Small Town Fourth
We got to the park just after the parade of water and fire trucks and decoratedbicycles had gone around its small green square. Uncle Sam, his top-hat made of something soft, like the coat of a stuffed animal, waded in his long striped pantsthrough the grass. The water trucks had snugged up close to the curb, under thecottonwoods, and their giant hoses were now feeding the white slip 'n' slide thechildren were screaming and hurtling their bodies over. The park's pool has beenclosed all summer for renovation.
Vote for Sheriff White
the side of the biggest,shiniest water truck says.The signs around the park clearly say No Dogs Allowed, On Leash Or Off, but our dogsstay politely near the curb, and that woman's mini-Yorkie pup doesn't really count yetas a dog, small as a haircomb, and anyway petting-camels are being unloaded from ahorse trailer, the first one already tied by its red leash to a tree. You can forget howhuge a camel is, how hairy its hump. The children who've never seen one beforestare. Those of us who have, stare. Cotton candy freezes in beards under everyone'schins.Jamie from Animal Control comes by in her black uniform--she doesn't mind if you callher the dog-catcher, by the way--and bends down to pet our dogs. She tells us shelost her beloved Yodi, part-coyote, part dog, three days ago. She says she can't talkabout it, and goes on stroking our youngest, her eyes wet.The mayor walks by and doesn't smile. Maybe he's tired. Maybe politicians need aholiday, too. Under the gazebo a high-school girl is reading her winning essayanswering the question, "Does America Still Have Heroes?" We can't hear a singleword she's saying, what with the children dive-bombing into the water just to herright. I worry about how long she practiced, if she imagined silence and dignityattending her words. I stand still to let her know I see her. A young Navajo boy ispracticing his lasso-work while his mother sells fry bread. He expertly ropes a mock-metal-calf he's brought with him, the knot around its neck as perfect as a pretzel.Everyone wants to eat something, ice cream, palm-shaped sugar cookies, popcorn,cotton candy, coffee cake. It's ninety degrees. Our friend Tad is selling oven-firedpizzas, delicious, but business has been slow, and he may have to move with his wifeand baby to another, cooler town. Behind him there is one ride, something like a redstarfish whirling wildly. It looks dangerous.The average age in the park is eight. The old people look young today in their shorts.Only their bare knees show the long haul, like a camel's. A solitary man is trying tosell his apricots from a picnic table.Our neighbor walks by; he and his wife built their dream house in this town a few