I’ve already stated that 2005 was one of my best years at the local county fair and the following narrative from that year puts an exclamation point on that observation with one of my all-time best sightings in any venue. It was Friday evening at about 8:20 and I was walking through the crowded fairgrounds following a concert by country singer Dierks Bentley. Having already explored the midway with modestly satisfying results, I proceeded near the livestock buildings where the fewest numbers of girls seem to hang around and the fewest sightings transpire. It was the last place I thought I’d ever see the kind of thing I was about to….
Out of this small commercial exhibits building stepped this adorable long-haired blond in her early-to-mid-teens wearing a cowgirl hat, a brown halter top and tight blue jeans. She looked so incredibly wholesome and my eyes were fixated on her as she began to open and fidget around in her purse.
Nahhhhh, I thought to myself. She must be going for a cell phone. A girl looking her could never be a smoker this day and age. I was still a pretty significant distance from her, but could tell it was no cell phone she was pulling out of that purse….and whatever it was strangely resembled a lighter and a pack of cigarettes.
Nahhhh, I continued to think to myself. Don’t get your hopes up. There’s no way she could smoke.
What transpired in the next five seconds would change my life in a deep and profound way. She inserted a cork filter cigarette into her lips and sparked up (it was the new Marlboro Blend 27, fairly new to the market at that time). I stopped dead in my tracks and watched as she took her first drag and sat on a bench next to an adult couple who I thought she knew since she was talking to them, but I wasn’t certain.
I stood across the pavement and watched as she took her first couple drags. It was pretty clear she was a beginner and certainly not a long-time smoker, but she did seem to be thoroughly enjoying every succulent drag.
Then the adult couple stood up and walked away, leaving the bench wide open. She was way too young for me to hit on, but there was no way I could stand so conspicuously where I was and not stick out like a sore thumb….so I walked over to the bench and sat only a few feet away from her. I had to be subtle, but I caught a closer look at her face, which was slightly camouflaged by the cowgirl hat. There was no way this girl was older than 14!!!
What came next was a mixed blessing. An adult lady came out of the commercial exhibits building and immediately recognized the girl and started talking to her. I got the feeling it was her mother. At the very least, it was an aunt or maybe even her grandmother. For a couple more moments, the girl remained on the bench, dragging intermittently from her cigarette and holding it in that adorable way that young girls and beginning smokers do.
Not long after, the mother came over and whispered something to the girl, and must have told her to hide behind the building while she smoked so she didn’t arouse dirty glances. Sadly, the girl took the advice and left the bench alone, taking her cigarette with her to finish at the side of the building, out of my sight. Still, I knew the excitement was not completely over because the mother was still waiting near the front of the building.
About three minutes later, here came the girl, exhaling the final puff of her cigarette and crushing it out only a few feet in front of me while jubilantly saying, “Let’s go to the rides” to the mother figure.
The mother figure half jokingly goes, “You don’t need a ride. You just finished a cigarette and you’ll be dead in two minutes!” The girl was grinning ear to ear as they walked away as the mother asked her in non-hostile disbelief, “Why do you have to do that?”
Much as I wanted to follow them, my legs could barely move and I felt it would be to my benefit to remain on that bench for the next few minutes. The thematic contrast here was nothing short of surreal, seeing this picture of early teen innocence finishing a cigarette in front of her mother before tagging along to enjoy an evening of carnival rides. Only once or twice in my life have I seen anything rivaling it.
The fairgrounds are pretty small, and over the course of the next hour, I went through the midway twice and both times I saw the girl and a cute friend waiting in line for rides….with mom standing nearby watching. The girl had lost the cowgirl hat and looked even more fragile, innocent and Barbie Doll-cute than before. There would be no way in hell that I would have believed she was a smoker if I hadn’t seen it myself.
And while anything is possible, I have a very strong expectation that this sighting will hold up as my best local fair sighting ever for as long as I live.