If my home town is known for anything, it’s the rodeo that’s held there every year in July. I usually got a job at the rodeo to make a little extra money, selling programs or barbequed chicken, or pushing a wheelbarrow full of iced soft drinks I sold to people in the stands during the performance.
One year, I worked in a trailer that sold junk food; it was the worst job I took at the rodeo. I was the guy making the cotton candy, which is a simple but really messy, hot job. I poured colored sugar into a little pot at the top of a spindle that was mounted in the middle of a big stainless-steel tub. A motor turned the spindle at high speed, and a heating element melted the sugar, which extruded from the pot through tiny holes in the side. The melted sugar turned into floss as it hit the air and was collected against the sides of the tub. It’s a really nifty-looking effect, which is why the cotton-candy machine is usually in the window where everybody can see it.
After all the cowboys rode all the bulls and lassoed all the calves, the spectators surged out of the stands in a wave to eat grilled chicken or ribs, cob corn, hot dogs or burgers, all the food that’s customarily roasted over an open, flaming pit of charcoal in July. They came over to the junk food trailer to get sodas and sweets, and especially to get cotton candy. God knows why anybody would want to eat cotton candy on a hot night in July, but they couldn’t get enough of it. I stood hunched over that machine winding up one big, fluffy wad of floss after another without a break for what seemed like forever. Most people don’t realize how hot that machine gets, especially on a July afternoon inside an enclosed trailer. It was hot outside, too, but at least they had the breeze, and it got cooler out there after the sun went down. It only got hotter in the trailer.
At some point in the evening I caught a break, no more than a breather, really, when I could stand up, take one step back from the machine, and stretch the kinks out of my spine. A light breeze came through the tiny open window and, as I turned to face it, sweat streaming off my floss-covered features, the guy in the line just outside the sales window, who had apparently been waiting a few minutes longer than he though he should have to, glared at me and said something like, “Lookin’ for something to do?” I was too young then to think of the answer that springs to mind now: “Well, as a matter of fact, I was thinking about taking a leak in the face of a wiseass, and it looks like I’ve found one.”