Editor's Column

"It's not the same without the scrambleI couldn't resist the Island County Fair's first and perhaps last annual Mutton Busting contest, because it replaced my old favorite, the Barnyard Scramble.The scramble was one of those politically incorrect things that people such as myself secretly loved. Little kids ages five and under toddling after a variety of panicked barnyard critters, in a dusty arena before hundreds of admiring parents and miscellaneous country folk. What could be better? If animals could talk, they would certainly have said they liked it, too. Most got a good home out of the scramble, while their buddies back at the auction were already glue or fertilizer.But times change, and I was willing to give Mutton Busting a chance. I'd never seen it before, but the thought of 5-year-olds hanging on to a rampaging sheep for dear life wasn't entirely unappealing.Although it wasn't as collectively cute as the scramble, Mutton Busting was not at all disappointing. Sheep aren't broncos, but since they're several times the weight of the rider they're fun to watch as they make a bee-line straight for the fence. Many riders slipped under the sheep and were dragged through the dust before being rescued by mothers, who were the only panicked creatures in the arena this year. Kids who last year were successful in the scramble and happily holding a chicken by the leg were this year being run over by an overwrought ewe. Animal rights activists probably saw some justice in this. As far as I could see, nobody was protesting in the name of kids' rights.Some kids cried, but others rode their ewes like hard-nosed sheepboys. It was like Wide World of Sports, because every time a kid broke the six-second barrier there was a video camera in his face. It was Dad, not Jim McKay, but the questions were the same.How'd it feel to beat the six-second barrier? the typical Dad would ask.The kid, smiling into the camera, would pull his hockey mask off his head and respond like any of the sports stars he's seen on TV. I didn't ride that sheep for myself. It was a total team effort. This ribbon is for everyone, the kid would respond before dashing off into the crowd to find a lawyer who could serve as his Mutton Busting sports agent.The first annual Mutton Busting contest was well run, all the kids and sheep survived, and everyone seemed to have fun with the exception of a few mothers.I was anxious to stick around and watch the greased pick contest, another favorite target of animal activists. But the announcement was made that there weren't enough pigs this year to run the contest. A pig shortage? Why didn't someone tell us Island County was going through a pig population crisis? The commissioners could have created a RAIP (Rural Area of Intensive Pigs) to encourage more pig development. Perhaps it's not too late. They should immediately RAIP more of the island to assure we don't go through another pig shortage during next year's fair.The traditional Calf Scramble ended the arena fun for this year. It made for a fine afternoon, but nothing will ever compare to the Barnyard Scramble. "

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