When the young man and I got to the fairgrounds, we unloaded the horses, fed and watered them. The young man told me his name was Johnny Ellsworth Lee and most people called him Johnny. He said Ellsworth was his mother's maiden name so he couldn't kick about that.
Johnny's parents drove up in their truck, met me, then we headed to town. I asked Johnny what the hurry was. He said they were trying to get to Slim Jim's Cafe before he quit serving breakfast. If we hurried we could make it. Slim Jim's Cafe was on the square, across from the Courthouse, and looked to be the busiest place in Mt. Ida. We got to Slim Jim's Cafe and I could see why they were in such a hurry.
The breakfast menu had a short stack for 15 cents, with a side order of bacon for 5 cents, side order of ham 10 cents. A side order of eggs was 5 cents each and an order of coffee with one refill was 5 cents. I ordered the short stack and got four plate-sized pancakes, real butter, syrup and a cup of coffee. When I had finished my short stack, I felt like I had eaten enough groceries to last me the whole day. I noticed some people ordered the whole bit.
Back at the fairgrounds, Johnny and I helped set up tents for the mother and dad. The mother had a ring toss and the dad had a booth where they threw darts at balloons, then there was the sleeping tent. After we set up the tents, we drove posts and laid off a ring for the horses to walk.
All the tickets were sold in a ticket booth and the carnival company charged a commission to have an event on the grounds. When the kids would come to ride a horse, we had to help them get on the horse. They would ride four times around the track for one ticket.
Johnny said the reason he needed help was that he had an agreement to keep the grounds clean and someone had to scoop up the horse droppings. So, you can see what my job was.
At noon, the mother fixed us sandwiches for lunch. Then in the evening we went back to Slim Jim's Cafe. Slim Jim had a daily dinner special. It was always a plate dinner for 25 cents and a glass of iced tea for 5 cents. If you wanted dessert, you could get a piece of pie for 10 cents. The only thing that changed on the plate dinner was the meat; it would be different each day.
The mother told me that they owned a farm near Mena, that they got starved out during the Depression and drought of 1930. They had been on the road with the carnival for the last five years. She said they had saved up a little money and were going back to the farm after the season. If they starved out, they could always go back on the road.
Johnny was going to try to get him a lot in Mena and have his pony rides in the evenings and the weekends. They were going to Mena for their next stop and would stay in their own house for the week. At the cafe they kept talking about the Charley Weaver Tall Tale Event that was to be held on the Courthouse lawn on the Saturday before the Fourth of July. When I asked what the Charley Weaver Tall Tale Event was they told me that the Charley Weaver Tall Tale Club in Mt. Ida held this every year. The Saturday before the Fourth of July they would meet on the Courthouse lawn and the member who told the tallest tale would win the prize.
Early Saturday morning, Johnny and I took chairs and found us a good spot and waited for the event to start. When the event started, you could tell that these tale tellers were professionals. I don't remember all of the tall tales but I do remember the winner. It was about baseball and I was interested in baseball. The teller was about 30 years old and had a loud, clear voice.
(Continued next week.)
Editor's note: Joe Pitts (1920-2008) was a native of Pea Ridge and regular columnist for the newspaper. He began writing a column for The Times in 2000 initially entitled "Things Happen" by Joe "Pea Patch" Pitts. This column was first published Oct. 19, 2005, in the Pea Ridge TIMES.Editorial on 05/20/2020
Print Headline: Joe helps with pony ride at carnival and other chores