Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your Guide to Summer Fun—American Style!

When the warm weather comes along you and your loved ones are sure to be on the lookout for some good family fun. Fortunately, the fine folks in the good old U.S. of A. have never been at a loss to come up with exciting endeavors to keep us not only entertained, but well fed too.

You'd have to be a complete social dork, for example, not to be invited to a couple of barbecues during the summer where you can scarf down slabs of ribs, burgers and dogs. At the "high class" barbecues you'll be entertained by the sight of a whole pig roasting in a pit or turning on a spit above the hot coals.

But barbecues are just the beginning. Warm weather will also bring clambakes and crayfish boils, bull roasts and crab feasts.

Looking more for fun than food? No problem. How about driving the kids down to the traveling petting zoo that's sure to be making the rounds at the local shopping mall? Or you could take the family on a trip to Florida to visit any of dozens of roadside animal shows.

Small towns often sponsor much of the fun. Ever since the days of Mark Twain they've been holding frog jumping contests and various animal races, and in the West you can catch the rodeo circuit almost everywhere. There are even rattlesnake roundups where, for a small donation you can have the thrill of lopping the head off one of the little critters. More fun than a fast-paced game of donkeyball? You bet!

For really big-time entertainment, though, there are a few small towns that truly excel. Yellville, Arkansas is one of them. They have an annual turkey drop where live turkeys are thrown from an airplane to the delight of the crowd below. And don't forget the East Texas Fire Ant Festival held every October in Marshall, Texas. This year as always they'll be having the "Fire Ant Parade," along with a chili and barbecue cook off. (Barbecued ants! Yum!) Deming, New Mexico hosts the annual "Great American Duck Race" (unofficial motto: "You're a winner, or you're dinner"), and in the same state little Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico gets on the map with its annual "Rooster Pull". (We won't go into the details, other than to say that in the course of the action the roosters' bodies tend to get separated from the heads.)

Two favorites in the small town derby are Nucla, Colorado and Hegins, Pennsylvania. A few years ago, amid much fanfare from the press, Nucla inaugurated its annual prairie dog shoot. People come from all over to kill, watch, or protest, and the local chamber of commerce laughs all the way to the bank. Hegins is an old hand at this sort of thing. Every Labor Day for more than 50 years they've hosted a live pigeon shoot. The birds are released from cages, get about ten feet in the air, and are blasted to smithereens, apparently to the amusement of everyone. Young boys are used to pick up the remains, and wring the necks of any birds that somehow survive the buckshot.

Isn't America wonderful? Forget about producing goods and services, we'll all get rich exploiting violence!

Okay, maybe I'm getting a little carried away with the sarcasm, but the breadth of activities from which humans seek entertainment at the expense (usually considerable expense) of other animals is mind-boggling. We have to hope that one day the American people can find some better ways of passing the time on summer days than by glorifying brutality toward animals. Maybe everyone could plant a garden or take up water-skiing. (Maybe the folks in Nucla and Hegins can get real jobs!)

As for us vegetarians, you just might find us out at the ballpark with a bag of peanuts and a tofu dog. We'll take baseball over a rodeo any day. Of course, even our National Pastime isn't perfect. We'll be working to change the fact that the gloves are leather, and the ball is covered with "horsehide."

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