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Texas | Columns | "Quips and Salsa"

Watch for Falling Fall Fests

by Jase Graves
Jase Graves

Autumn in East Texas is usually ushered in by a yearly "cold snap," meaning we have a few days in late September or early October when the daytime temperature drops below 90 and we don't have to handle our seatbelt buckles with fireplace tongs. Shortly thereafter, though, the fall season is hauled before the Senate Judiciary Committee and subjected to an F.B.I. investigation that delays its swearing in for at least another month. As a result, a "crisp fall day" often takes on a completely different meaning in this part of the country, but at least it reminds us of bacon.

It's during this resurgence of summer that East Texans often attend one of the many area fall festivals, perhaps in an attempt to lull ourselves into the delusion that we shouldn't all still be up to our necks in a swimming pool somewhere. I recently attended one of these events in the nearby city of Hallsville, Texas, to watch my eldest and most expensive daughter march in the festival parade with her high school drill and dance team.

As with most activities that occur outdoors, I immediately felt out of place-since I consider myself a consummate indoorsman. My feelings of unease were heightened by the fact that this particular festival had a decidedly country and western theme (and I'm about as country and western as Donald Trump in a pair of woolly chaps). Despite the heat and close proximity to crowds of people who regularly butcher their own dinner, I was determined to see my girl do her thing-and embarrass her in some way if possible.

Our first task was finding somewhere to park, and because the entire community had come out for the parade, this basically meant driving to the end of our street and walking the rest of the way. Since my youngest daughter has an aversion to any physical activity that involves more than operating a touch screen, she reacted to the prospect of walking as if we were asking her to hike the entire Appalachian Trail barefoot over a pathway of scattered Lego bricks while carrying me piggyback.

We first strolled to the drop-off point to deposit our eldest daughter, who was irked because she hadn't had time to apply her makeup concealer that morning. (Surprisingly, her mood didn't improve when I offered to loan her some of mine.)

Then, after trekking through a tick-laden pasture and at least 12 parking lots packed with massive pickup trucks full of hunting gear, we finally found a spot to stand for the parade. I was so excited about seeing my daughter march that I barely noticed the tributary of sweat that was now streaming down my back and draining into my shorts.

Like most small town parades, this one featured numerous flatbed trailers piled with unruly children throwing candy, sports cars with lovely pageant contestants emerging from sunroofs and throwing candy, first responders driving emergency vehicles and throwing candy, and horses throwing . . .well, never mind. The candy really made it special for the younger parade watchers, and I only knocked over a few of them when I was going after the Snickers.

When the drill team finally made their way down the thoroughfare, I grabbed my camera to try for the perfect shot of my daughter, who was pretending to smile while I shouted her name in my best annoying-dad bellow. Fortunately for her, she was on the opposite side of the street, and my wife stopped me before I could dash out for a close-up and probably be crushed under the unreasonably large tires of a modified Super Duty F-350 Platinum. (I had to look that up.)

Despite the heat and the fact that I had given up about four hours of Saturday morning sleep-in time, we really enjoyed the fall festival. Events like these truly bring communities together and harken back to a simpler time-before Snapchat, green smoothies and "Dancing with the Stars." It's also a great way to celebrate the beginning of autumn. And, who knows? In a month, or so, the weather might even stay cool enough to break out your woolly chaps.

Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" November 15, 2018 column

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