TOWNER, N.D. — I’ve always tried to do my part when it comes to benevolent causes in my community and around the region. I work hard to raise money for student scholarships through our Dollars for Scholars chapter, I’ve donated a little of my time as an entertainer to help people fight cancer at Relay For Life events, I agree to donate blood whenever I can and I always buy raffle tickets, popcorn, candy bars, fruit and most anything else kids sell to support their FFA chapter, 4H club, scout troop or church group.
But I’ve never been asked to be the target at a dunking booth ... until last week. As the country song says, everyone’s kind of famous in a small town. I guess I was the closest thing to a local celebrity they could think of in my nearby town of Rugby, N.D., when the Lutheran church was recruiting victims/honorees for their dunking booth at the Pierce County Fair.
I’m an old church council president at our family’s church, so I understand the need to fund-raise for special projects, missions and congregational youth groups. When one of the Sunday School and youth leaders at Bethany Lutheran asked if I would sit in their honored dunking chair for a couple hours, all I could do was smile and say, “sure, I’d be happy to.”
Luckily, it was a hot, muggy evening and the typically chilly water in the dunking tank had all day to moderate to a tolerably tepid temperature. I wore my good, dunking hat, a wettable palm leaf straw, so the passersby would recognize me as the locally “famous” author who’d written this Cowboy Logic column for 20 years and had traveled the after-dinner speaking circuit for nearly as long.
“Step right up, and dunk the cowboy. Help Ryan Taylor make a big splash, a real impact right here at your Pierce County Fair!” The church leader turned carnival barker did well in her transformation. “Aw, come on,” I’d add from my seat, “It’s just a buck a ball ... and it’s for the kids!” as I tried to separate our booth from the nearby ventures that gave you a chance to spend $5 on three darts to possibly win a $2 toy.
The money was going toward the Sunday School program and the church youth who were planning a mission trip to serve others less fortunate.
It was a fun perch from which to watch the activities of a good, old fashioned small town county fair. Families partook in the fun of the midway, music, exhibits and livestock that came to the fairgrounds.
Since I got to reload my own seat after each dunking I got to admire the high tech handiwork and elementary engineering of the seat dropping apparatus. They had welded a Vise-Grip locking plier in place that would spring the seat loose each time the softball hit the target attached to the rod that was positioned between the handles of the Vise-Grip. Ingenious, or, well, practical.
And, I learned who my friends were as people wound up their throwing arm to put me into the drink. I always thought my wife kind of liked me, and we had just celebrated our 11-year anniversary. But, even she had a gleam in her eye as she handed her cash over to the church carnie barker for the volume discount of six balls for $3.
I knew I had married a softball player of some skill and renown from her days of farmball, college and league softball team play. My wife throws “like a girl,” and by that I mean darn good, highly accurate and with gusto.
She smiled with satisfaction as my head went under and my hat floated on the surface. She looked my way and said, “remember, it’s for the kids.” It was, but I think she still enjoys the sport, too.