At the entrance were on display county DOT equipment. Heavy equipment. And visitors were allowed to climb into the cabs, so my boys waited in line for a couple of them. In the backhoe, Kenny found the horn and pressed it over and over again. I didn't realize it was him but the custodians came over pretty quickly and let all the air out of the horns. And I chewed Kenny out for not showing better self-restraint.
Kenny was hungry right away so after getting the wristbands, I took them to the food aisle and bought him fried chicken tenders and lemonade. All the boys ate and drank some. Then they did Surf City, the Fun House and Monkey Maze before our friends contacted us (me) with text messages. Kenny went with them for about an hour while Tim and Chris jumped in the Dog Patch over and over again. When Chris waited to get on the merry-go-round, Tim disappeared. I looked for him in a bit of a panic but taking a cue from last year, assumed - correctly - that he hadn't so much disappeared as had gone ahead ... to the next ride.
So I looked down the way towards the Fun House and he was there. Just like last year. The trick worked the first time he slipped away and why not? It was still daylight ... he was the only kid in long pants.
Our friends made an early night of it and returned Kenny who was hungry again. The crowds had arrived; the ride lines grew. We went again to the food court and I got Tim some fried chicken tenders. Kenny got waffle cake or whatever it is. Chris shared it with him. In the adjacent tent were assembled a large group of musicians in kilts playing music on bagpipes and drums. Kenny liked how the drummers twirled their mallets. Tim was very bothered by their kilts.
Why are those men wearing skirts?!I didn't really have an answer. Jeff messaged that he was at the gate and I replied where we were. He caught up with us in the middle of a bagpipe Amazing Grace which Tim could not (and did not care to) identify. It reminded me of a part in L. A. Story. Jeff was proud to hear that his son was bothered about men in skirts.
That's my boy!So then Jeff took Kenny on "big kid" rides and I took the two younger boys on more of the same: Fun House, Monkey Maze and Dog Patch. The fireworks commenced right on time and ran for 20 minutes. Most ignored them but Chris and I stood and watched, at least until Chris announced, for the fourth time, that he had to, uh, you know. I rounded up Tim and we made our way through the crowd and found a handicapped-accessible Johnny-On-the-Spot big enough for us all to fit inside. Because, at night, Chris was too scared to enter alone and Tim was too scared to remain outside alone.
After, we met a huge man wearing one of those kilts and carrying his bagpipes to his car. I prompted Tim to ask him about his skirt. To my utter surprise, Tim did and the guy took him to task, in a playful way, for referring to his clothing as a skirt. But Tim didn't pick up on the guy's playful tone and became intimidated. I thanked the man for the information and caught up with Tim who had gone off in a huff towards the fairgrounds exit. I told him that was the wrong way and turned him in the direction of the rides. At one point, I stopped to gaze up at the fireworks which were still underway and immediately sensed that Tim was gone. Chris told me which way he had run off but I didn't trust his judgment and I took him by the hand and walked towards the exit. No, he wouldn't have gone out, I thought, into the quiet darkness.
The fireworks would have made it impossible to speak with any of the numerous county police in the vicinity. I had reminded myself earlier by looking through the stored photos on my camera just what Tim was wearing. So I was prepared to provide that when needed. I got a little panicked because it was very dark now, obviously, and loud and crowded. I took Chris as we scoped out a few of Tim's favorite rides ... but he hadn't returned to any as yet.
Then the fireworks ended and I thought I could approach an officer but I still wasn't ready to do that. The only thing was that I was ready to go home. So I called Jeff up to tell him that Tim had wandered off and he asked where we were, but it was too loud on our respective ends of the phone to communicate effectively. And I would rather look for him than stand there texting because it would take Jeff some time to come up from the back of the fairgrounds anyway.
So I asked Chris to tell me again which way Tim had gone and he gestured the same way. We started down that path and I immediately caught a glimpse of a young boy in jeans, coming towards us, skipping over some ruts at the edge of the dirt lane that ran between the craft and animal booths. It looked like Tim even in the dark and through the crowd, but his shirt had a sticker now, the 4-H.
He drifted past us and I told Chris to keep quiet. Since he hadn't gone immediately to a favorite ride, I tracked him in hopes of learning his ways a little better. For future reference. He came to the spot where we had first got separated, shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands in frustration. Then, seeing the Dog Patch, he went over there and got in line. That's when Chris got in behind him and said, "Hello, Tim."
Tim turned around to see me and seemed relieved but said nothing. I asked where the 4-H sticker had come from and he didn't answer.
I imagine he looked at some exhibits down that lane and someone gave him the sticker. But he must have walked around the booths with such self-confidence that no one suspected he was unsupervised.
I called Jeff once the two boys were inside the bouncy room and he came to join us. It was between 9:30 and 10 and everyone was tired. After a few turns at the bouncy room, we walked towards the fairgrounds gate but stopped in the "Home & Garden" booth to see a friend's painting that had won second place. From there, we could see the model airplanes and the sports cars. We looked at both, then the boys took turns driving a race car simulator. Jeff was parked in the overflow lot - in the next county, he said! - and had boarded a shuttle bus to the fair. He took Kenny with him to his car, and I took the other two the short distance to the parking lot. Of course, everyone always wants to go home with Dad because riding in his car is rare and different. But he tends to not have booster seats in his car so he can't take the little guys on the spur of the moment.
And I paid the babysitter $80 for watching Ella about six hours!