Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 15, 2011

Lifelines: Fair myth grew like grass

By Terry Wooten, Bard

---- — Today is the 66th anniversary of the end of World War II. I'm not going to share elders' poems on eyewitness accounts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs. I have them, but my heart isn't there.

Jack Miller, a World War II POW, said, "The Japanese now are a lot different people than they were back then." When a few misguided leaders take over education institutions and information outlets, almost an entire population can be brainwashed in less than two decades.

Instead, I'm going to concentrate on county fairs, a magical midnight in 1956, and empathy for unfortunate critters. Last summer I gathered with a bunch of aging boys from my hometown. One of the guys had mentioned to the group earlier that he'd once met and kissed Patsy Cline.

By the time I showed up, his buddies had exaggerated a kiss into making out. Myth can grow like grass. When I asked Bob about his memory, his words stayed true to her. That touched me. She must have been quite a young woman. Two months after Patsy met Bob, she co-wrote the song "Stranger in My Arms." It makes you wonder.

"Carnival Ponies" was written before I was doing Elders Projects. The poem speaks for the little horses, because they don't have a voice.

Bob Blackledge (72)In Her Arms


I used to show cattle and sheep

at different fairs.

In 1956 I was at the Cadillac Fair.

Patsy Cline was singing that night.


It was the summer

between my junior and senior year.

I'd turned seventeen.


I was out in the livestock barn.

This young woman came walking

with her girlfriend

down between the animals.


She stopped and asked me

a whole bunch of questions,

and we talked about this and that.

I didn't recognize her.


She asked, "Are you

coming to the performance tonight?"

"Yes," I said,

"I like that gal singing."

She said, "Here's a couple tickets."


My seats were right up front.

When Patsy Cline came out on stage

I couldn't believe

she was the same girl

I'd talked to in the sheep barn.


Patsy hadn't recorded


She's Got You,

I Fall To Pieces,

Walking After Midnight

or Sweet Dreams yet,

but that's how I felt.


The concert was over.

I got up and started leaving.

Pretty soon here she came

running after me.



"Where are you going?"

I said, "Back to the barn,

or maybe I'll walk around the midway

a little bit."

"Well," Patsy said,

"How about you and me walking

around the midway?"



We were together a couple hours

talking and walking.

It was over.

She asked,

"Where are you going now?"

"I sleep in the barn," I said.

Patsy suggested, "Why don't

you walk me back to my trailer."



Outside her trailer

she stood on her first step

so we were eye to eye.

I mentioned her great performance

she'd put on.

I got ready to leave.


Patsy threw her arms around me,

and gave me a big kiss,

and said, "I'll see you next year."


I never saw her again.

She was killed in a plane crash

a few years later.


Rumor is I made out with Patsy Cline.

She doesn't deserve that.

A kiss isn't making out.

It was her way,

and that was good.

She was young,

I don't know how old.

--Terry Wooten

Carnival Ponies

The Oglala holy man said,

"All things in their greatest power

move in circles,"

but he never saw these carnival ponies

with their halters chained

from both sides

to a steel yoke rotating around.

The little ponies walk in circles

through time

with their heads down.

Each week they stare at a different rut

in the ground,

barely noticing the children

standing in line to pay a dollar

to ride them.

After dark

Grandma Wallenda sways back and forth

on a pole reaching almost to heaven

flirting with her ancestors

while the people gasp and clap.


The little ponies shift

from hoof to hoof

waiting to be let loose,

for a drink

or some hay or grain,

as the two men who own them

count their money.

--Terry Wooten