Warren’s World: An Alligator Loose on the Fairgrounds

By Beacon Staff

You know it’s mid-summer when you’re hitchhiking to the San Juan Island Fair. It was 99 degrees in Friday Harbor, where our boat was docked for the weekend.

It has been a half-dozen years since I have been to a county fair and there are subtle changes in what can be seen – but a dramatic change in what there is to eat while roasting in the hot sun.

While walking I watched some of the young women tourists from Wenatchee and Issaquah visiting for the weekend. They were sporting their signature Northwest alabaster white bodies covered slightly with a few square inches of fabric. At the same time their skin was changing before my very eyes to the color of a boiled lobster.

We first visited the 4-H club auction for a few minutes. The auctioneer was chanting and selling all sorts of four-legged farm animals that the young children had spent a year feeding so they could help their parents with the money necessary for their future college tuition fee.

I don’t know how to evaluate one cow, sheep or pig from another of the same breed. All I know is how I like them cooked.

We watched the Sheep to Shawl contest where teams of local women were sitting around spinning wool into yarn while another member of the team was weaving it into some sort of object to keep them warm when the power goes off in this part of the world, which happens frequently in January. There were five or six teams of women competing and I have no idea why I was buying Sheep to Shawl raffle tickets to win who-knows-what. It was so hot in the barns that all of the rabbits, chickens, ducks and gerbils were comatose, even though some of them had blue ribbons on their cages.

Laurie and I soon scurried over to the food booths where I spent the next 15 minutes trying to find a food stall that was selling the mainstay of county fairs and carnivals: hot dogs. I never did find cotton candy or snow cones. However, I had my pick of whatever of the following would taste great on this hot August afternoon.

How about some phad Thai noodles? Maybe some barbecued pulled pork? Egg rolls sounded good, but a plate of it waiting in the hot sun looked awful. Next to it was a stall selling gyros, which offered four different kinds: lamb, chicken, beef or vegetarian – whatever a veggie gyro is. There were nachos and baked potatoes to manage your cholesterol. People were lined up six deep to buy Hungarian elephant ears and curly fries.

Next to that booth was one selling sushi and ahi tuna Burgers. Finally at the end of the food stands was one with no customers and a sign overhead, hot dogs and hamburgers. When I stepped in front of the counter I had to wake up the cook who had fallen asleep in the hot sun from the lack of customers. I watched him microwave my hot dog. Laurie thought she was smarter than me by ordering a salmon burger without onions, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce or the bun, some coleslaw and a salad.

As Laurie and I were leaving the fair, there was a wild animal show in the shade by the gate. There was a large cage with a sleeping mountain lion in it and another cage with a sleeping wolf. Outside the cage was an eight-foot-long alligator that was also sleeping. The Crocodile Dundee of Anacortes had snakes from all over the world in plastic bins. He would pull a snake out of one and then walk along in front of the eager young children in the front row. After the show we were talking with the owner and Laurie kept telling him that his alligator was walking toward the street and he kept saying, “not to worry.” Within minutes, there were horns honking followed by a screech of brakes and shouts of “You almost killed my alligator.”

It had been a very normal day in the San Juan Islands.