Shawnee News-Star Sunday Article September 17th 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg Wasn't it amazing?   Did you get to see the Pottawatomie County Free Fair and the Horticulture Exhibits?   In preparation for the scarecrow competition, I wandered around my house looking for inspiration.   High on a high closet shelf was folded my ancient bundler.   The blue fuzzy [...]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Article September 17th 2017

Barbeque Bob at the County Fair

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Wasn't it amazing?   Did you get to see the Pottawatomie County Free Fair and the Horticulture Exhibits?   In preparation for the scarecrow competition, I wandered around my house looking for inspiration.   High on a high closet shelf was folded my ancient bundler.   The blue fuzzy form-fitting all-in-one pajama had arms and legs that ended in thick fabric elastic bands and the torso was fitted with a long zipper.   Perfect.   What better thing to use as a head was the  old pumpkin peeping out of a sack in the library.   The orange plastic globe had a wicked grin and a wide hole where its brains should have been.  My mother used this Halloween decoration for years to greet the trick-or-treaters at her front door.

The soft blue Nike hoodie abandoned inside a Photinia shrub by the teahouse in the Japanese Garden could wrap around and support the arms, head and torso while the hood kept the pumpkin head in place.   My wood carrying thick padded gloves would do for hands and heavy rubber boots might give the illusion of feet.   Plastic sacks and wads of paper were stuffed into the legs and arms, but two old pillows filled the scarecrow's midsection. A bright orange and yellow reflective hat topped off the effigy I christened him Barbeque Bob.

BBQ Bob just fit the wooden chair on the front porch. Into one hand went BBQ tongs and the other a long handled turner courtesy of Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative.   They were given away as part of the gift package for attendees at the annual meeting from years ago.    Bob needed a grill.   The gray plastic pot in the greenhouse was filled with shredded paper and placed beside the barbeque manikin.   I recycled my impressive Mother's Day card made of thin posterboard about 16 inches tall and wide.   The top half was cut into flame shapes and colored with red, yellow and black sharpie pens.   On the bottom was 'Multi-County Master Gardener Barbecue Bob.' Bob was put into a cardboard box.

So stunning and tacky looking, I knew Bob would be an eye-catcher.   Bob-in-the-Box, his chair and flamin' grill were driven to the Expo Complex and assembled on registration/set-up day.   Fruits, veggies, plant arrangements, potted plants, decorated melons, honey, forage bundles and other scarecrows arrived throughout the afternoon.    Judging was held the next morning prior to the official opening of the Free Fair later in the afternoon.

Bob relaxing at home

The horticulture entries were the best in years.   Apparently okra and peppers were thriving in several gardens.   Two majestic field pumpkins were hauled in, and the enormous Cushaw squash (Curcubita mixa) made their appearance.   The green-striped slightly sweet and meaty winter squash, weighing10 to 20 pounds, is considered a New World crop from ancient Mesoamerica.   It is one of the most favored squashes grown by the Hopi because it prefers hot, dry conditions.   The vines are resistant to squash vine borers.  Two to four inches of stem must be left on the squash at harvest, otherwise the squash deteriorates rapidly.   The large fruits should be cured in a warm ventilated area for a week and can be stored for months.  The Cushaws were in excellent shape.

A few minor hiccups did occur.   One or two plants were incorrectly identified.   Too many or not enough of certain produce had been counted and presented.   Make sure the category is correct. In the case of the scarecrows, four of the entries were scarecrows"figures theoretically designed to scare the birds from eating the crops. One entry was a clever presentation in the form of a diorama, with mini-scarecrows, coffee-filter sheep, a tiny BBQ grill with itty-bitty steaks and other doll-house proportioned items.   It had an electrically illuminated sun with rays in the sky and a red glowing was not a scarecrow.   It did win the blue ribbon in the scarecrow competition.   This display would have probably had no problem winning first in the Educational Display under 4-H projects exhibits and could then   progressed to state fair level competition.

Cashaw squashes and pumpkins

Friday evening was the horticulture competition.   Teams of students competed in plant identification.   Saturday turned out to be a nightmare.   Not at the fair, but during the trip back from my mother's home. Taking a break from the fair, I needed to go work at the house in southeast Oklahoma.

Three hours later my husband and I arrived. The day was spent eradicating mold along baseboards and door bottoms inside the house, watering the plants, burning weeds in the driveway, dragging branches to the brush pile and a host of other things.   The sun was setting when we drove toward the San Bois Mountains and I-40.

Miles outside of Porum, in pitch blackness, Gowan, my husband's car, hit a dark unseen something apparently in the road.  The car bounced and we felt a jarring thud. That was some armadillo! The left rear tire immediately deflated.   The poor car limped down the narrow country road with no shoulders until a place was found to pull off.   I got out of the car and smelled gasoline.   Yup, the tire was flat, but a puddle was forming under the car.   We called our insurance company and were in the middle of answering endless questions when a highway patrolman drove up with flashing lights. The knight of the highway positioned his vehicle so his lights would enlighten our dilemma.   The small doughnut replacement tire put on with the trooper's help, we gave our profuse thanks and creeped slowly toward the lights of the Whitefield Exit.   After the car was parked at Fiesta Mart, I bent over and peered underneath.   A narrow but steady stream of gasoline was flowing to the ground.   Another call to the insurance company.   Soon, three Warner firetrucks arrived and began dumping absorbent clay around the car.   The fire chief said it was a good idea we stopped and did not drive any further.   The leak was very close to the exhaust.   Tires can become incendiary devices and explode.   They had already dealt with one car fire this week and that car was totaled.   We waited for the tow truck.   The driver was awake and friendly as he carried our car and us to the car dealer in OKC.   We made it to bed about 3:30 am.

Sunday morning Bob was popped into his box for the trip home in my van.   His plants had become dry during his absence.   Bob immediately went to work to water his plants after he got home and then stretched out to relax on the drying rack.   He had such a busy week.   I let him rest for some time before I had to take him apart.    First his head, followed by his hands and feet, then the hoodie, the pillows, the stuffing and soon, all that remained was my bundler draped across the drying rack.   Bob is no more, but his BBQ flames now sit on a rack in the sunporch.

Warner Fire Department to the Rescue

Gowan has a ruptured gas tank, fuel line, injured fuel pump, and the protective housing was damaged.   His back tire was beyond repair and will be replaced.   Then the little spare donut tire will be packed away.

Always drive the back roads in broad daylight.