but suffice it to say it was nowhere near over….

An hour or so went by after that as I stitched together a few more modest sightings on the grounds, but right around 1:00 the day’s trajectory dramatically reversed.  A trio of two girls and a guy in their mid-to-late 20s were walking towards a small fairgrounds bar called Chuckie Dee’s and one of the girls was an attractive smoker with freshly lit cigarette in hand.  She waltzed into the bar with her cigarette and asked somebody something, which I would quickly discover to be a request for an ashtray as she was handed one before retreating to a table near a wall with her two friends.  I took a bench outside to observe this group’s smoking behavior, but my plans changed when I looked one table to their right and saw who was sitting there…..

Three of the four participants in my great original Missouri State Fair sighting occupied that table, including the guy, the sexpot brunette, and the wholesome light brunette cutie.  The blond who went into the cattle barn earlier was not there.  The only problem was there was a partition obstructing my view of them from the bench where I sat.  I scrambled and searched the perimeter of this open-air bar for another more accommodating bench….and I found one!  At the front entryway of the bar was a wide open bench where I could observe the table where this trio sat, close enough to appreciate the imagery but far enough away that I didn’t stand out like a sore thumb.  The second I sat down I could have sworn I saw a plume of smoke exhaled from the mouth of the dark brunette.  I figure my eyes probably didn’t deceive me and that she did in fact take the final exhale from a cigarette she crushed out outside of my sight range.  Either way, I just had a feeling that if I waited here for a while, I’d see more smoking from one or more of these girls.   An otherwise tempting sighting walked by right in front of me, but I wasn’t about to vacate this bench overlooking my best find so far in the 2015 fair season.

I had to wait no more than five minutes before the wholesome light brunette inserted an all-white between her lips and fired up.  I don’t often get the visceral flourish of excitement where my heart skips a beat seeing a girl smoking a cigarette but it sure happened at that moment.  This time, I was gonna get to watch her smoke the whole cigarette!  Even though this bar was open-air, the context was exactly like an old-fashioned bar setting, complete with the ashtray, and the imagery of her smoking evoked that.  I never got much of a chance to admire her style when I saw her smoking by the livestock barns earlier but that deficiency was being amended now.  Her drags were rock-solid, lasting a good five seconds and exposing a pleasured sensation on her face followed by generous exhales that she usually tilted slightly skyward to release, which the aforementioned south wind scattered into the bar.  It would have been hard to imagine this girl could upstage the imagery of her first cigarette with her friends outdoors but my front-row seat to her bar setting cigarette pulled it off, and I savored every moment until she extinguished the cigarette’s remains in the ashtray in front of her.  Was this the time to walk away?  Perhaps for an ordinary duo of fair girls, but these two were not ordinary, and I just knew that there would be more rewards for staying where I was at.  And it wouldn’t take long for those rewards to be realized….

No more than three minutes passed before the sexy dark brunette took out another cigarette and lit up, and this motivated her wholesome light brunette friend to light up another one too.  Oh sweet….both girls smoking at once again!  But of course there was one member of this trio not smoking….and that was the guy who never did light up even while in the presence of all these heavy-smoking females.  If ever there was a case study on whether secondhand smoke kills or not, it would be this guy.  If secondhand smoke is as dangerous as they claim it is, this guy should be dead in the next few years!  And his would-be killers couldn’t have been happier about their method of execution as the two girls smoked copiously, each producing beautiful clouds of smoke that were carried further into the bar by the wind.  The wholesome light brunette was the better–and faster–smoker of the two with cloudier exhales and better pacing, but the dark brunette looked so damn badass in her sunglasses dragging from her cigarette and typically exhaling straight ahead, making no effort at all to spare the guy sitting across from her the exhaust from her dark lungs.  The wholesome girl crushed out her cigarette a couple of minutes before the slower-smoking dark brunette friend.  And in the biggest irony of the day, the piped-in music coming from the bar’s speaker was now playing Alan Jackson’s late 90s hit “Everything I Love” of which the song’s hook is “everything I love is killing me….cigarettes, Jack Daniels, and caffeine”.  Clearly these girls don’t listen too closely to the lyrics of the country bars they frequent as they were a few years from the emphysema ward at the rate they were going! Right after the dark brunette finished hers, she got up and I figured the whole group was leaving…..but it was only the dark brunette who left.  I don’t know where she went but now it was just the guy and the wholesome light brunette at the table by themselves.  I began to suspect they were boyfriend and girlfriend but was later dissuaded of that impression.  More on that later, but in the meantime since my favorite girl of the group was sticking around, I was gonna do the same and see how high the cigarette count would go!

My extended sit on this bench overlooking my favorite girls in the bar allowed me the best of both worlds….fantastic sightings from the comfort of my easy chair.  I was a little concerned that I was missing great stuff elsewhere on the fairgrounds but I definitely made the right choice to stick around and I would formalize my stay by approaching the bar and ordering a pulled pork sandwich, giving me something to eat while being entertained by the smoker girl and a live band that was now performing and was quite good.  Again, my timing couldn’t have been better….because as I was standing there waiting on my sandwich, the wholesome light brunette smoker was standing at the bar right next to me ordering another beer.  This was the closest I was all day physically to this perfect female specimen….and frankly she kind of reeked of smoke!  I retreated to my bench while she was still in line waiting for another beer, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her perfect ass and those great legs with the cowgirl boots at the bottom, the breeze whipping around the bottom of her loose fitting pink top and showing off some midriff.  Her sex appeal was off the charts.  She walked back to her seat with the fresh beer, and I knew that with the new beer another cigarette was about to be smoked.

She made me wait about five more minutes but didn’t disappoint when her fourth cigarette of the last two hours (at least, I probably missed at least one!) was ignited.  While I had sort of appreciated the old-fashioned bar setting of this sighting up to this point, something I hadn’t experienced to this degree since Cousin Jamie’s wedding in 2002, it was after she lit this latest cigarette that it really hit home for me, and for a very specific reason.  For the first half of the cigarette, she rested her elbow on the table and held her cigarette close to her face as it smoldered.  With indoor smoking sightings having all but disappeared in my part of the country, an already visually appealing pose for a sexy smoker gal became that much more stunning because of its scarcity.  I honestly can’t even remember the last time I saw a girl smoking in this pose, and it was tearing me up inside with excitement.  The visceral thrill I mentioned that this girl gave me when she lit up before was occurring every couple of minutes at this point and I couldn’t get enough of it.  She took a good 6-8 drags with her elbow on the table before retreating to her previous position of holding her cigarette hand to her side next to her chair but I appreciated the hell out of those throwback stylings for as long as they lasted.  And sometimes this girl would flash a smile or have a certain look in her eye that just melted my heart witnessing it, reinforcing my notion that she was one of the most perfect smoker girls who ever lived, a perfect combination of heavy and unashamed smoker with a fun and charming personality.

She finished that fourth cigarette and I was determined to ride this show out as long as I could.  I know I had been spotted again by the girl and the guy with her but the presence of this live band performing behind them gave me a reason to be looking their way.  It was one of those perfect fetish days where absolutely everything was going my way. Nonetheless, the band’s arrival posed a logistical challenge when more people came to listen to them, including some who sat in my line of vision of the chainsmoking babe, at least partially obstructing me from seeing more of her.  I found myself fidgeting on my bench trying to find holes in the crowd where I could see the girl.  Thankfully, this crowd’s formation occurred in between cigarettes but I knew with this girl that period wouldn’t last long so I was hoping for some kind of break or that she would actually hold off before firing up her next one.  About 10 minutes passed when I saw an opening just large enough that I saw her nose and mouth in between two other customers…..and she was placing an unlit cigarette in her mouth, her fifth so far today that I observed.  It sure was a weird yet oddly satisfying experience watching this cigarette being inserted into a female mouth yet not being able to see the rest of her face.  And it played out this way for her first couple of drags too before a brief parting in the crowd allowed me a better vantage point where I could observe the rest of her face smoking too, never disappointing even for a second.  Was this girl an anomaly even in small-town Missouri or was she not necessarily the exception to the rule of being such a heavy smoker?  I also observed that she was very gingerly sipping her beer, which was in an ordinary plastic cup.  She was only on her second beer since I arrived here more than an hour ago.  Some more casual smoking girls say they smoke when they drink, but with this girl I think she would be more inclined to say she drinks while she smokes!

There was some unsettled activity during this fifth cigarette as the guy got up and walked off, perhaps to go to the bathroom….or else he finally reached his breaking point tolerating the girl’s incessant smoking.  Either way, I briefly abandoned my bench and retreated to a rear position behind where the girl sat.  The half-smoked cigarette was in her left hand as she continued to watch the band while sitting alone, and from this rear position I got to admire something else.  I mentioned earlier how when she was standing at the counter waiting for a beer the breeze was whipping around her blouse.  It was still doing that now as she sat with her back to the wind, but since she was sitting an inch or more of her black panties were exposed above the belt line of her shorts.  This girl just never quit finding ways to turn me on!  She took three back-to-back-to-back drags from her cigarette before crushing it out and continuing to sit there.  It was now 3:00 and I wanted to at least see what else the fair had to offer, thinking I would check in on a very regular basis to see what my wholesome light brunette was up to.

I did just that and was back in no more than 10 minutes.  Surprisingly the table was vacant, but I hustled on up to see if I could get a closer look at that ashtray provided it wasn’t cleaned out yet.  I got there and saw an ashtray with nearly a dozen butts in it, the majority being my favorite girl’s Camel Light Menthols.  But I also saw her pack of cigarettes and a half-empty beer still sitting there, signaling to me that she was planning to return.  I left the scene and returned in a few minutes.  Sure enough, all three of the original party were now back….the nonsmoking guy, my wholesome light brunette, and that impossibly sexy dark brunette, who was smoking another cigarette, her third or probably fourth cigarette of the afternoon.  My bench was still mostly open so I seized it, wanting to see more of the dark brunette’s style.  She didn’t smoke as quickly as I’d prefer but she was a great smoker with long indulgent drags and cloudy exhales.  And I love the dark brunette’s presence because every time she lit a cigarette, she inspired her heavier-smoking friend to light another.  Two-thirds way into the dark brunette’s cigarette, the light brunette fired up another of her own, her sixth so far this afternoon that I witnessed.  I stayed once again until both girls finished their cigarettes before making another attempt to take off, planning again to return and see when they would smoke again.

I felt a little guilty for neglecting the rest of the grounds in favor of one girl (or group of girls), as incredible as they were, but when I returned to the grounds I realized I hadn’t been missing much.  There still wasn’t much going on out there, in particular in the midway when I finally made another trip through there.  I was heading back to Chuckie Dee’s to keep tabs on those smelly sexpot chainsmokers, but when I got halfway there, I discovered they were coming to me!  They finally left the bar and were now heading in the direction of the midway without any cigarettes.  And this time, the original blond was back.  The band was back together, with all three girls and the nonsmoking guy.  I had assumed with all the alone time that the guy spent with the wholesome light brunette that she was his girlfriend, but he was putting his arms all over the sexy dark brunette as they walked.  What gives here?  Maybe he’s fucking both of them!  Whatever the arrangement, I’d pay my life savings to spend one damn day in this guy’s shoes!  I was torn between following them into the midway and risking being called out with as familiar as my presence was at this point or returning to their table at the bar to do an official cigarette butt count in the ashtray.  Considering it might have been a while before the girls lit up again, especially if they were about to ride midway rides, I decided to check out the ashtray.  I made a big mistake as I got there to find the table still empty but the ashtray already gone.  And when I returned to the midway, I didn’t find the group again.  I certainly wasn’t in a position to complain about what these girls, and the wholesome light brunette in particular, had already delivered for me, but I still felt like I fumbled making the wrong choice at the crossroads.  But you never know, it’s possible we haven’t heard the last of them….

Fast forward about five hours.  It was around 8:30 p.m. and since the smoker girl trio last departed the day offered mostly only modest rewards to put it generously. I was hoping to finally find something worthwhile on the midway, which had thus far been a disappointment despite my high early hopes of evening sightings of mid-teen girls.  I got three-quarters way through the midway when a voice inside me told me to turn right at the midway exit leading to a series of fair buildings that I hadn’t explored much that day.  Occasionally my instincts lead me to something worthwhile, but never could I have imagined the reward I was less than a minute from stumbling into.  As I approached a foursome that included three girls and one guy, an air of familiarity struck me instantly but it took a couple of seconds to realize that the trio of sexpot chainsmokers who started my day at the Missouri State Fair and occupied the majority of the afternoon were back….and had changed clothes!  This led me to believe they must live right here in Sedalia as they appeared to have left the fair to change their outfits, but I suppose it’s possible they simply brought a change of clothes in their car.  Either way, imagine my luck to have been in the right place at the right time to catch up with these girls AGAIN after five hours between encounters, extending the best sighting of the 2015 fair season into an evening encore…..

The guy in the group was talking to another guy and motioning the girls to go do whatever they wanted to do, apparently under the terms that he’d catch up with them later.  What the girls wanted to do was apparently get some food as the three of them drifted towards a corn dog stand and I followed.  So what outfits did they change into?  The blond was now wearing a white top with a fringed midsection that largely covered the jean shorts she wore below the waist.  She was still sexy, but continued to come in third place in this high-end threesome.  My favorite wholesome light brunette in the Midwest who smoked the most during the day appeared to be wearing the same pink blouse along with a pair of tight jeans.  I guess I preferred her short jean shorts from earlier but she was rocking these tight blue jeans as well and seeing her in another outfit made this already wildly comprehensive sighting encounter all the more comprehensive.  But winning the outfit wars in the evening was that sexpot dark brunette, somehow managing to outdo her country girl ensemble from the daytime now decked out in a maroon tanktop with painted-on short black shorts that fit her muscular lower body like heaven.

The girls walked up to the corn dog stand and I had to be discreet not to get busted stalking them again, but found a bench across the street from the.  The girls soon walked away with a single corn dog in the possession of my wholesome light brunette.  I had to keep my distance and ended up losing them in the crowd for less than a minute.  I’m assuming the girls collectively devoured the corn dog because it was gone by the time I caught up with them again, and they were progressing past the farm equipment on a now-vacant side street when it happened.  The cigarettes were coming out yet again.  A lighter ignited a cigarette to life in the blond’s mouth first and the fires kept popping up to ignite the tobacco cylinders in the other two girls’ mouths as well.  For the first time since noon, I was seeing all three of them smoking again.  It was only the second cigarette I had seen the blond smoke but this was the fourth cigarette of the sexy dark brunette, and the seventh cigarette of my favorite girl, the wholesome light brunette.  I had to follow from about 15 yards behind so as not to get busted but was able to see clouds of smoke exhaled from their mouths one after another during that joyous walk.  Where were they heading?  The very crowded beer gardens block.  I was hoping they’d hover outside the bar so I could watch them smoke the rest of their cigarettes, but what happened instead was at least as good.  The three sexpots with fresh cigarettes in their fingers weaved through the crowd and strutted right into the bar with cigarettes in hand, where I can guarantee you that they turned most heads inside the bar because of both their beauty and their boldness.  I approached the entryway of the open-air bar and looked inside.  It was so crowded that I couldn’t see where they went…..but this story STILL hasn’t ended!

I stayed pretty close to that beer gardens block most of the rest of the night because I knew that was where most of the smoking action was gonna be, and plus I wanted to keep tabs on “the trio”.  I always weaved my way towards the entryway of that country bar the girls walked into and about 15 minutes after they arrived, there “she” was….that same wholesome light brunette, now in her pink blouse and tight jeans, standing there talking to a guy who also looked pretty wholesome sitting there on a chair across from where she was standing.  Once again, she was smoking a cigarette and he was not.  Apparently wholesome nonsmoking guys are the only kind of guys this girl fraternizes with, and she was doing that again as I watched her smoke her eighth cigarette of the day while sipping on a beer.  I was at this point quite jealous of this guy who was in a position to watch her smoke from an even closer vantage point than me.  Her smoking style stayed consistent, taking nicely paced five-second drags with a pleasured look on her face followed by a slightly skyward exhale right inside the bar, flashing that beautiful smile and infectious giggle regularly while socializing with this lucky guy who apparently had no problem dealing with her stench.

I even hit a sensory overload point in the middle of cutie’s eighth cigarette because, all at once, a bunch of other hotties were spilling out of the bar with cigarettes and lingering in my immediate area.   Where were all these girls around 6 p.m. when I would have been able to appreciate them more!?!??!  I was positioned nicely to look to my left and watch these girls smoking outside, and then look to my right inside the bar to see the wholesome light brunette girl of the day releasing another blast of smoke to contaminate the air in the bar.  It was a few minutes of pure bliss until the outside smokers finished their cigarettes one after another and the wholesome light brunette disappeared further inside the bar….

This beer gardens block was just off the midway which was convenient for me as it allowed me to explore the midway in a fruitless pursuit for young teen smokers yet still never be far away from that beer gardens block.  As for my favorite country bar with my favorite trio of girls inside, it had a back entrance that was also open-air and when I looked inside next I would see my wholesome light brunette line dancing to “Copperhead Road” with the guy she had just been talking to towards the front of the bar a few minutes earlier.  No cigarette in her hand while she danced but it was still a beautiful image and made me wonder how exhausted her black lungs must be at the end of that line dancing workout….

About a half hour later around 11:30, I made my final pass down the midway with one more journey on that beer gardens block which was single-handedly making my evening.  And the evening would not be complete without one more fantastic sighting of the two star players of the “trio”, who were now outside the front entryway of the country bar smoking in the company of two nonsmoking guys, one of whom being the same guy that the wholesome light brunette was talking to and line dancing with earlier.  You gotta figure the girls stepped outside to smoke to enjoy a cool breeze and escape the heat from inside with all the sweaty dancers as it seems very unlikely that it was out of any inhibition about smoking inside given their body of work for the day so far!  Either way, there they were smoking their ninth and fifth cigarettes of the day that I witnessed, standing there puffing in front of these wholesome, nonsmoking guys who were enduring their ashtray aroma with smiles on their faces.  I hovered from a respectable distance admiring what I knew would be the last cigarette I’d see smoked from that beautiful light brunette who continued to drag fiercely on her beloved Camel Light Menthol while directing her cloudy exhales skyward.  I’m guessing this girl is a very heavy smoker even on a regular day but within the context of this beer-soaked day at the fair I bet she smoked at least two full packs on August 22, 2015….

And I also felt blessed to get one more upclose look at that scorching hot dark brunette friend in that smoldering maroon tanktop and tight black shorts, the hottest outfit of the entire Missouri State Fair, as she smoked away on her own cigarette with a typically slower pace than the more wholesome friend with blobbier and straight ahead exhales from her Marlboro Light Special Blends.  The final cigarette count from this trio would be nine cigarettes from the wholesome light brunette, five cigarettes from the sexpot dark brunette, and two cigarettes from the blond who only made cameos over the course of the day.  Without a doubt, this “trio” who represented my Missouri State Fair baptism served me up the most comprehensive and longest-lasting sighting encounter of my life and will be immortalized forever on my blog as a result.

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AOF #2. Teen Blond In Painted-On Jean Shorts Gives Comprehensive Three-Cigarette Performance

As a concert by country singer Cole Swindell was playing during the 9:00 hour at the 2018 Missouri State Fair, I ventured south to the block full of bars where I came upon a hottie with a cigar, but she frustrated me by crushing it out on her shoe before taking a single drag. All things happen for a reason though, and in this case, that short-circuited cigar sighting would lead me to something incredibly special as I progressed towards the bathroom area just to the south….

I’d traveled about 10 yards from the source of the last sighting when this tight rear package graced my eyes and I thought to myself “Damn! Now that’s a backside!” as I scanned this young female in a huddle with two guys, one of whom was smoking. A layer of thin, pale blue denim wrapped itself around the perfectly sculpted bubble butt of this blond like Press ‘N’ Seal plastic wrap, unforgivingly clutching her ass in a way that seemed incredibly uncomfortable yet the presentation was still generally tasteful. I’d seen a handful of teen girls over the course of the fair season wearing shorts that fit like this, and I’d always thought to myself how great it would be to match that image with a girl smoking a cigarette. I looped around the huddle to get a look at the girl, who looked about 17 or 18 and was the personification of everygirl Midwestern wholesomeness with undeniable IT factor, reminding me of an early 2000s Beverley Mitchell, the actress who played Lucy on “7th Heaven”.

I didn’t give her a second thought as I pressed forward to the bathroom area in case any smokers were lingering there. When I saw nothing, I doubled back the direction I came from and nearly lost my footing when I watched the teen blond with the incredible ass place a cork filter cigarette in her mouth and light up. At first, I figured I would struggle to find a good position to watch it play out, but one of the guys in her group said he was gonna walk up to the nearby beer vendor and the girl followed. I was briefly confused thinking there was no possible way this girl was 21 and legally able to buy beer.  I was right on that and would get confirmation later on, and partial confirmation now as she stood up there at the beer vendor waiting on this older guy to buy one, and presumably, chat up the vendor as he did. And now I was able to hover in the background and relaxedly enjoy the show…..

There was a fan running inside the beer booth as the teen smoker stood there, her long blond hair whipping with the breeze and distracting me for a moment until I realized the cigarette was parked right there in her mouth where it dangled for a good 20 seconds. By now the guy in her company had finished his cigarette, but this smelly teen was standing right up there with a fan spreading around her cigarette smoke every which way for people inside and outside to choke on. She removed the cigarette and held it to her side after that extended no-purpose dangle but for some reason continued to linger there. Maybe she knew the beer vendor and was chatting with him in the presence of this older guy. I have no idea, but it allowed me to watch her smoke about two-thirds of the cigarette before she got moving, leaving the general area.

I followed but was taken aback when she started really boogeying eastward past the block of bars, separating herself from the crowd and allowing me a little less risk as I followed since she was walking alone. It was a special treat to see her move so fast in those ridiculously tight shorts, with every movement of her ass putting at risk the structural integrity of that fragile denim. It was a challenge to keep up with her though as she maneuvered through the large crowd, continuing to drag from the cigarette she held to her side. I figured that cigarette had to have been down to the filter when she finally dropped it to the pavement, pressing forward without crushing it out. Indeed, when I got there, I couldn’t make out the brand because it had been smoked to the edge of the cork filter. There was a free stage across the street from the grandstand playing live music, and my blond teen smoker boogied right on up into the seating area and stopped when she got to a little old lady sitting in a wheelchair, talking to the old lady with her fresh cigarette breath? WTF? I’d get more context on this later…and believe me, there will be a later….

I made a quick call to my parents away from the grandstand to touch upon my travel plans for the next day but would return to the grandstand area within 10 minutes or so.  A familiar face with a familiar posterior was suddenly walking in front of me with a middle-aged woman who was clearly her mother. I had assumed the most heavenly sight in the world to behold was her ass in those painted-on jean shorts but I was wrong as there was at least one thing more heavenly to behold….her ass in those painted-on jean shorts with a pack of Marlboro Reds poking out! This perfectly wholesome-looking Midwestern blond teen was now cutting into the area overlooking the stage outside the north end of the grandstand to see what was left of the Cole Swindell concert. Considering the concert was soon to get out, presumably with stacks of sightings on the immediate horizon, I was really taking a risk as I followed mom and daughter to see if I could get more, but this risk felt like the right one with the potential for a tremendous reward….

I stood to the left of the mother and daughter admiring the daughter’s outrageous ass.  She had pushed the pack of cigarettes down so they were no longer peek-a-booing out of her pocket, but standing there listening to Cole Swindell’s encore it continued to feel like I was in the right place for something magical to happen…..and then it did! After about two or three minutes, I noticed the mother was lighting up a cigarette. I had about two seconds to let the momentum build in my chest before the daughter started reaching into her shorts pocket to dig out a cigarette of her own.  Seconds later, she lit her cigarette and I had all I could do to contain my excitement watching this teen girl smoking with her mom as they both sung along to the music for several moments, fully affirming my instinct to take the risk and follow them to this concert overflow area.

The concert was officially ending and mother and daughter were progressing back onto the street, shamelessly smoking their cigarettes for any and all to see with the huge crowd about to pour out of the grandstand en masse. There was a “General Store” booth near the grandstand selling a number of items, including cigarettes, and the two of them strutted on up to it. I managed to get a couple of pics of the daughter dragging, even though they turned out too blurry to fully appreciate. They waited briefly in line before it was their turn, with mother and daughter both continuing to smoke their cigarettes and having zero inhibitions about it. It was surreal watching the daughter pull the cigarette up to her mouth and exhale slightly to her side, making just the slightest attempt to spare a vendor from her secondhand smoke…mind you, this being the second vendor she’s asphyxiated with cigarette smoke in just the last 20 minutes! I was really hoping they’d buy more cigarettes since this vendor was selling them, but all I could see that was purchased was a bottle of water for the daughter, reaffirming my suspicion she was a teenager well under drinking age.

As they walked away and weaved through the crowd en route to the seating for the free stage where they emerged from about 10 minutes earlier, it struck me that this was likely going to be my best sighting of the 2018 fair season. The daughter walked up to the back edge of the standing crowd and took a final drag from her cigarette before dropping it to the pavement, and just like last time, she didn’t bother to crush it out, leaving it to smolder where it laid. She smoked the last one to the filter so I didn’t know she was smoking Marlboro Reds until I saw the pack in her back pocket, but looking at the cherry burn there below my feet I knew which brand it was this time. The two stinky ladies sat back down at the table where they sat before amidst a huddle of other presumed family members, including that old lady in the wheelchair who was still there. Content that this sighting had played out, I now had to head off and check out that departing grandstand crowd….

And while I ticked off several more quality sightings in just a few minutes as I ventured off, I was so on the clouds thinking about that mother-teen daughter sighting that not much else was breaking through mentally. For the entire 10 minutes or so that I was away, my heart was still at that free stage seating area where I knew a sweetheart of a teen smoking blond was sitting there with her family. It was time to go back…just in case. And so I did, settling into where the family sat and being startled to see the mother and a couple others in the party already smoking more cigarettes. I looked the daughter over hoping she was smoking another too, but at least for now she wasn’t, still nursing that bottle of water she bought at the General Store. I figured if I waited long enough there was a very good chance she’d light up again, but things got complicated as her phone was lighting up and she soon stood up to talk to the old lady in the wheelchair again, who appeared to be her grandmother, presumably bidding her adieu for the evening as she was meeting up with friends. She got up and was walking in an odd circle as if looking for the friends but ended up returning to the seating area as though they didn’t show up. I continued to hover at the seating area for a few more minutes waiting for her to light up again, but I ultimately screwed up. I figured I’d make a quick pass down that block of bars but be sure to get back  in two or three minutes, so if blondie had lit another cigarette, I’d still be able to see her smoke most of it. Indeed, I was only gone for a couple of minutes, but when I returned the blond had flown the coop. I realized I screwed up royally and walked all over in the immediate area seeing if I could find her….but I didn’t. I was furious with myself for taking this pointless risk and betting against a sure thing. And I was running out of time because it was almost 11:00 now and I wanted to get out of there around 11:30….

I was stringing together some decent sightings but nothing overly memorable in light of what I had just seen so I figured I’d make one more loop through the midway and call it a night, as I wanted to get some fast food before they closed at midnight and get some sleep before a long day of driving the following day. I did just that and was mentally checked out for the night right around 11:30, heading past the block of bars one final time and hoping to check off a couple of quick, final sightings on my way to the exit. But a certain fairgoer wasn’t gonna let me leave just yet. I made it about halfway up the block of bars when I spotted the sweetheart blond in those impossible-to-miss painted-on jean shorts with a mixed-gender group of four friends who all looked 17 or 18. As she walked past me, I knew my night would have one additional act. I grimaced with regret as I checked out her ass and saw the pack of Marlboro Reds was now stuffed in her right back pocket rather than the left where it had been, suggesting I probably missed at least one cigarette in the half hour or so since I lost track of her.

I quickly picked up on the fact that she and one of her girlfriends got separated from the other girl and the two guys, and they briefly had a look of confusion on their faces until blondie looked back and finally identified her departed friends several yards behind. The purest and most innocent giggle emerged from blondie as her group reconnected, the kind of giggle that made her seem even younger than I suspected she was. The group of five pressed forward into the midway from there and I followed, hopeful but not confident, believing that I missed my chance during that period of separation. But my fears were assuaged only a few yards into the midway when that pack of Marlboro Reds was extracted from her shorts pocket. I was overcome with excitement as I watched her take out a cigarette and her lighter from the pack, but I couldn’t have possibly imagined how great her third chapter would be…

The carnival lights were briefly overshadowed by the flicker of blondie’s lighter as she brought yet another Marlboro Red to life. She crammed that pack back into her left ass pocket, and every time she put those cigarettes in and out of her shorts pocket I held my breath in fear that the slightest provocation would stretch the shorts beyond their limit, ripping them to shreds and getting her arrested for indecent exposure! As a plume of smoke flowed from her mouth after the exhale, a guardian angel emerged from the sidelines. A carnival worker saw her with the cigarette and shouted, “Are you underage?!?!?” as she walked past. She turned around with that classic look of teenage girl exasperation every bit as age-appropriate as her giggle two minutes earlier. “No!” she shouted back, her cigarette animated in her right hand, “I’m 18!” she continued as the carnival worker apologized and then said “We’re supposed to ask”, apparently indicating the carnival workers are de facto teen smoking cops at the fair. That was depressing generally, but wonderful for the added context of this incredible sighting….

With the confrontation settled, blondie pressed forward through the midway, casually dragging from her cigarette with a steady litany of timely and quality drags, the cherry glowing and her cheeks hollowing every time she pulled in smoke. As for her exhales, suffice it to say she wasn’t any gentler to her nonsmoking friends than she was to those adult men at the beer vendor booth or the General Store booth who choked on her secondhand smoke earlier. In fact, her next exhale drifted right into the face of a petite brunette friend, who proceeded to use her phone to wave the mess of smoke from her face that blondie just exhaled, a look of annoyance on her face that she failed to pass on to the smoker responsible for her discomfort. As for the guy who was walking closest to blondie, he got his even worse. She was slightly in front of him when she took another quality drag, exhaling the snootful of smoke that proceeded to flow directly into his face and absolutely plaster him. Unlike the girl before him, he didn’t respond at all. If he has a brain in his head, he loved every nanosecond of it….

The group was now at the back of the midway and looping around to the other side, with still more than half of blondie’s cigarette left. I had been nervous that she was knew I was following at various points in the night, but she and her friends now seemed oddly oblivious as I was following fairly closely and don’t think they had a clue I was taking it all in. Being so close, I couldn’t help but get some final admiring glances in at that ass so snugly contained in those shorts. They were so short that as she walked, there were several occasions where I could see “above the fold”, the bottom centimeter or so of her asscheek before it transitioned to upper thigh. You see a lot of girls tugging at their shorts from time to time, but this girl was doing it constantly. It was clearly an endless struggle for her to dislodge the repeated wedgies that her shorts were giving her just by walking or even by standing still. The sacrifice she was making to look sexy as hell was paying off in spades for me, but there was no sacrifice at all on her part in terms of the sex appeal that her smoking provided because it was clearly all pleasure for her. She was in the final throes of her cigarette as I followed her group into a more crowded part of the midway, but she was still as carefree as ever in terms of where she took a drag and where she released the exhale. She took a final drag and flippantly tossed the butt to the ground again…of course failing to crush it out. This girl laughs in the face of crushing out her polluted cigarette butts, and as I walked past the still-glowing cherry on what little was left of that cork filter Marlboro Red, my heart was as full as her lungs were….

I picked up my pace and took one last look at her ass and then one last look at her face before wandering off entirely, realizing I had seen the real-life version of the idealized sighting I’d been hoping for every time this fair season that I saw an innocent-looking teenage girl in such outrageously tight and short shorts. Here was an 18-year-old girl who over the past couple of hours had comprehensively showed me that she can and does smoke a cigarette wherever and whenever she damn well pleases, in front of family, friends, and complete strangers. We’re nearly a generation removed from a time when that kind of smoking behavior would have been considered normal, especially for a girl of such a wholesome-looking pedigree. And I couldn’t help but wonder how young she started and how long she’s been openly smoking in front of family and friends. Just try to top this sighting for the remainder of the 2018 fair season, I thought to myself. Needless to say, topping this sighting wasn’t in the cards for 2018…or perhaps any year to come!

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AOF #3. Smoking Power Couple Headed By Bubbly Blond In Stylish White Shorts Owns State Fair Midway

It was the second half of the afternoon at the 2021 Missouri State Fair. After a good start, I had a couple of slow hours before I took the best-timed midway run in fair history, being surprised how sparse the back portion of the midway was as I turned the corner to loop back around. My eyes almost bugged out of my head when I saw a trio of cigarette-wielding smokers standing in between the Tilt-a-Whirl and the octopus ride. Front and center was this incredibly shapely long-haired blond in a pink tie-dye tanktop and white shorts with her back to me, shockingly without a single defiling tattoo in sight.

I said a quick prayer as I hustled on up to get a closer look, desperately hoping the frontal view would be as good as the rear view and that this blond wasn’t either an unusually shapely 50-year-old or a horse-faced genetic deviant. As I arrived on the scene, I’d soon discover she was very much as attractive as her presentation indicated. She looked about 24 with a tanned face that looked like an avatar of Midwestern wholesomeness while still sporting the features of a heavy smoker. Her very long blond hair hung all the way down her back in a loose ponytail, adding one more dimension of femininity to the incredible presentation. The only thing that didn’t fit was that cigarette that kept approaching her lips as she consumed its carcinogens with solid and timely drags, the majority of which I got to witness.

The trio also consisted of a young guy who appeared to be her boyfriend as well as a middle-aged guy who was either her father or the boyfriend’s father. Their location for this cigarette break was isolated and difficult, so I wouldn’t have much opportunity for quality pics, and of course my early efforts were failures. I moved back to the edge of the nearest ride and managed one lackluster holding pic in a pose that didn’t flatter her. No sooner did I get that only pic before watching her lean down to crush out the cigarette in the grass. She held on to the butt until her group vacated, at which point she tossed it into the nearest garbage can, denying me butt identification. I looked in the trash can to see if it was resting on top but it had apparently rolled on down there out of sight.

I was frustrated that I didn’t have more to take away from this epic sighting and committed to at least getting some nonsmoking pics of her as she and her group progressed deeper into the midway. I hustled on up to an empty bench and snapped a shot that pretty much said it all about this girl and her electric life-of-the-party energy, which I was only now picking up on as she walked next to her boyfriend with a beaming smile on her face. Below the neck, the frontal presentation was breathtaking, her pink tanktop showing off an impressive chest and just a bit of midriff, and her highly stylized white shorts gorgeously encasing an amazing lower body. The absolute perfect summertime presentation to me is a beautiful young woman in a pink top and white shorts, and I never would have imagined in the year 2021 that the kind of girl who’d present herself that way at a fair would be a cigarette smoker. If I got nothing else from this sighting, I was thrilled to realize there was still at least one out there who was.

I walked out of the midway feeling pretty good, but still a little disappointed I didn’t get more or better pictures. But I wouldn’t be out of the midway long before I saw my favorite blond in pink and white on the main block of food vendors trying to decide what to have to eat. Some carnival barker type passed the couple trying to interest them in his low-rent sideshow, and the blond briefly and playfully engaged with him, reinforcing my first impression of her relentlessly positive energy. Her pastel look very much evoked the image of Haylee McPherson from my Trevor stories, but her personality was much more in tune with the sweetheart Lauren Nelson character from the series. I decided to keep close tabs on them as the afternoon progressed. They sat down to eat their meal but I reconnected with them when they were done about 15 minutes later, again heading into the midway. I had a pretty good feeling I was gonna get to see more from her, and about 100 yards into the central part of the carnival she stopped with her boyfriend and presumed father, and in a couple of minutes, the boyfriend produced a cigarette, apparently from the pocket of his shorts, and lit it up.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the blond wasn’t gonna get a cigarette of her own, and I was briefly bummed contemplating that maybe she wasn’t as heavy of a smoker as her features indicated, but I held out hope she’d at least get to sample some of the boyfriend’s cigarette. After only two drags from the cigarette, my wish would come true as she held out her hand and claimed the cork filter cigarette as her own, the couple proceeding down the midway as she took nicely timed drags from it. My photos wouldn’t fail me this time as I nailed a number of holding and dragging shots, and those shots continued when the couple got in the back of the line for the most extreme ride on the midway. I found a bench in the shade right across from them that enabled me to watch the smoking show and tick off multiple pics as she exposed a line of kids to her noxious secondhand smoke for the next couple of moments. I didn’t think things could get any better, but somehow they did.

Her father was sitting on the next bench over, and she apparently had to convey a message to him. She proceeded to walk right towards me, cigarette approaching her lips, and I scored a perfect pic of the moment. She put that cigarette stub in her mouth and dangled it as she walked right past me to her father, dangle-dragging the stub in a way that made clear this girl was an adept and well-practiced smoker. The dangle lasted about 10 seconds before she began talking to her dad. I couldn’t hear what she was saying to dad and somebody was sitting between us preventing me from getting more pics, but it was adorable watching her talk to him with that stub now between her fingers for the next couple of moments. She took a final drag and exhaled it straight down to the ground as she stepped on the butt with her flip-flop. It was at this point I noticed a pack of Newports sitting on the bench next to dad, and as I got up to walk past I could tell by the green ring on the cork filter that her cigarette was a Newport just as her litter indicated. With the show over, I zipped on out of there to take a look at how well my pics turned out, and I was thrilled to see there were several good ones.

My adrenaline was now surging and the second act I’d hoped for from this incredible girl delivered beyond my wildest expectations only about a half hour after the first act. I was on my way out of the midway, but even though I knew she and the boyfriend would still be in line for that extreme ride, something just called me back to that spot. She was now off the ride and in a couple of minutes, I caught up with her and her boyfriend. Her pink top and white shorts made her impossible to miss, which came in handy for me multiple times that day, and her vivacious perkiness that she wore as well as those tight shorts also made her stand out like a beacon of positivity in this large crowd.

The girl and her boyfriend were wandering aimlessly between souvenir vendors and carnival games, and the boyfriend decided to play this “can you hang on for two minutes” game that tested upper-body strength. Now I gotta say that it’s at times depressing to see these hot girls in the company of lowlife boyfriends, but that was not the case with blondie’s boyfriend, who looked like a solid guy, and was well-built enough to endure the two minutes on this bar to win the prize. They proceeded to get lemonade from there and slow-walk their way through the midway a bit more, but given what I’d seen in the past hour I suspected they would soon have another pressing priority, and sure enough the couple began to migrate to the far end of the midway. I thought they were gonna take a bench by the ferris wheel, but to my concern, they just kept walking to this exit tunnel that led to the parking lot. But I’d get one more lucky break as they stopped right before getting to the tunnel, a cigarette once again appearing between the boyfriend’s fingers….

There was no way I could get a closer look at this one given their isolation, so I moved on back to the pig barn across the street to watch what I could from afar. The boyfriend held serve on the cigarette for three drags after lighting it, but having seen blondie take command of the last one, there was precedent for her getting her grubby hands on it before long. And sure enough, history repeated itself as my favorite blond took hold of the cigarette and proceeded to pump more carcinogens into her greedy lungs for the majority of the cigarette’s duration, her third of the last hour.

I was totally immersed in the show from my comfortable distance, so much so that I was startled when two young girls approached me and asked if they could “pet the piglet”. I didn’t know what they were talking about at first until I realized they thought I was the caretaker of the pig at the exhibit behind me in this livestock barn. I conveyed this to them and they just walked away, blissfully unaware the best exhibit at the Missouri State Fair was going on across the street at this tunnel entrance where smoke that smelled worse than pig manure was blasting out of the face of this beautiful blond. I watched her smoke the cigarette to its completion, stubbing it out on the cement railing of the tunnel before progressing down into the tunnel and into the parking lot, presumably to leave for the day. I looked for the butt she left behind but as she held onto the first one to toss it into the trash, I suspect she did the same with this one rather than litter it as it was nowhere to be found.

What a ride! There’s no guarantee of greatness at the sparsely attended daytime hours of the Missouri State Fair, but I had just experienced it with a full-blown adrenaline rush consuming my body that helped cool down the sunburn. It was hard to believe I could top what I just saw, but I still had more than six hours of fetish time left and would later discover the greatest moment of all was still ahead….

Fast forward four hours later to 10 p.m. The Hank Williams, Jr. crowd was departing from the grandstand and my adrenaline was soaring as I was picking off more extra-base sightings with the large crowd heading for the exit. But it was when I returned to the grandstand area about 15 minutes later that I saw something genuinely shocking. Across the street from the grandstand nibbling on snacks on the block of restaurants and bars was the day’s most familiar face and familiar wardrobe presentation. My late afternoon blond in the hot pink bare-midriff top and stylish white shorts was back!

It’s not unprecedented to see people leave the Missouri State Fair in the afternoon and return at night. My 12-hour sighting trio appeared to do that back in 2015, resurfacing at night hours after I thought they left. In the back of my mind, I’d hoped this blond would return that evening, but by 10:30 I had let that thought drift from my mind. Yet here she was, beaming smile and all, wearing the same clothes but now with her long blond hair hanging loose rather than in the ponytail that it was earlier in the afternoon. Her boyfriend was still with her as they finished eating fair food, and her mostly male group of friends seemed to have gotten larger as well. I was in a bit of a conundrum as I desperately wanted to see another act from her but also didn’t want to waste any of my last hour and a half on a possible wild goose chase when so much potential smoking was going on throughout the grounds. But as I remembered the frequency of her smoking in the afternoon, I decided she was worth the risk to hang close to for a while.

Her group began to proceed back toward their favorite destination–the midway–busting through the heavy crowd of teen vapers that represented the primary demographic on this densely-packed block. Luckily, her ass served as something of a flare in those neon white shorts that kept me from losing her as I followed from a comfortable distance. Along the way, she joyously interacted with a couple of random people, continuing to be as friendly and personable as any pretty girl I’ve come across, spreading positive energy to everyone in her path. They entered the crowded midway and slowly proceeded, still nibbling on caramel corn she was sharing with her boyfriend, starting and stopping as they chatted with the friends group and checked out various rides and games. I’d invested about 10 minutes in her now and was crossing my fingers that there would be a reward. She hadn’t let me down yet on August 21, 2021, and she was about to deliver again….

As had happened the last two times, the boyfriend was the first to produce a cigarette. By now I knew the routine and was comfortable with the idea that he wouldn’t be in possession of that cigarette for long, his girlfriend poised to hijack it from him with extreme prejudice. Jealous as I was of this guy, I also felt a little bit sorry for him. He has nicotine needs of his own, but never seemed to get more than two or three drags from his cigarette before being forced to surrender it to his gorgeous lover who would under no circumstances be giving it back to him. It was an odd and unique arrangement they had going, and perhaps she requests he maintain possession of their cigarettes because she knows she’d otherwise be powerless to control herself from smoking three packs a day!

Anyway, the couple’s attention was quickly directed to a ring toss game, the location of which worked perfectly for me as it was a square stand with people on all sides of it, meaning I could stand directly across from them for a front-row seat. Sure enough, blondie stretched her hand out after the boyfriend’s third drag demanding he hand over the cigarette. Needless to say, he complied…..and I was about to get one final explosive chapter to my astounding day of fairgrounds sightings.

Just as she claimed the cigarette and began to smoke it, it was the couple’s turn to be handed a bucket of rings to try their luck at the ring toss game. They were surrounded on all sides by young children, and here blondie was holding a cigarette in one hand while tossing rings onto empty bottles with the other hand. Blondie’s face was as full of puerile excitement as ever, her long hair now hanging loose over her shoulders as she tried to concentrate tossing the rings. This overweight male guy in their friends group stood to the left of her watching, and after blondie took a deep drag, she briefly stood up and began chatting to him, nailing him in the face with an entirely thoughtless and obnoxious talking exhale from about three or four inches away. Sweet Jesus!

A moment passed before her next drag, this one directed straight ahead into the ring toss stand for the carnival operator and the surrounding kids to choke on. Meanwhile, I’m considering whether it’s worth the risk to go for one clean photo given that the lighting was probably good enough to moderately pull it off. I stood there with my camera and held it up, snapping the shutter once for a holding shot that turned out very well given the circumstances, and then putting away the camera and standing back to enjoy the final couple of drags.

She wasn’t having much luck with the ring toss, at least not as much luck as I was watching her play the ring toss, as she leaned forward to toss the rings with those stylish white shorts so perfectly framing her hips and crotch. She took two final drags, the exhale of the last one directed straight to the ground as she leaned down to stub the cigarette out on the base of the carnival stand, once again denying the boyfriend any additional nicotine beyond those first two or three drags. The show was likely over, and I walked around to her back side to confirm what I already suspected, the cork filter butt of her Newport remaining in her left hand where she probably planned to dispose of it in a trash can rather than litter as she had the previous.

It really struck me as I took one final look at this handsome couple that they couldn’t be more perfect role models for smoking, especially in the modern era where most attractive people don’t smoke. Here were these kids surrounding this stand watching this beauty and her stud boyfriend smoking while playing the ring toss, and I hope at least one of them was as moved by their power couple presentation as I was….as well as their unashamed consumption of cigarettes that seemed like it came from a bygone era. It’s incredible that young adults like these two still smoke at all this day and age, but even more incredible that they do so in the wide open on the state fair midway while their similarly aged peers were up the block sipping beers and cupping vaping devices in their hands.

The adrenaline surge from this final act of my best sighting of the day kept me going for the remainder of my time at the fair. I went into the 2021 fair season skeptical I’d get any sightings worthy of some of the epic #1’s I’ve pulled off in previous fair seasons, but I managed this year because of Sedalia, Missouri. It was as if fate decided I was worthy of one more spectacular, comprehensive fairgrounds sighting that touched upon so many of my favorite elements of a “perfect smoker girl” at the same time despite the odds being so stacked against it. I’m humbled and eternally grateful to the Missouri State Fair for making her possible.

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AOF #4. Mid-Teen Smoker Cutie Tries To Ask Out 20-Something Guy With Cigarette In Hand

Not five minutes after I arrived at the Brown County Fairgrounds in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on that accidental visit in August 2013, I was heading up to the grandstand area as country singer Brantley Gilbert was putting on a concert and I wanted to see what kind of crowd was near the grandstand, but before I even made it there, I spotted a huddle of mid-teen girls that included a total cutiepie of a long-haired light brunette in a pink tanktop and dark jeans with an all-white cigarette between her fingers.  After a combined 19 hours at the Iowa State Fair in the previous seven days, I had not once seen a girl this young with a cigarette.  And not only was she young, she was cute as a button.  And this girl was as beginner as they came as evidenced by the way she held her cigarette and her very shallow and infrequent drags.  A style queen she was not, but what a face to attach to a cigarette in the year 2013, particularly since she was the cutest girl in the group yet the only one smoking. And the sighting was about to get a honey of a storyline over the course of the 5-7 minutes that it played out….

A couple of wholesome nonsmoking South Dakota boys gathered amidst this group of four girls, including the smoker, not too long after I spotted them.  The smoker girl was conversing with one of the guys and it was hard to tell whether this was a serious “request and rejection” or if the girl was just teasing, but I heard her say “Give me a reason why!” to which the guy responded lightheartedly “Me 20, you 16!”  Holy shit!  This adorable teen smoker was lusting for this older apparently nonsmoking guy and asking him out with cigarette in hand and fresh tobacco breath.  Nothing audible was said after that but the girl didn’t appear particularly devastated.  Wish I could have smacked some sense into that 20-year-old guy.  If you get a chance to hit a smoker girl like this, it’s worth going to prison!!!  Anyway, the smoker girl and one of her friends drifted to the midway.  I got to enjoy a couple more of her shallow drags before she dropped the butt to the ground and pressed on.  The cigarette butt was a Marlboro Light Menthol, one of my favorite brands aesthetically with that green and white color scheme.  If this was the only sighting I got that evening, it had have been worth it, but it definitely wasn’t, even though it was the best one.

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AOF #5. Pastel Summer Blond Buys Cigar On Fairgrounds And Shares With Her Boyfriend

I was really starting to regret making the nine-hour round trip visit to Sedalia, Missouri, by early evening as my disappointing mid-August visit to the 2019 Missouri State Fair didn’t seem poised to deliver anything at all resembling the sightings smorgasbord I was treated to 12 months earlier. And while that impression largely held, there was a brief interval just after 8:00 where, at least for a 15-minute stretch, the long journey was worth it for me…..

I said at the outset that I’d been keeping tabs on the Weston Tobacco stand at various points in the day in hopes that a young hottie would be smoking a cigar purchased there. And as luck would have it, I arrived just in time for the purchase and consumption of a hot blond’s first cigar. I had seen other girls hover in the background of this stand during the day, usually because their boyfriend, husband, or father was buying a cigar, but it was quickly clear that the young couple shopping around the display of cigars at 8 p.m. had a female participant even more interested in it than the male. The blond looked like she was about 23 and had the face of an angel, her shoulder-length blond hair held back in a ponytail and wearing a pale pink blouse and a pair of medium-blue daisy dukes. Even generically, she looked like about the last girl one would expect to see shopping around for cigars at the Missouri State Fair, but not only was she doing just that, she was being a very discriminating and plugged-in consumer. She was picking up various cigars from the display boxes and asking the salesman about them, her adorable doe eyes bulging with attentiveness as she hung on his every word…..

One of the first cigars she picked up was a huge Churchill and she seemed genuinely interested in it, talking it over with her boyfriend even though it was very clear she was the decider in this relationship whose opinion would ultimately guide the final selection. Unfortunately, I felt like the salesman directed her away from the larger cigar as she began perusing the selection and asking him about other smaller cigars….but then she went back to the Churchill again and I was feeling my male parts begin to stand up as the thought passed through my head that she might actually buy and smoke this thing at the fair. The thought of this sweetheart smoking that big cigar in public sent starbursts ricocheting through my body. But alas, she kept moving around, asking questions that I couldn’t hear but loving her body language as she acted like a bride-to-be picking out the “perfect wedding dress” rather than a cigar. She ultimately decided upon a medium-sized darker-colored cigar, and the couple purchased two of them. She was carded and was able to make the transaction, surreally walking away from the stand in her pink blouse and her jean short cutoffs with two cigars in hand. Now it was just a matter of whether she’d smoke it tonight or save it for later. I prayed she would light it up sooner rather than later and I followed her and the boyfriend to this remote grassy spot a few yards behind the tobacco stand. This had not been a lucky day for me so far, but my luck was about to change as she began unwrapping the cigar and the couple hovered in this remote area preparing to light what I assumed to be her first cigar…or at least her first “real” cigar….

The boyfriend fished around in the bag they were carrying with them and found a lighter. This was happening! I was sitting a few yards away in a relatively inconspicuous spot with camera in hand, ready to capture the making of history. The adorable blond held the cigar in her hand briefly as the boyfriend ignited the flame and began toasting it. In seconds, it was in her mouth as she slowly brought this cigar to life, bursts of cigar smoke exploding from her mouth as she cooperated in the stick’s lighting. Eight hours of sightingless frustration leading up to this moment had all become worth it as she was now puffing from the cigar on her own. I wish I had been close enough to hear her reaction, or for my pictures to be clearer for that matter, but it was thrilling to know the fruits of her discriminating selection process were about to stink up the Missouri State Fairgrounds in a big way.

So how did the rest of the sighting go? Mixed bag. I was hoping the boyfriend would just get his own cigar and they’d walk around the main part of the fairgrounds smoking them as a couple, but unfortunately they decided to share it. I guess I could live with that so long as the sharing was equitable. The good news is that it was equitable–in fact, she probably smoked the lion’s share of it–but the bad news was they started walking away through the most remote corridors of the Missouri State Fairgrounds amidst all of the farm equipment and all-terrain vehicles on display. I was able to follow, but not without standing out like a sore thumb having already followed them a football field’s distance…..

They passed the cigar back and forth as they walked in relative isolation, and it remained amazing to see this sweet and wholesome-looking girl publicly smoking a cigar, the brown of the cigar representing such a stunning color contrast to her pastel wardrobe, and the smell emanating from her exhales fantastically foul as I walked through nearly all of them. She smoked it at an aggressive pace, chatting casually with the boyfriend while puffing away. I got pics, but again there’s bad news as I was following them directly into the sunset so most of the shots turned out quite dark. I never did get a good shot of her face. Fearing I was becoming too familiar, I hung back just enough to keep tabs on their progress without directly following. I noticed they were heading to the swine barn of all places and it looked as though they were going inside. Even at the Missouri State Fair, smoking is banned in all of the buildings, yet with each step closer that she took without surrendering the cigar, I was becoming convinced she was going into that swine barn with stogie in her hand. But at the very last second, she obnoxiously stubbed the cigar against the outside wall of the building, saving the second half of it for later I guess, and then the two of them went inside the barn.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t see her again. The sighting was quite a ride and I felt like I really got to see something special following this moment from the shopping cart to the public consumption of her presumed first cigar. And it raised a few questions. Since she had a lighter in her pack, does that mean she normally smokes cigarettes? Or did she just bring one that night knowing that she planned to smoke a cigar with the boyfriend? Or does she just have a lighter in her bag for lighting up scented candles??!?! Whatever her story, I knew I’d eventually be vindicated in keeping tabs on that Missouri State Fair cigar stand and I’d have had a hard time doing better than this.

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AOF #6. Gorgeous Brunette With Very Pregnant Belly In Tight Purple Dress Smokes In Front Of Her Parents

I had already had two adrenaline surge moments at the 2021 Missouri State Fair by the time 9:30 came around. The Hank Williams Jr. concert was ongoing in the grandstand and I decided it was a good time to make another trip down the still-bustling midway. The midway had been extremely good to me in the daytime hours but I’ve grown cynical about its sightings potential in the evening hours in recent years, at this fair and others. Suffice it to say I made the right choice to make that evening midway voyage as it would produce my second-best sighting of the day.

There’s a tent on the south side of the midway with several tables providing a shaded place for families to take a rest during an exhausting day on the midway. I hadn’t seen any young female smokers occupying any of these tables thus far today, but that was about to change in the most bombastic way as I laid eyes upon a very pregnant dark brunette in her mid-20s wearing a flattering purple dress with a freshly lit cigarette dangling from her lips. She was walking toward a trash can in mid-dangle to deposit whatever container she and her family had just eaten their fair food on. It was an explosively inappropriate image to see this unmistakably pregnant brunette beauty strutting around so shamelessly with that cigarette parked in her mouth for a good 20 seconds, with any number of people likely taking a mental note of it. After she walked back to her table, she removed the dangling cigarette from her mouth and it was clear she was there with a pretty big family group that included her parents and a couple other kids I suspected were hers. Luckily for me, a bench was open across from theirs and I was gonna get the opportunity to watch this entire show.

As I settled in, I was struck by how attractive she was, easily the most attractive visibly pregnant smoker I’ve ever seen, defying the stereotype I had in my mind of what a pregnant smoker in central Missouri would look like. Her long, dark brown hair hung in curls onto this exotic purple dress that made me think I was at church on Easter Sunday, the dress fitting snugly enough to reveal to all that she was no more than two months away from giving birth to what appeared to be her third child. The Easter analogy worked in so many ways given that this day of robust sightings in Missouri felt like a resurrection after weeks of crucifixion-like suffering that preceded it at the FCF and ISF.

She stood in front of her two kids for a bit, cigarette in hand as she sent a couple of messages on her phone and occasionally redirected her attention to the kids. The location also presented me a golden opportunity for photos as I was seated at the bench and was able to position my phone underneath the table and take snapshots out of sight. I had to deal with a tablecloth that was a bit in my way, but my subject was not cut off by it in most pics. If this was the daytime, my pics would have been otherworldly. But of course it wasn’t daytime…it was almost 10 p.m. so the background carnival lighting made the images blurry. Some were better than others though and you can make out her holding shots, dragging shots, and swollen belly. As one would expect from a girl publicly smoking in her seventh month of smoking, she was very skilled at her trade, her drags and exhales matching her overall attractive presentation.

About halfway through the cigarette, she migrated to the back of the tent but was still in range for my photo-taking. This was a good news/bad news situation. The good news was she was now standing in between her smoking mother and her nonsmoking father, adding incredible narrative dimensions to this wild sighting. The bad news is the brunette was standing directly behind the tent pole and I didn’t get her entirely on camera for a couple of my pics. Still, the visual was surreal, this mom-to-be looking so glamorous while casually conversing and smoking with her mother, all while dad stood on the other side neither bashful nor visibly disturbed in the immediate public presence of a smoking display from his daughter that would horrify most.

The daughter briefly stepped away from behind the tentpole, allowing me one final holding photo. In mid-conversation, she took a closing drag on her cigarette, smoke flowing from her beautiful face as she flung her smoldering cigarette to the grass without bothering to crush it out. I desperately wanted to identify her brand but since they didn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, I couldn’t walk up there to check it out. With her cigarette complete, I got up to depart, my third adrenaline surge of the day now underway after my most incredible pregnant smoker sighting in memory. Especially in 2021, this seemed like the kind of sighting I could only get in Missouri.

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AOF #7. Kimberly Perry Doppelganger Smokes The Day And Night Away With Multiple Packs In Her Purse

I was nearly five hours into my Saturday afternoon at the 2018 Missouri State Fair without having seen anything too earth-shattering. But finally, a little after 5:00, I’d get my first rock-star find of the day at a remote grassy area behind a food stand and some “old-time picture” stand where group photos are adorned with Old West-style framings for those willing to pay the price. Apparently two sets of mid-to-late 20s couples had done just that because they were lurking behind the booth, and I’d later discover they were waiting to get their photo. I saw that both guys were smoking which gave me hope for the sexpot blond seated on the grass against this electric outlet box fixing her shoe, decked out in a black tanktop and very nice-fitting medium-blue jean shorts advertising a long set of legs.

Unfortunately she wasn’t smoking, but when she stood up, I stuck around just in case because I got a vibe from her, a vibe that grew stronger when I got a better look at her face which, even partially covered by sunglasses, I could tell had some of the typical weathering you see in a late 20s heavy smoker. It was a pretty face too, and while I couldn’t put a finger on it at the time, I thought later that she looked like Kimberly Perry, the lead singer of the country-pop crossover group The Band Perry.

Anyway, luck was upon me as she opened up a bag she had been carrying with her and I knew I hit the jackpot when I saw at least three packs of cigarettes, all Marlboros but some bearing the colors of Marlboro Red Special Blends and one bearing the colors of Marlboro Lights Special Blends. Either she brought cigarettes for her whole group of four or this girl was one helluva heavy smoker!!!! She made it official in spectacular fashion as she got a cigarette out for herself and the unattractive female friend, firing it up and then dangling it for an absurdly long period, perhaps 30 seconds…

For some context, the Missouri State Fair has booths everywhere selling $1 bottles of water and I was already on my third of the afternoon at that point. I mention this because photo-taking was a huge struggle as I had to do it with one hand while trying not to avoid dropping the water bottle with the other. I missed the dangle, but I did get a few passable photos, including one of her in mid-drag. They continued to linger in that grassy area for another minute or so before they got the photo they bought, at which point they started moving into the well-populated streets of the fairgrounds. The men had now finished their cigarettes but my sexy blond had just gotten started on hers, treating hundreds of fellow fairgoers to a visual feast of her sexy body and an olfactory feast of her secondhand smoke. Dangling drags were a common feature, resting that cigarette between her lips, puckering up and ingesting the carcinogens, and then removing the cigarette before exhaling said carcinogens. The group weaved through some buildings en route to the south side of the grounds and ended up standing in line for lemonade. My blond smoker babe held back a bit near a tree, taking her last couple of drags before dropping the butt and formally getting in line. I was able to check out her discarded butt and pick out the cork filter, ensuring it was indeed a Marlboro Red Special Blend and not a light. I had a higher degree of confidence that I’d see this girl smoking on the grounds again that day than some of my previous above-average finds…and I would definitely be proven right on that prediction!

Less than 20 minutes since my Kimberly Perry lookalike had smoked her previous cigarette, there stood her group with the addition of another mediocre gal, all smoking another round of cigarettes. They were right in the middle of the street amidst the block of bars and grills and it was very crowded so it wasn’t the easiest job in the world to watch undetected but I managed to see a few more of her drags, although this batch more conventional without the dangling drags. They started moving eastbound towards the end of the sighting and I snapped a holding pic of her that isn’t too bad, probably the closest-up photo I’d get of her, although not the most flattering as her head is looking at the ground for some reason….or else to the cigarette in her right hand. Not long after that she’d drop it to the pavement and crush it out like the last one….another Marlboro Red Special Blend butt left to decorate the state fairgrounds. And don’t worry….I’ll still be seeing quite a bit more of her!

The crowd was getting bigger heading up to 7:00 as the grandstand was starting to let people inside the gate for the opening act to the Cole Swindell concert, and suddenly my sightings numbers were rapidly ticking as the crowd outside the grandstand was proving to be decidedly different than the overwhelmingly nonsmoking demographic from the Thomas Rhett concert attending the Iowa State Fair only three nights earlier. But the main event would be going on inside the gate from some of the first arrivals to the concert, the group that included my Kimberly Perry-ish late 20s blond. The Missouri State Fair has this grandstand arrangement where smokers are allowed to smoke under the grandstand inside the fence, meaning I can hover outside the fence and pick off sightings like fish in a barrel, and it was no surprise that this group was getting an early nicotine fix, and I got there just in time for the bag to come off blondie’s shoulders and see her select from one of the multiple packs of Marlboro Red Special Blends inside of it. I thought I had seen the best dangle off of a light-up I was gonna see for the day on her first cigarette an hour and a half earlier, but little did I know that was just a warm-up act for the main event…..

She lit up her third cigarette I’d seen from her on Saturday and then let it hang from those sexy lips. And it just kept hanging there…as she played with her hair…as she knelt down to either put something into her bag or take something else out…and as she stood back up. The dangle had to have run at least 45 seconds, at one point about halfway through producing a burst of airborne smoke as she was dragging in mid-dangle. Now I had found a great spot to watch this performance, playing out inside the fence as I watched between two vendor booths, but it was not a good spot for taking photos as it wasn’t close enough and too obstructed by the way the booths were set up….so again I didn’t get any of that magical dangle on camera. I was still walking on the clouds though and watched most of her smoking performance, hoping for more dangling but having to “settle” for her more traditional drags and exhales that would follow. She would eventually finish the cigarette and drop it to the pavement where it smoldered just below the fence. The group lingered there for a couple more minutes, and I changed positions to get a final frontal pic of her. The bars on the fence obstructed her face a little but it’s not bad, showing off her beauty and her sexy, shapely body in those jean shorts. In moments, they turned around to walk into the concert and I checked out her third discarded Marlboro Red butt of the last couple of hours, fully expecting I’d see her again and that she’d be the sighting of the day. I was correct on the former…but not on the latter. Stay tuned for more on both!!

Once grandstand opening act RaeLynn ended her set at around 8:15, I made sure I was near the grandstand gate for the intermission smoke break crowd, and there was one group in particular I knew I’d see, with one girl in particular. Sure enough, I got to the north side of the grandstand and peered inside, expecting to see the Kimberly Perry-ish dangling queen back at her spot, but she and her boyfriend were actually further ahead in line for the bathroom. Now perhaps smoking is technically permitted in the line for the bathroom under this grandstand, but pretty much everybody I’ve ever seen down there chose to take their smoke break to the gate to spare innocent bystanders from the secondhand smoke. Not this girl! She was smoking while standing in line a good 20 feet away from the fence, and I’m sure there were plenty of people in the line not too pleased to be breathing in her secondhand smoke while innocently attempting a bathroom break. Unfortunately, as the line moved, the girl would end up behind a giant cement pillar out of my sight range, so I took the opportunity to walk away and check out the other side of the grandstand for their intermission crowd.

After that brief detour, I walked to the north side of the grandstand a final time and the Kimberly Perry blond who had been smoking in the line for the bathroom less than 10 minutes earlier was now back smoking AGAIN in the location I predicted she would in the first place. I was able to stay for most of her cigarette but she and the boyfriend looked my way as if I was looking a little familiar by that point in the evening, so I had to cut it short before completion, unfortunately without seeing any more world-class dangling, and I wouldn’t see her again for the rest of the night. But it was a five-cigarette sighting with her over the course of a little over three hours, and judging by the multiple packs she brought with in her bag, I’m betting she smoked far more than that during the time she was at the fair on Saturday. I was pretty certain she’d be the big story of the day at the Missouri State Fair but shockingly she ended up only being the second-best of the day. My favorite was still to come!

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AOF #8. Blond Teen Outsmokes Friends And Later Hangs Out With Mom’s Friends

It was dumb luck that led me to the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in August 2013.  I was taking a three-day road trip through the area and stopped in the small isolated city to stay overnight when I tuned in the local radio station and discovered the county fair was going on and that musical entertainment that Friday evening was Nashville recording artist Brantley Gilbert.  Only two days earlier I had attended the Iowa State Fair but couldn’t let the opportunity pass to head to the fair, which thankfully had free parking and attendance.  Within about 40 minutes after my arrival, I had already scored a trio of fantastic sightings, and this was the third in succession.

I came upon a group of 17-18ish girls in the midway seated on a bench smoking cigarettes.  There was a blond and a brunette sitting there smoking, and two friends standing in front of them, one of them a hot dark brunette sharing the cigarette with the seated light brunette.  They were both sexy and attractive smokers, but the star of this show was the blond in tight blue jeans sitting down, who had a sexy combination of petite cutie and weathered badass smoker girl.  And whenever I saw her tending to the cigarette, it was clear just how hard-core she was compared to the other two girls smoking.  Her drags were merciless extended pulls of toxic smoke into her black lungs, pulls so hard you could watch the paper burn away over the course of her lengthy drags.  It was humorous that blondie managed to suck down her entire cigarette more rapidly than the two brunettes combined were able to finish theirs.  I spotted where she dropped the butt and hung back for awhile until they got up from the bench to identify her butt, which was a cork filter but smoked too close to the filter to be identifiable.

I didn’t see any of those three girls smoking again, but about two hours later at a picnic table was a middle-aged woman smoking a cigarette….and across the table from her was the blond and light brunette, the two from the bench smoking earlier.  They were both eating slices of pizza so I hung as close to the area as possible thinking there was a very good chance the teen smokers would light up after eating.  While that didn’t happen, my return to the area around the tables brought a cute moment where another middle-aged woman came to talk to the three of them, and proceeded to ask some inaudible questions directed at the blond.  She was clearly family or a friend to the mother and after their exchange ended, she hugged the blond in an affectionate way, and the only thing that crossed my mind during the hug was whether this woman had any idea that the blond she was doting on routinely rapes cigarettes with pulverizing drags.  Mom had to know because even if the daughter wasn’t smoking in front of her at that moment, it’s unthinkable the daughter could have developed a smoking habit that serious under mom’s nose.  I hung by them for a good 15 minutes hoping against hope for a mother-daughter sighting but it didn’t materialize, but still felt I got my money’s worth after seeing that daughter smoking on the midway earlier.

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AOF #9. Sexy Late Teen Blond And Mom Puff Away In Front Of Nonsmoking Father And Boyfriend

My otherwise horrific day at the Indiana State Fair in 2017 produced three very strong sightings overall including one evening sighting that was genuinely captivating. I was on the west side of the grandstand area when I spotted a middle-aged couple where the mother was smoking. But lingering behind the parents were two 18ish girls, one of them mixed race and the apparent friend of the “other girl”, a knockout blond in a white bare-midriff tanktop and high-riding jean shorts that sculpted her perfect, tanned body. And best of all, she was the first stunning beauty I’d seen all day smoking a cigarette. Blondie was obviously the daughter of the smoking middle-aged lady, and for a snapshot in time I was glad I made the long drive to the Indiana State Fair and got the chance to witness this. They stood around a table, indicating somebody had just finished eating some fair food, and I was able to lurk with a clear vantage point to watch two generations of females smoke….and do so in the presence of a nonsmoking husband/father as well as a nonsmoking teen friend. The sighting remained sedentary for about a minute before the group started walking eastward….

I followed and readied my camera for a long shot pic. It was well after dark by now so it wasn’t gonna turn out great, but I did about as well as could be expected capturing a side shot of this sexpot with cigarette in hand. Unfortunately, her beautiful face was blurred out by a street light. I put my camera away and just followed to enjoy the show, confused why this smoking daughter was walking about 10 yards in front of the rest of her group. It made my job of following her more dangerous and it seemed like strange behavior generally. She ended up walking parallel to this black guy about her age and at first it just seemed like they were walking separately next to each other, which was fantastic since she was persistently dragging from her cigarette and exposing him to her secondhand smoke. But after a longer stretch of walking, it began to become clear they were together, either as a couple or as friends. I continued to follow and watch every delicious drag this platinum blond angel took, expelling her filth into the forbidden air of the Indiana State Fairgrounds without a care about potential consequences. My final priority of the sighting was IDing her butt when she finished it, but the sighting blew up on that front at the last second. The girl and the black guy turned around at the tail end of her cigarette and at first I thought they were wise to me following them since they were eyeballing me…so I just walked on past as discreetly as I could, but then realizing they were looking back to the family behind them as if wondering what the hold-up was. The blond handed the cigarette to the black guy for a final drag and the cigarette disappeared out of their hands amidst the crowd. I walked over but was unable to identify it. Nonetheless, it was a small setback to the most exciting sighting of the day.

I’d catch this family again only about 20 minutes later when walking through the midway. The blond and the mixed-race female friend were standing in line for a carnival ride. I made a couple of passes near them to get a close look at that stunning face and killer body that matched, wondering how many other girls of her pedigree in Indiana were smokers….and my conclusion was that it probably wasn’t many. The dynamic I had seen early that night of mothers pushing strollers smoking was applicable in this sighting, as the daughter’s smoking was likely enabled in some way by her mother’s smoking….and most girls as hot as this one probably don’t have mothers that smoke. I’m sure glad I ran into one who did though.

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AOF #10. Long-Legged Corn Dog Stand Brunette Uses Employer’s Property As Ashtray And Foot Stool On Multiple Smoke Breaks

The numbers sure were coming slowly in the early afternoon hours on my maiden voyage to the Indiana State Fair in 2017 and I had yet to figure out why, but all would be forgiven around 1:30 when the girl who came to define an otherwise dreadful day made her first appearance with a cigarette. Stepping out of this corn dog booth with cork-filter cigarette in hand was this 19-20ish brunette working the booth and briefly leaving the young male coworker to cover the stand himself. The brunette wasn’t conventionally gorgeous, at least in her work uniform, but she had a twinkle in her eye and an innocence about her that fascinated me. She wore her long brown hair up in a bun on top of her head to keep the sweat off her face as she worked, with a red T-shirt and medium-blue jean shorts on the bottom. Her long legs were fully exposed from the upper thigh on down. Plus I was getting a kick out of the fact that she was about to smoke her cigarette directly outside the booth where she worked, which I figured would be frowned upon by just about about everybody, especially her employer.

I got lucky as she was chatting with the guy as she slow-walked her way out, allowing me to get my camera ready and snap the shot where she was lighting up. She was standing in the shadow of the fair booth so the lighting isn’t ideal, but it was as good of a shot as I was gonna get. From there, she put up a folding chair to sit on and propped her right leg up onto the stand, maximizing her relaxation on company time and using their own equipment to lean upon as she smoked. She took long, heavenly drags sitting on that chair with considerable hold times and exhales entirely from her mouth that fired downward at consistent 45-degree angles. The back of the line for the milk stand was overlapping with where I stood so I blended in nicely and I was certain that I was snapping a number of close-range pics when she was dragging in this relaxed break-time position, but I just sensed something was going wrong with the photos again (I was right…for whatever reason, none of them after the light-up pics took..and I was sick about it). Nonetheless, I got an amazing farrow-to-finish sighting of a young cutie committed to her smoking to the point of consuming it directly in front of would-be customers. She dropped the butt in the trash can next to the stand so I was denied the butt ID, but still walked away with a needed boost of adrenaline at that point in the day.

This corn dog stand was front and center in the grounds so I walked past it multiple times that day. The inconvenient layout of the grounds limited my ability to cover it as much as I’d like to, but I found myself walking past it as often as possible as the afternoon went on, figuring there was a very good chance I’d see more of her. The guy in the booth got to have his own smoke breaks at various junctures of the day, but it was the girl I was holding out for, particularly with the hope of a second chance at action photos in that adorable position she was in before. About an hour and a half later in the day, I’d get my chance, walking upon her in mid-cigarette seated at the same place she was before, although unfortunately she wasn’t propping her right leg up on the side of the stand this time. I’d only catch the last few drags of this cigarette, but was able to get that second chance I’d hoped for with the photos. The shadow from the booth again kept the lighting from being perfect, but I certainly captured her essence in this round of snapshots. That was the end for this girl’s daytime body of work, but like a nicotine vampire she would be back in the evening.

In fact, my timing with her during those evening hours was even more perfect as I came upon her smoking three separate times after dark, all within a couple hours of each other. By now, she had traded in the folding chair she sat on to smoke her daytime cigarettes for some cardboard box. I took one additional blurry nighttime pic that didn’t turn out, but mostly just stood to the side and watched, the dark sky and backlighting making her cloudy 45-degree downward angle exhales all the more visible. At one point, some nonsmoking fairgoer asked her directions to something while she was in mid-cigarette, possibly being mindful that the girl was breaking the fairgrounds smoking rule at her location. Her third cigarette of the day ended up getting stubbed out against the corn dog stand itself, and I got off on the idea of her defiling her employer’s property by using it as an ashtray….on top of the questionable frequency and location of her smoke breaks.

At around 11:00 I began a very long walk back to my shuttle bus on sore feet, and the last bit of tobacco consumption I’d see for the night was my corn dog stand girl as she smoked her fifth cigarette of the night as I walked past for the last time. She wasn’t the prettiest girl of the day, but she was the most prolific and a beacon of smoking security in a day that offered little of that. When factoring in that I likely missed quite a few daytime smoke breaks from her, it was clear she was a pretty heavy smoker, and if she works that corn dog booth in that kind of heat for more than two weeks, it must be horribly oppressive and qualify those smoke breaks as the highlight of her very long workdays.

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AOF #11. Redheaded Teen Cutie Enjoys Marlboro Red Before Epic Reveal That She Has A Newborn

I had a rare open schedule on the fourth weekend of July in 2021 to try out the fair in this small county in southern Iowa with historically high smoking rates, where I personally had some anecdotal associations with particularly jaw-dropping sightings over the years. Unfortunately, when I got there on the 97-degree July afternoon the fairgrounds was tiny and the demographics of smokers at the demolition derby I attended skewed older in this county just like everywhere else, with most younger girls vaping. Fortunately, one sighting made the whole trip worthwhile.

I ventured away from the grandstand area from time to time as the demolition derby was ongoing, knowing some younger smokers would be more inclined to do it away from a crowd. This would lead me to my marquee moment of the evening. A group of young people was seated in a cluster of benches under a canopy, and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw an unlit cigarette between the fingers of this attractive redhead with a wholesome and youthful face. I’m guessing she was about 19 but it’s so hard to tell with as young as most college-age females look these days. I started migrating to that seating area based on what I thought I saw and sure enough, she was just placing a cigarette to her lips and lighting it at the moment I arrived.

I was fortunate to get a good place to sit where I could observe and get photos. I was doubly fortunate that this girl played to the camera nicely, even if she didn’t know she was on camera. She looked more girl-next-door than supermodel but had very animated expressions as she engaged with the group of friends in her presence, her fiery mane of ponytailed red hair standing out along with her exotic dress that featured a pattern of black, white, and tan horizontal stripes. The same animation colored her smoking performance, with deep and engaging drags, a couple of which I got on camera, and lengthy hold times. I often thought I missed her exhales but several seconds would pass and I’d catch her contorting her mouth to release a thin stream of smoke from her lungs. I’d have been disappointed if Appanoose County didn’t come through for me with at least one great sighting….and it did!

But it was the dynamics playing out around her that would ultimately deliver a big surprise ending to this story. Sitting across from her was a late teen guy who was also smoking, while seated to her right was a nonsmoking high school girl holding a newborn baby along with two other elementary-age kids. My redheaded smoker took a final drag from her cigarette and dropped it under the table, crushing it out with her shoe and releasing her final exhale of smoke seconds later after another impressively long hold time. It was only then that the newborn baby was handed to her…..

My redhead had an odd-looking duo of gray sweaters wrapped around the top of her striped dress that made little sense on such a steamy night, and its utility would soon become clear as she placed the child, who looked no more than two weeks old, in a makeshift swaddle, tying the sweaters into a knot and containing the baby next to her bosom. Before leaving, she even bragged about how it was nice to not even have to push around a stroller that night and seemed to be patting herself on the back for her resourceful contraption. She then began to walk toward the grandstand seating for the derby, and I attempted a motion photo from the side to appreciate the baby she was carrying around swaddled in the sweaters, but it was late enough in the evening that the image was blurry and not particularly effective. But just after I took the photo, another teen girl who undoubtedly knew my redheaded smoker from high school approached her and affectionately said “congratulations” as she began fawning on the newborn baby.

The girl herself was probably a strong enough find to make my year-end list even without any memorable context, but to have such a fascinating story attached to the sighting ensured its elevation into the top-10. The sighting also left a lot of fascinating questions about whether she smoked during her pregnancy, which seems quite likely given that all signs pointed to her being a dedicated smoker. I wouldn’t see her again that night but she easily made the long drive and lengthy time investment worth while.

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AOF #12. Hot Brunette Mommy Confirms My Suspicion About Rectangular Box Stuffed Into Her Jean Shorts

I got off to a pretty decent start at the 2021 Missouri State Fair with five solid sightings under my belt in the first hour or so of the day, which is no sure thing. It slowed down a bit in the next couple of hours, with only a slow roll of mediocre finds. But I wasn’t panicking yet and instead used the opportunity to take some mental notes of young ladies I came across who had potential. The gal at the top of this list showed up at the south side of the grounds, wheeling a stroller out of a fairgrounds building with mixed company following her. I’ve found that I’ve been extremely adept this year at identifying smokers by their features, and my radar was buzzing all over the place as I visually consumed this badass-looking ponytailed dark brunette wearing sunglasses, a lavender tanktop, and dark blue jean shorts that matched up beautifully with her tanned skin.

She looked about 26 and I approached to get a closer look, and as my eyes zoomed in on her incredible ass, I saw a rectangular box stuffed in the left back pocket of her shorts, a telltale sign of cigarette possession. In addition to the young son in the stroller, she appeared to be there in the company of a wholesome-looking boyfriend/husband and an older couple that seemed like her parents, even though mom was not at all attractive. Especially after seeing that cigarette pack in her back pocket, I decided to hang close for a bit, watching as mom and daughter chatted extensively while slow-rolling through the fairgrounds. Unfortunately, they disappeared into the DNR building a few minutes later and since I had no idea how long they’d be in there, I decided to move on. But the beauty part of the Missouri fair’s comparatively lower attendance is that the odds are quite good I’ll run into people again. Who knows….maybe that would be the case here….

Fast forward two hours and I was in the midway, on my adrenaline rush of the day keeping tabs on another girl. My adrenaline was surging when I was on my way out of the midway, but something just called me to turn back and return to that spot in the midway I had just vacated. Suffice it to say my intuition delivered for me again. I took at a gander at the midway ticket line and saw a familiar female face from before in possession of a cigarette. It was the homely and overweight mother of that badass brunette in the dark jean shorts with the cigarette pack stuffed inside. At the exact moment I took note of mom taking a drag, it hit me that her daughter was standing right next to her. And just as I laid eyes on the attractive daughter, an expulsion of carcinogenic filth spewed from her mouth and nose. I changed positions to get on the other side of the ticket line and, sure enough, the sighting I was holding out for an hour or so earlier had become official, the hot brunette mommy standing right next to her mother with half-smoked cigarette in hand, both obnoxiously smoking in the close presence of kids in the ticket line for the midway.

Neither of the men nor the young boy in their party were present for this stinky wait in line. I didn’t get a good look at the boy earlier so I don’t know how old he was, but small enough to be pushed in a stroller and I suspect the black-lunged women were buying tickets for whatever kiddie rides he could go on, but as of now nobody else from their party was in sight so I had full clearance to snap some pics. Mother and daughter continued to smoke shamelessly in this line, the daughter’s style compatible with her look as a long-time heavy smoker who was addicted enough to be smoking in this setting, with nice long drags and messy exhales only barely directed away from the children in line with them.

While I managed a handful of pics from different vantage points to effectively convey the brunette’s milieu, all were holding pics as my dragging shots didn’t turn out. Plus it was the time of day where I was beginning to fight the afternoon sun. So ultimately I got good pics but not great pics, and I could tell as the cigarette approached her lips it was poised to be the final drag. I took it all in one last time and watched her lips consume a snootful of tobacco, a final messy burst of smoke escaping her face as she dropped the cork filter to the ground and crushed it out. Once they were out of line, I approached that butt for a closer look and discovered the pack concealed in the pocket of those tight-fitting dark blue jean shorts was Marlboro Reds. Not bad, mama! Unfortunately, I wouldn’t see her again that day, but it was massively rewarding to have my original intuition vindicated once again this fair season and being able to follow through on that nice opening teaser earlier in the afternoon and I’d ultimately rank this among my elite five sightings of the day.

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AOF #13. Elegant Dark Brunette Smoker In Summer Dress Busts Me Twice

In a previous writeup, I rhapsodized about the adrenaline surge I had at the 2021 Missouri State Fair as the Hank Williams, Jr. crowd started to get let into the grandstand. That fenced-in area under the grandstand once again served as sightings gold for me before the Bocephus concert began….

A very stylish and truly gorgeous brunette in her mid-20s walked out by herself with a pack of Marlboro Black Menthols in hand. She lit herself up and I was in awe at her presentation, her mane of dark brown hair flowing onto her bare shoulders with a tasteful yet sexy white dress with a brown pattern that crested below her knees, and a pair of cowboy boots completing the ensemble. She was absolutely beautiful, the prettiest face I’d seen all day, and the face was that much adorable as she attacked that cigarette with urgency, a litany of frequent and aggressive drags ensuing that sent my poor little heart fluttering. I snapped a few photos and, unfortunately, it was close enough to sunset that they were blurry. I caught her in mid-drag and the photo manages to give a general sense of her epicness but unfortunately doesn’t convey her gorgeous features with detail. It was also a quicker show than I’d hoped for because I got busted halfway through the cigarette attempting to snap another pic, her eyes looking up to me with smoke flowing through her lips just as I was about to snap the shutter. I was lucky at that moment to have the fence between us as I was able to turn around and slip away without confrontation, my latest reminder of how risky my little game is….but not the last reminder. To be continued……

In the intermission following the opening act and before Hank Jr. took the stage, more sightings ensued in that same fenced-in area under the grandstand. The last marquee moment under the grandstand would be a familiarly gorgeous face. That exquisite brunette in the white and brown dress who busted me taking a pic of her earlier was back outside, walking to the corner of the fenced-in area with her cell phone to her ear and her pack of Marlboro Black Menthols in hand. I had to be very careful here, standing far enough back to where I figured she wouldn’t see me, waiting out her phone call’s completion when I was confident another cigarette would be forthcoming. I admired her beauty from afar, particularly struck by the fact that not only was this pretty girl a smoker, but that she was likely the only smoker in the party she came with. I doubt she came to the concert alone and this was the second time in the last hour she came out by herself to reward herself with a toxic nicotine fix from a cigarette.

I was giddy when the phone call ended and the cigarette was placed between her lips, a flame quickly bringing the cigarette to life. That cherry glowed bright as she pulled the smoke into her body with the same frequency and level of urgency as I’d witnessed less than an hour earlier. I was hovering in the distant background pretending to be checking out merchandise at this T-shirt stand, with others in general proximity giving me some measure of anonymity. I never sensed that she made direct eye contact with me again, but I was confused when she moved around and drifted out of my sight. I’d soon discover she was wise to me….

I changed positions again, wanting to see more, finding a clearing with a vantage point of where she had moved. This time she looked over her shoulder to land her eyes directly on me just as her cigarette approached her lips. She had a bit of a smirk on her face as if thinking it was kind of amusing, and I began to pull away, doing my best to pretend I hadn’t been thoroughly busted. But as I attempted to glance over my shoulder one last time walking away, she was craning her neck with that same smirk on her face continuing to make eye contact and forcing me to completely abandon my post. For better or worse, I felt better that she seemed to be having a little fun with it and was possibly even flattered having an admirer, but I was still grateful for that fence separating us as I didn’t know what she might have reported to either a fairgrounds police officer or a jealous boyfriend when she returned to her seat smelling like an ashtray. I didn’t run into her again for the rest of the night, which was probably for the best, but something about being the Elmer Fudd to her Bugs Bunny was exciting, enhancing the storyline of a sighting that already featured one of the prettiest smoker girls of the 2021 fair season. She’ll go down as one of the best inadvertent “rivals” I’ve ever had in my more than two decades of fairgrounds fetishing.

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AOF #14. Teen Blond With Bare Midriff And Suggestive Belt Smokes A Couple Cigarettes

There were many dead points in the day and early evening at the 2016 Missouri State Fair, but I finally hit my stride during the intermission of the Lady Antebellum concert in the grandstand where I stood outside the fenced-in grandstand for a few minutes at around 8 p.m. checking out some hotties taking this built-in break period to have a cigarette, but the ultimate reward I’d get would actually come when I turned my head to my right to scope out the scene outside the grandstand…..

As I turned to my right, I spotted a fresh-faced teenage blond in a white bare-midriffed top and daisy dukes I had seen earlier on the grounds and gotten a smoker vibe from.  She and a boyfriend illuminated their isolated walking spot when they both lit cigarettes.  Suddenly I was vacating the grandstand fence in a hurry to get a look at this show, and I finally got the timing and logistics right for a quality sighting.  I had figured she was 18 but she may have been younger given how sneaky she was being about smoking, lurking in the sparse southeast side of the grounds and walking between buildings with the boyfriend as she smoked.  It was now dark, especially in the poorly lit area these two were walking, so photo-taking was out of the question, but I followed at a comfortable distance and was impressed with her pacing and how the darkness illuminated the cherry every time she dragged.  She and the boyfriend migrated to a better lit area as they got towards the end of their cigarettes and I was able to see her face.  She wasn’t a classic beauty but she was a girl-next-door type with an innocent face and it was so wonderful to know she smokes, and appeared to be a pretty adept smoker at that.  She dropped the butt to the pavement and crushed it out, finishing her cigarette quite a bit sooner than the boyfriend finished his.  The butt was a Marlboro Red Special Blend.  This was the burst of adrenaline I needed for the evening hours where things did get better.

Most of the last hour of that evening was a blur as I was so obsessed with seeing this one girl smoking who I ultimately wouldn’t, and most of the rest of the new sightings I was scoring were all pretty modest in scope compared to the primary target, but I did get a nice consolation prize from another teen smoker girl.  The 17-18ish dark blond cutie who I had seen smoking with her boyfriend an hour or so earlier was now out on the better-lit street full of bars amidst a huddle of teen friends and this time she wasn’t bashful about smoking publicly rather than hiding in the shadows like before.  The lack of lighting earlier limited my vantage point of her smoking style, but as I was able to get really close to her now, that was no longer a problem and her exhales were sublime, with dense blasts of smoke rocketing out of her mouth and nose after each drag.  This girl was the real deal, and I had noticed earlier that she had this belt on her daisy dukes with some writing on it but couldn’t read the message until now.  It said “Come Get Me, Bros” that couldn’t have possibly been more suggestive.  Couple that with the impressive smoking show and the contrast between this good-girl-gone-wild presentation and her girl-next-door look made for the day’s most striking storyline.  The second sighting of this one really made it something special and thus elevated her to my favorite girl of the day.

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AOF #15. Mid-Teen Brunette Cutie Smokes With The Adults In The Family

The 2019 Missouri State Fair was a struggle most of the day, but I will say that I was as close to being on a roll as I’d been all day in the hour after sunset with the Brothers Osborne concert beginning in the grandstand, and the pinnacle of the streak came at the bottom of the block of bars and grills where a cluster of four females of varied ages huddled in the middle of the street with cigarettes. I’m assuming they were part of an extended family unit as most of them were over 35, but one heavyset girl looked early-to-mid-20s, and then there this was the cute little brunette who looked about 16….

She was a cute and massively wholesome long-haired brunette, dressed very conservatively in a purple, long-sleeved shirt and dark blue jeans. As cynical as I wanted to be looking at her standing with the adults with cigarette in hand and assume she was older than she looked, there was just no denying this cutie was a high school girl who had permission to smoke with the adults. It was a very nice show too as her style points fit right in with the maturity of her social group, taking long and intense drags and producing cloudy exhales. The crowd was such that I figured I might be able to sneak in a couple of relatively closeup pictures, and even though they’re imperfect with the carnival lighting backdrop, I got both a holding and a dragging shot of her, both decently conveying her teenage innocence.

Putting the camera away and watching the show, her performance peaked when she took a deep drag from the cigarette and began talking to her group, smoke spraying out of her mouth and filling the airspace dominated by the older women smokers. Unfortunately the show was soon to end and the group split apart with my teen smoker going with the younger gals toward the midway, taking a final drag from her cigarette and then tossing the smoldering remains to the pavement with a wrist flourish that made clear she does this regularly. I tracked down the burning cigarette and IDed it as a Marlboro Menthol. I walked behind her for a bit to see if she had a pack stuffed in the back pocket of her jeans. She did not, but my goodness if seeing her body type from the back didn’t reinforce my speculation that this girl was mid-teen rather than closer to the ages of the rest of her social group. She was the only bona fide teen smoker I’d found this year at the Missouri State Fair and was the second-best sighting of the day.

I’d see her again at the end of the night, again near the edge of the midway, and this time was with a middle-aged couple who I figured were her parents. I kept tabs on them as I hovered near the front of the midway just in case she lit up again, but the crowd was pretty sparse at that point and I couldn’t linger with as much freedom as I’d hoped without getting busted. Eventually, the parents lit up cigarettes but the daughter didn’t get one this time. Still, it was very obvious this cutie was a regular smoker the way she handled herself the first time. She didn’t have the chops to compete with last year’s amazing heavy-smoking Reds teen who looked like Lucy Camden from “7th Heaven”, but it was nice to at least get a taste of the teen smoking tradition at Missouri staying alive as, just like Minnesota and Iowa, pretty much everyone else I was seeing her age in Missouri that night was Juuling.

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AOF #16. Miniskirted Blond Cutie Asks Random Cowboys To Dispose Of Her Spent Cigarette Butt

By 2021 standards, my day at the Missouri State Fair was absolutely incredible. I had three different sets of adrenaline-surging moments over the course of the day, and one of those three came in the lead-up to the Hank Williams, Jr. concert as large crowds of fairgoers began to gather to enter the grandstand for his concert. Included in the surge was a sighting I scored when I walked near the indoor bathroom area about 50 yards north of the grandstand, a fairly common destination for concertgoers at this fair who want to empty their bladders and enjoy a cigarette in the moments before they head to the show. Just beyond the bathrooms stood two young couples with one smoker amongst them, but it was definitely the right person.

Standing there with a freshly lit all-white between her fingers with one of the most striking sexy country girl presentations of the concert crowd. Her long blond hair hung in curls over her shoulders, with a black tanktop, cowgirl boots, and a tight-fitting denim miniskirt below the neck. She was in her early-to-mid-20s and looked very wholesome and sweet, definitely not compatible with being the only smoker in her group. Unfortunately, their isolation meant I only had one shot at a passing pic before I’d have to retreat, and the pic didn’t turn out. I nonetheless observed from afar as she plugged away at the cigarette skillfully with nicely paced drags and skyward-directed exhales that spared the nonsmokers in the group. I witnessed the show from beginning to end before she lifted her cowgirl boot up and stubbed the cigarette out on the heel, and then walked over to the nearest trash can to toss the butt.

I was really intrigued with this girl and watched as she headed to the nearby bathroom right after finishing her cigarette. I really wanted a photo of her even if it was a nonsmoking pic so I sat outside the bathroom with my camera ready, waiting for a shot when she came out. I got a pretty solid pic of her in profile when she walked out, although her arms look odd as she was reaching up to adjust her bra under her tanktop at the moment I snapped the shutter. I’d have liked to have seen more from this blond beauty, and even though what I’d end up seeing later was brief, it was profound.

Fast forward about 10 minutes. The first wave of Hank Williams, Jr. concertgoers had already been let into the grandstand but a second line was now forming to get in to the grandstand, possibly same-day ticket purchasers who didn’t get in with the first bunch. Standing in line was my adorable blond smoker in the miniskirt who so intrigued me earlier, now chatting with some older people who she may have just met in line but it felt more likely that they were extended family. I didn’t stick around but made a mental note that she was heading into the concert.

About 15 minutes later, after that line was allowed inside, I was slow-walking past the fence to look in under the grandstand for the umptieth time and once again caught the cute blond in the miniskirt with another cigarette in hand as she waited in line at a souvenir stand. I could tell she only had a couple of drags left on the cigarette and kicked myself for not getting there a couple of minutes earlier, but I was still able to see the last couple of beautiful drags in that dense line of nonsmokers forced to choke on her smoke. Once again, she raised her cowgirl boot and leaned down to crush her cigarette out on the heel just as she did with the last one a half hour earlier. I was lost in the moment watching this beautiful display when she looked my general direction outside the fence and shouted out “Hey!”

I was stunned, nervous that I had been busted for stalking her, but quickly noticed she was instead making eye contact with another couple of guys hovering a few feet to my left. For a split second, I figured she knew them until she made a simple but substantial request. She walked toward the guys and held out her cigarette butt through the bars of the fence, asking “Would you mind throwing this away for me?”

So here this cutie was, asking a complete stranger to grab hold of the cigarette butt she’d spent the last few minutes slobbering all over and throw it in the trash. This would be a big ask in normal times, but seemed especially ballsy in the middle of a pandemic. Nonetheless, one of the guys near me accepted her request, as most guys would in the presence of a pretty girl, and grabbed hold of her cigarette to throw it in the trash. She smiled sweetly and thanked them before casually getting back in line. The only thing better than witnessing this would have been to be the guy on the receiving end of her indecent request, having the opportunity to take hold of her cigarette even at the risk of getting COVID. If her gaze had been directed only a few feet over, perhaps I’d have gotten that chance, but it was damn exciting to get to see it play out between two strangers even if I was just a spectator. This girl was definitely in my top-five sightings of the day and I really hoped to see more of her after two great sightings thus far on the night, but that would be it for her story.

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AOF #17. Redheaded Smoker Girl Rummages Through Vendor’s Clothing With Cigarette In Hand

It had been a slow afternoon at the 2018 Missouri State Fair but I had a feeling that in advance of the evening Cole Swindell concert in the grandstand, it might start to come alive and did it ever with a chain of about two dozen sightings in an hour of fairgoers who were mostly headed to the grandstand show. But one girl in particular in this wizbang litany of sightings would throw me off balance with an eyebrow-raising gesture that lifted what would otherwise have been merely an extra-base hit into a sighting worthy of the year-end greatest hits package….

The sighting kicked off conventionally enough, with an early-to-mid 20s trio of two girls and a guy walking northward, away from the grandstand. The only smoker of the three was one of the girls, a wholesome cutie with her long strawberry red hair in a ponytail resting onto a pale green blouse with tight dark jeans on the bottom tucked into a pair of cowgirl boots. She couldn’t have possibly looked more “Missouri” and it was a hoot walking to her side watching her smoke her cigarette and interact with the nonsmoking guy and girl on both sides of her. I got the sense the guy was her boyfriend but couldn’t tell for sure. It was late enough in the evening that I wasn’t confident about the multiple pics I took not coming out blurry or dark, but I got some solid ones including a holding and dragging pic. Her style was solid but not showing off and everything about the sighting was intriguing without shaking me to my core….until the final quarter of her cigarette when she made her big move which was particularly timely for me for reasons I’ll explain below…..

Her group walked past this Harley Davidson vendor booth selling a variety of clothing with Harley branding. My redheaded smoker stopped right in front of the middle-aged couple peddling the products. With her cigarette hand, the redhead picked a jacket off the rack by the hanger, the butt end of her cigarette nearly touching the fabric of the clothes. Last winter, a video from 1982 circulated the web and the smoking fetish community, an old Charles Kuralt documentary on the rise of the shopping mall, with a suburban Kansas City mall profiled. In it, a 15-year-old girl named Pam who was a stereotypical 80s mall rat (and an adorable one at that) was constantly smoking cigarettes inside the mall, which was common at the time, but I was taken aback when she walked into a clothing store and started taking clothes off the rack with cigarette in hand, which seemed so far removed from the current cultural experience. Fast forward 36 years and I had my own redheaded early 20s version of “Pam” doing the same thing at the Missouri State Fair with seemingly nobody taking exception to it as she was chatting up the middle-aged vendors while wielding her cigarette only inches from their merchandise….

And while still holding the jacket, she proceeded to take a drag from her cigarette, exhaling it thoughtlessly and saturating the jacket with a haze of her secondhand smoke. Still conversing with the strangely oblivious vendors (maybe they were quietly shooting daggers at her for stinking up the clothes they were trying to sell), she took one final drag where the exhale wasn’t quite as scattershot before dropping the butt to the ground and crushing it out, treating the Harley vendors’ work area like her personal ashtray. The three of them talked to the vendors for another minute or so after that before pressing on, not buying anything but possibly rendering the merchandise they crossed paths with unsellable because of the stench of the redhead’s smoke seeping into the fabric. It was unbearably hot to witness and I had to wait for the vendors to be distracted by another would-be customer before I could walk past her butt and ID it as an L & M menthol. I never know what to expect from a sighting when I get my first look at it, but never in a thousand years would I have expected this!

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