The Lope: September 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

Of Chili, Shrimp, Naiads and NASCAR

Hutchinson had a chili cook-off this past Saturday; one of the women in this group saw my camera and said something about taking her picture so here are Marti, Kathy, Jordi and Bob of KHUT & KHMY radio stations with their entry.

That night, I saw a sunset-lit tendral of clouds sweep over Kansas; and wondered if it was the last breath of hurricane Rita.

Remember when your mom asked the assembled friends at your birthday party: "Who wants SHRIMP with their ice cream?"

I attended a friend's birthday party Monday at a Chinese restaurant in Hutchinson and the birthday treat was a combo of ice cream, cake, jello and shrimp.

In other news, Ace met a water nymph while boating at Lake Cheney a few days ago. Nymphs that inhabit bodies of fresh water were referred to by the Greeks as naiads, though they were usually associated with moving bodies of water. Cheney is neither moving (nor very fresh), but here she is, anyway.

Its good to be the 'lope. It must be nice when women just rise out of the water and kiss you.

While Ace is not a NASCAR fan, he can't turn down a free pic, so he posed with a car provided by the National Guard at the Kansas State Fair. It was an advertising hook on their part; they shoot the picture and post it a few days later on their website, along with public relations material. We noticed that it is on there now:

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Norman the taffy puller

Norman's expression is a bit wooden but he has been pulling taffy for 79 years so I suppose its understandable. He made yet another appearance at the Kansas State Fair this year.

Isabel Burke Salt Water Taffy is a family business that has been around since 1920.

Norman, the mannequin part of the taffy-pulling machinery, was made in 1926.

Mary Oz, co-owner, says Norman was an early project carved by a woman who later worked on the first Star Wars movie. That's amazing, if accurate. Lets see...Star Wars was released in 1977 so if Norman was made in 1926, thats a span of 51 years. If the woman was 20 years old when she made Norman, she'd have been 71 when Star Wars was released. I'll have to ask Mary Oz more about that next year.

Oz adds peanut butter to flavor one of over a dozen varieties of taffy.

Norm is more ornamental than functional; he is pushed forward and back by the machinery. He works, though. I'm not someone who has a sweet tooth and I never look twice at a taffy booth....but throw in a cool looking antique and I'm there, noticing the whole package and asking questions. Pretty soon I'm buying taffy and writing about it.

If you want to see taffy made, don't wait until evening. Oz keeps track of the finished supply and tends to make it earlier in the day.

Next Olympic sport: taffy diving.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ye Old Mill

A full moon rises over the Kansas State Fair.

And something surveys the crowd from Ye Old Mill.

It prowls the dark, dank corridors like a phantom.

...nurturing it's unholy pets...

...breaking the laws of nature for it's amusement...

...drinking in the fear thrown off by it's guests...

Here's how it's lair operates:
An electric motor turns this set of gears...

...which turns a paddlewheel...

...that pushes 80,000 gallons of water..

...that floats eight boats, one at a time...

...into 1,000 feet of circuitous tunnels...

...past automated horrors...

...and you're not quite alone.

As the boats emerge, they are caught by treads of wooden slats that hold them for disembarking and reloading.

The treads remind me of escalators in the London Underground subway system.

Ye Old Mill has quite a history; built in 1915, it was once part of a small group of such attractions at state fair grounds around the country. Three of these "water dark rides" remain at state fairs: The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines (remodeled in recent years), the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul (still run by the Keenan family, who built the Hutchinson "Ye Old Mill"), and this one in Hutchinson, KS. In addition, there is a "Ye Old Mill" at Playland in Westchester county, New York and there may be at least one more, though I do not know if they are of the same construction as the one in Hutchinson. Much of the Hutchinson site has been replaced over the years, but the basic structure and feel of the ride has remained the same. Here is a spot along the channel where an alcove used to be.

In recent years, Ye Old Mill was in danger of being torn down by order of the State Fair Board to make room for a picnic area. Although I don't agree, I can see why they wanted to do so as the ride does take quite a bit of land. You can best see the structure of it from the 2nd floor of the Cottonwood Court building. This is about the southern third.

The center:

This is the north end; wide rectangular extensions like the ones shown house the automated monsters.

Thankfully, the plan to raze Ye Old Mill seems to have faded; I consider it a victory of real history over real estate. Fire code violations will necessitate an influx of money to bring the ride up to code. Some labor has been provided by inmates of the Kansas State Industrial Reformatory. They painted these seatbacks in the boats.

I thought them incongruously placid for a horror ride, but a friend pointed out that an inmate who would paint a scene of corpses and mayhem might not fare as well at a parol hearing. I suppose he's right.

Monday, September 19, 2005

National Talk Like a Pirate Day

"Who'll drink a toast with me
To the Devil and the deep blue sea?"

Lyrics from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Pirates"; Captain Hook scarecrow by Mary Jo Cole at the 2005 Kansas State Fair.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Friday at the fair

Once in awile you have one of those nice random perks that starts a day out well. Such was the case Friday when Ace met the DeGraffenried's - Ryan, Shawna and Katy - at the Kansas State Fair. Shawna had expressed curiousity about Ace and mentioned her boyfriend photographs his hay hauler in different places. Send one in, guys; Ace says he'll have me post it.

When lopes go bad.

Jail exhibit in the Kansas State Department of Corrections building. I slapped the copyright notice on there because this photo is hot-linked without my permission quite a bit, that's the flip side of being a well-googled site.

Why really big meteors weren't always a bad thing.

T-rex head in "Jurassic Journey", an exhibit of prehistoric animal replicas.

The ride is called White Water, but the water that splashes out of it is anything but...some people like it, though.

Some know it's coming.

Some have no idea.

Some wait for it and rejoice.

Some know its coming and lead the unsuspecting.

Some simply drag others into it.

Others are just glad they brought their raincoats.

Friday, September 16, 2005

World Domination

Some days you wake up more megalomaniacal than others. This was one of those days for Ace. To take over the world, one might find an armed force useful, so, upon spying Lance Corporal Martin of the United States Marine Corps, Ace dons a clever disguise to meet her.

She's pretty, well-spoken, polite and informative...but she doesn't have any tanks or planes handy, so he tries elsewhere.

This mobile Howitzer at the Kansas Army National Guard display might be a good tool for starters.

A helpful soldier explains the workings of the machine.

Although the Howitzer would be good for coping with no parking zones, he perceives that it isn't enough to take over the world.

All journeys start with a map, so Ace (now, Lope the Merciless) locates this Nathanial Cline's model of the solar system in the 4H building and plans his assault.

While there, he finds his arsenal. Yes, rockets are the key. What nation would be so foolish as to ignore a jackalope with many missiles? Of course, the range of an Estes rocket is somewhat limited due to the chemical engines, so he'll need another power source.

Dilithium crystals would do nicely.
However, this is salt. So...a rocket packed with this stuff and aimed at the enemy's food supply could temporarily raise his blood pressure...not quite the dramatic impact hoped for. By the way, the makers, Salt Lamps International, claim the lamps have great healing powers...Uh huh.

This device has something to do with ions, and ion power was mentioned in Star Trek, so this MUST be a power source...or perhaps its a weapon. Unfortunately this neat looking device turned out to be an Eco Quest air purifier.
Super villains in movies never have this problem:
James Bond: Do you expect me talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr Bond; I expect you to breathe more easily with fewer allergens.

World domination is too hard; camping is easy. Ace relaxes at the Family Campers and RVers booth.

He questions the wisdom of a marshmallow who would hang out at a camping booth.

Tearing himself away from the tasty treat, Ace sees a vacuous blond in a kayak and considers the double-entendre possibilities of the Fair's slogan, "It's a Wild Ride, Baby."

He loses interest when he notices she doesn't have even one oar in the water.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pigs and Tigers and Hypno-Monkeys

Ace decided to check out some of the free entertainment at the fair. First up were the pig races.

Nothing quite spells ag-oriented fair like pig races.

Feeling like something a bit more cultured, he headed over to the Farm Bureau Arena and caught the Tennessee Heartstrings, an excellent bluegrass band.

Banjo player Casey Henry is part of a family that is famous in bluegrass circles, both for playing and for instruction.

The highlight of the day comes when Ace watches entertainment hypnotist Ron Diamond in the Farm Bureau Arena.

Just like in the movies, Diamond puts his subjects to sleep.

These two young men were convinced they were knights dueling with long sword-like tongues. The hypnotist has to break them up and separate the tongues.

Late in the act, Diamond produces what Ace presumes to be the real power behind his hypnotic powers: the Hypno-Monkey.

This all-powerful simian commands the humans to wave their hands... pat their heads... lean to the right (is this how Republicans pulled off 2004?)... spank themselves.

The Hypno-Monkey makes them feel tickled...

...or poked in an unpleasant place.

Fascinated by Hypno-Monkey's ability to control people, Ace don's a swami diguise in the hopes of winning the creature's confidence. To his disappointment, he learns that hypnosis cannot actually be used to control people and can only influence them to follow suggestions for a brief period. He also suspects Diamond is the real power; albeit a non-malevolant one.

Mulling over the concept of control, Ace happened across "Tigers of India", an animal act by the Marcan Tiger preserve of Florida.

The show featured all four color variations of Bengal tigers doing tricks that the operators said keep the tigers' minds sharp.

After the show, the tigers pace in their cage.

It was interesting, but Ace decides it'd be better to see tigers in the wild.

After the events of the day, Ace glides through the carnival on his way out, pondering that men make pigs run in circles, manipulate tigers right down to their gene pool, and use Hypno-Monkeys to suggest that other people spank themselves...its a strange world, and one that he could run better. As he passes a thematically decorated ride, he ponders the near-absolute power of the ancient Egyptian rulers and goes home...and dreams.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fun with Animals at the Fair

This is what happens when you go to the Fair in a Monty Python sort of mood.

"Ooooh, fishy, fishy, fishy fish!..."

"...A-fish, a-fish, a-fish, a-fishy, Oh!..."

"...Ooooh, fishy, fishy, fishy fish!..."

"...That went wherever I did go."

Fishies are located at the Kansas Wildlife and Parks exhibit; fish poem courtesy of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

And now for something completely different: an Alpaca that looks like a poodle. It's in Hedricks petting zoo.

This moth in the 4H entomology exhibit is part of an insect selection by Benjamin Johnson of Butler county.

Uintacrinus, a fossil crynoid in the 4H exhibit. It was found in Pottawatomie county by Sheridan Reves.

A different sort of stone animal - an art deco ram sculpture on the exterior of the 4H Encampment Building.

"Ace", the dame asked me, "Will you wait for me til I get out?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Prairie Lope Companion

We'll be taking breaks this week from editing Ace's August trip to post from the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. Saturday, Ace visited with Garrison Keillor after a live broadcast of National Public Radio's Prairie Home Companion.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was a guest star in the broadcast. Prairie Home Companion cast member Sue Scott is seen at right.

The show was a sell out; here, audience members sing along.

Kansas Jazz performer Kelly Hunt, always popular in the Hutchinson area, also guested.

Dig Garrison's shoes.

Violinist Elana Fremerman - between her, Hunt, Sebelius and Scott, this was an attractive stage.

"Powdermilk Biscuits" is a fictional sponsor of the program.

Keiller with part of his band and the set for News from Lake Wobegon in the background.

A familiar Keillor gesture.