Summer is in full swing up here in North Dakota. School’s out. Wedding’s have begun. Garden’s are in and a full line up of summer fairs and festivals are marked down on the calendar.
Last weekend during a little tour across the state promoting my album, I got the privilege of being a guest of honor at a small town in the middle of the state. I was hired to do a concert with the band there during their Dairy and Ag days celebration,
This was right up my ally, such and honor and pretty much the most adorable thing ever.
So of course I had some things to say about it. I could have written a book on all of the characters, from the kids singing their hearts out in the choir before the band
to the little toothless princess candidate dressed in a sequins dress with a hoop that flew up and hid her face when she tried to sit down in the chair in front of us judges.
It was the epitome of what it means to be a small town kid in the summer.
It was the epitome of cute and wholesome.
It was what I had to write about for this week’s column:
In small towns up and down the Midwest, summer has officially started. I know this not by the date on the calendar, but because in the next few months I’ll run into kids catching and holding calves at the neighbor’s branding down the road, rolling down the road in a tractor helping with harvest, or showing their steer at the county fair for a little extra cash.
I get to witness these kids of summer because my job as a singer takes me to big towns and small towns across the state to witness them dancing in the street after a day spent eating barbecue beef sandwiches, catching candy in the parade and competing in a tractor pull or Little Miss Potato Queen pageant.
And I have to tell you, I kicked off the season right last Friday when I took a trip to Linton to participate in their Dairy and Ag Days festival. I rolled toward the town in the morning, turning off the interstate to admire the fresh crops popping up neatly around manicured farmsteads, big red barns and, my favorite, the black-and-white dairy cows milling behind rail fences.
After months of planning, Linton looked as polished as ever, and so did its littlest residents who were waiting for my arrival that morning, dozens of young girls from kindergarten to second grade, dressed to the nines lined up in the lobby of the local bank, vying for the title of Little Miss Farmer/Rancher.
And be still my heart, because while each contestant was as adorable as the next, this was no beauty pageant. No. This was a competition where each young and utterly adorable contestant is asked about their experience and knowledge of the farm and ranch they live and work on.
I was asked to be one of the judges, to which I enthusiastically agreed, not understanding how completely impossible it would be to choose a winner among little girls who talked reverently about helping their grandmas feed the horses, being responsible for bottle feeding orphaned calves, the make and model of the tractor used on the farm and the one who joked that, if they’re not careful, the heat lamp used in the baby chick pen might result in fried chicken. Then she laughed and laughed.
And I teared up, not just at the absolute cuteness of it all, but because, really, they still make kids like this. Kids who come to town dressed in bolo ties, fluffy floral dresses, their best jeans or, yes, even a sequined gown, ready to proudly declare that they are learning to break their own horse, they can’t wait to learn to drive the tractor, or — my favorite — the tiny, brown-eyed girl who said her preferred chore was helping her dad fix fences.
When I asked her why she liked to fence so much, she frankly replied, as if the answer should be so obvious to us, “Because I love him!”
First place, I say! First place to all of them!
I’m really not cut out for this judging thing.
But after the decisions were made, I headed out to Main Street, where I had the honor of leading the parade of Dairy Prince and Princesses and Little Miss and Mister Farmer and Rancher contestants, American Legion Club members, 4-H club floats, combines, antique tractors and kids pulling smaller kids in wagons.
In a few hours, I stood up on a flatbed trailer in an empty lotand sang my songs to bleachers full of moms, dads, grammas and grampas watching while the kids tested out their best moves on the concrete dance floor in front of me.
I let the band play a song and got down to join them, compelled to be a part of their circle, grab their hands and spin around to the music. Compelled, after a long day in the sun, to laugh and dance with my new friends, in the middle of a small-town street, in the middle of America, where we make our own fun after the work is done.
Compelled to believe with them that anything is possible, just for a moment, compelled to become a kid of summer again.
And look at that, a whole spread in the Emmons County Record. A day like this is a reminder of why I keep doing what I’m doing.
Thanks Linton, ND!