Arkansas Stories--Armadillo Days

I entered two events: the arm wrestling contest and the bike race. These are the perfect events for a 5 year old in a small town. It shall show my greatness.

Welcome to the annual Armadillo days in Southern Arkansas. I honestly have no idea what this day was supposed to celebrate but I loved it anyway. It was like a county fair, only not quite as refined.

It begins by observing the main attraction, the great and magnificent Armadillo. Except that we painted them red. I don’t know why, but there were about half a doze and they were painted red. I can hear PETA on this blog now. Calm down, this was over 20 years ago, the statue of limitations have expired. But it was the damnest thing to see. 6 red Armadillos. Head to foot, painted. Looking back, even I think that this is weird although at the time is was cool and exciting.

This was a big day in our small Arkansas town. Everyone came out. We were not wondering about how to become more cultured, we were not wondering about how to get that famous artist to our town. We were just wondering who the hell got the job of painting Armadillos.

The day was set according to a series of local town competitions and meant bragging rights for the rest of the year.

My first event was the arm wrestling competition. My brother was the master at arm wrestling. He could cock his wrist so that it would never go down. He was my coach in my corner. We spent days practicing techniques. It was like the movie Over the Top, trucker hat included. And every one was using chewing tobacco, which we will get to later.

I stepped up to the table, which was just a big spool that they keep cooper wire on. Our whole town didn’t have much money so we made due.

I didn’t have any intro music or hoochie’s climbing up with me, which is somewhat of a disappointment. However, I did have on my HULK underwear and I felt invincible. Which one of the punks from my school wants a piece of this?

At first, no one. No one came up to arm wrestle in the 5 year old division. All these people are looking at me and I’m getting ready to cry because no one wants to play with me.

Then a girl walked up and put her elbow on spool.

What the hell. This is totally not fair and could scar me forever. I can’t arm wrestle a girl, I would be the laughing stock on the school yard and my brother would have to get into even more fights for me.

The other men there explained that she was the only other one that signed up for the 5 year old arm wrestle. I want to cry even more. I live in a town full of pussies. What happens if I lose to this girl? We are going to have to move, no doubt about it. And if I win, well, I just beat a girl, yea me. You have to understand, this is the south and we just can’t do things like this.

But everyone is looking at me so I have to pony up. I put my elbow down and put my palm against hers. I noticed that I had very sweaty hands which I wouldn’t have noticed with a boy against me. The ringmaster smacked the table and the match was on.

I thought my heart was going to go through my chest. Dear God, I am a good boy. Please do not allow me to lose to this woman for I will forever live in shame.

He granted my wish and I won although he saved the shame for a little later. I walked away quickly because I didn’t want to see if she was crying. Even now, 20 years later, I still feel bad about that.

The next event, which I was barred from performing due to my young age, was the tobacco distance spitting contest. I swear to god, this was a real event. I won’t even jazz it up to make it funny, it stands fine on it’s own.

There was a huge mat that was placed out, like it was some long distance pit except it went on for about 20 yards. This was one of the big events of the day. Everyone participated. Guys, girls, young, old. They were all there. My parents said no although I wanted to. Spectators lined the pit like it was a golf match on the 18th hole. Very brave souls I thought. But these people spitting, well, they were damn accurate. It was amazing.

The judge stood at one side at the end and the mopper was at the other side. The moppers job is pretty self evident, he was to mop up the spit after each attempt. Each person got three tries.

There is a technique to distance spitting. You purse your lips and then press two fingers to the corner of your mouth to make your lips even tighter. Take a deep breath and let it launch. Since that day, I have practiced constantly and I am proud to say that it’s not to bad. I learned to spit from the best on the professional distance spitting circuit. My daughter will be so proud and I will pass this on to her like wisdom.

There were no girl/guy divisions. You just went up there and hocked one. The ladies were as good as the guys and it was very exciting. The first contestant stepped up and put in a monster chew of Redman. He pursed his lips and actually leaned back. He launched a massive spit and his forward momentum almost took him off his feet. The crowd was silent as we all watched it until it landed. Then we all cheered. The match was set.

One after another each contestant saddled up and launched. We oooed and aahhed as the mopper cleaned the mat after each attempt. Girls in bell bottoms would put their hair back so that it wouldn’t get any juice on it. Teenagers got tips from their dads. I don’t know who came out as top dog but they were all winners in my book.

It was time for my last event, the bike race. The winner of this one would have bragging rights for the next year until the painted Armadillos signaled that it was time again.

My brother had just finished his race and placed around 2nd or 3rd but only because someone clipped his bike tire around a corner for a massive whip out. I knew for a fact that later in the day that kid was going to get a massive ass whipping.

I hoped that my bike would give me speed although there may have been some problems. It was actually my first bike and had previously had my training wheels on it. It was a hand me down from my brother, so it had some good history. My father took the training wheels off and I would fly around all of our dirt roads which by far out numbered anything that was paved.

Unlike the arm wrestling match every 5 year old in town signed up for this one. There were about 20 of us, but I’m 5, so how the hell do I know? I can’t even remember the months of the year yet.

We line up and the gun goes off. Yes, it was a real gun by the way. We all bolt out and the race is on. I will have my glory.

I stand up on the peddles and am going balls out. I’m breathing hard and trying to decide what kind of bike jump I will do at the end of the race while spitting my tobacco.

However as hard as I peddled I could see that I was very quickly slipping to the back of the pack. I look to the left and right and see that everyone has newer looking bikes that probably never had training wheels. I want to stop the race and call the judge out to validate that they are not motorcycles because by now I am very much slipping to dead last.

This can’t happen, not to Young Hoss. I’m still standing on the peddles and moving as fast as my fat feet will go. The pack is very quickly taking the next corner and I haven’t even begun to turn yet. This is a disaster. This is the shame God has brought on me for beating a girl in arm wrestling.

My legs begin to burn and I can’t stand up anymore. I sit down and look ahead. I can’t even see the rest of the pack anymore. The tears come and they burn with my failure and embarrassment. I am 5 years old and I am in last place. It’s like not being picked in a game of dodge ball because everyone knows that you will just take that first one to the face and go down.

I round the last corner and I see people walking away. The rest of the pack has finished and everyone has forgotten about me. I’m that far behind. I’m crying and peddling, it’s all I got left. My mother and brother are at what I assume to be the finish line because by now there is no more banner’s or tape to mark it.

I glide over and immediately want to go find everyone that beat me and give them a pummeling. My brother sees this and I know that vengeance will rain down on anyone that makes fun of me tomorrow.

My school year is going to be filled with a ton of fist fights and I know it. They should be scared to if they saw me in the arm wrestling competition.

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