Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Western Montana Fair, The Green party and the not-so-crazy Colonel

Tonight I ventured over the the Missoula County Fairgrounds for "free admission" night of the Western Montana Fair...it also just happened to be Charlie Pride night, so the joint was jumpin'. I met Andy Puckett and the two Puckett youngsters, Jack & Daniel in the food area, a sort of lane with a long thin barn divided into food booths operated by various organizations. There was the Tater Pig booth, the twisted tater booth (operated by the Camp Fire Girls USA), the Lifesaver Shaved Ice booth, Pizza booth, hot dog stand and so on. This is not health food, it is full on fair food. By the time I arrived, the boys had already polished off a couple of pieces of pizza, some breadsticks, a corn dog and a couple of slushies. Jack's tongue was blue and Daniel had a good portion of his food all over his face and clothes: they were all jacked up on sugar and super stoked to hit the Midway.

Now going to the fair anywhere in the USA is prime people watching territory and offers a glimpse into a slice of Americana that concentrates a certain type of people in one place...it's really my number one reason for going. I used the "hang out with the Puckett's" theme as ay cover to spend the evening checking out the freaks, hormone crazed teens (and pre-teens it now seems), carneys and assundry of other wackos. Boy howdy was that fun. The teenage boys were sort of chasing the girls but it was obvious who was really doing the chasing...the girls were in total control. Both groups traveled in gangs, with the boys spending most of their time punching each other or being just plain silly while the girls (the outfits were astounding) batted their eyes, posed, strutted and every once in awhile singled out some poor slob for adoration. In any event, all the teens seemed to be out for testing their limits. The freakers were pretty much just being themselves, causing me to spend time contemplating just how these people make it through the day and the carneys all looked like they had plenty of stories to tell.
While Daniel, Jack and Andy rode the Ferris wheel, I zoned out on the 20-ish looking native girl with three tiny kids and no male figure to be seen, the extremely obese teenager in Goth attire who could hardly walk, the three college age guys (one with a shirt proclaiming "take me for a ride") strutting and puffing for whoever was watching, the guy walking around with no shirt and a tattoo of an eagle covering his entire back and the four girls in front of me who couldn't have dressed more alike if they tried. It was total fun and I was totally staring. The fair allows alcohol, but not in the Midway area. So there plenty of people juiced on Bacardi in plastic bottles or bad beer, using the Midway rides to further enhance their buzz. It was some funny stuff.

Later, after the Puckett's headed home, I strolled into the 4-H barn and saw all the desserts that had been judged that day. To my delight I discovered one could have some of any dessert for a donation of their choosing. Since I had already eaten a corn dog and a funnel cake, I opted out of trying the pear custard pie or the mixed berry cobbler or cheesecake or.....oh well. If I go back thte fair before Thursday night, I'll definitely eat some dessert. Next I went to the commercial building, as an acquaintance told me to stop by his booth (he and his wife have a camp for kids). It was rather humorous to see the Montana gay Pride booth and Pro-Choice booth sandwiching the Baptist fundamentalist booth. The very feminine guy in the Montana Pride booth was totally playing it up as I passed by, all for the benefit of the young Baptists, who by the look on their faces, were a little nervous to be that close to a gay man shouting about diversity and free love. The kid with the tie at the Baptist booth handed me a small card that had a smilet face and the word "smile" on the front and was filled with three things God can't do (God can't force you to love him, God can't lie and God can't learn) with reasons why the reader will go to hell if they don't repent right now on the back...intersting approach. They had a little display with the three things God can't do hidden behind doors they opened as they expalined each reason to passers-by. Next came the very nice young lady with some kind of stud thing in her lip asking me if I was registered to vote and if I wanted some information on the Pro-Choice movement. Their booth was stocked by an interesting variety of women, from Missoula crunchie to feminists. I didn't spend much time there.
I was having a dandy of a time observing, listening and staring when I met the Colonel: Colonel Bob Kelleher of the Montana Green Party that is. The Green party booth was a bit down from the Pro-choicers, just past the "The Body Shoppe at Home" booth and right before the Missoula Historic Society booth. A very disheveled man with huge bushy eyebrows, loads of hair coming out of his ears and the strands of hair left on his head going every which way, the Colonel was wearing an old pair of blue pants and a plain white undershirt that had a little stain right down the front. He caught my eye and said, in a commanding voice, "Mind if I say Hello"? So I said, "Hello" and just kept walking. He started to talk but then just sort of chuckled and went back to organizing his papers that were strewn about the table in front of him. I walked out of the building with every intent of calling it a night, but then I decided to turn back around and meet that guy wearing the undershirt. I did it partly out of guilt, it wasn't really too nice of me to take him so literally and just keep walking. Also, he had an air about him that made me think he would be interesting and there is that Nader vote I cast as a write-in in the last election.
So I walked back in and went right up to him, "Hello", I said, "sorry for being rude before. I was just thirsty" (that wasn't a lie), "have you had a busy night"?

"Every night is busy when you're trying to open the eyes of the people", was his reply. What ensued was a 30 or 40 minute discussion with an extremely intelligent, somewhat wacky, man who hails from Chicago and has been working tirelessly for 30 years to change the political landscape of Montana. Bob Kelleher advocates establishing a parliamentary governmental system that, as he says, will eliminate the buck passing of politicians and raise the standard of living in our country. He also wants to make Montana more sovereign and believes the USA could be stronger by making states more sovereign. He is a strong advocate for peace and sums up his philosophy on mankind by saying, "God wants us to do good so we can all meet in heaven". I found him to not represent anything near what I believed the Greens were all about and not anything near what I thought he'd be. On the one hand, many of his ideas were verging on socialist in nature, on the other, he espoused a very liberal view of conservative Christian doctrines. He was simply fascinating to talk to and our conversation soon drew some onlookers, lurkers you might say. We talked alot about the health care crisis in America and I put in my two cents, which I would call educated liberalism. He was quite inquisitive at times, challenging at times and surprised by some of my opinions. We talked about War and I asked him if he had seen or read any of McNamara's stuff. We talked about evil and how much evil is done in the name of good and how good people do evil things. He pointed out to me that despite Montana's population (still under 1 million), Montana had the 7th highest number per capita per state of servicemen in Iraq. I could have spent hours with the man, who says this is his last campaign for Governor (although he says the real title should be Premier) of Montana. He gave me some good information on countries with Parliaments and his website address and invited me to contact for more discussion. I probably will. His website is full of eye raising material, some of which is downright crazy and any reader will be able to see from his ramblings about the Montana race of 2002 that the man has alot to say.

As I left the fair I couldn't help but smile a bit...evenings like this remind me how very amazing my journey through life really is. Every corner reveals another opportunity to experience something new.
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