Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Flying Over the Fair

I would be confident in saying that not many of you have been to a county fair in a long time, if, indeed, you're aware that such things still exist. Around here they've been at it for over a hundred years, and it's still a pretty big draw. They still even have horse races, along with the other things we associate with this event.
I took my little CASA kid to see what was going on. He did his job, which was to get all my money spent on his behalf. I would object, but don't know precisely what he has and what satisfies his appetite. Besides that, I just can't stay mad at him, so, adios, dinero.
We saw one thing that you don't get a glimpse of every day - the human cannonball. His deal with the fair was amazingly simple. Blow yourself out of the cannon smack in the middle of the fairgrounds, no special arena or admission, no elaborate landing net, several times a day. I guess they paid him a flat fee for the whole ten days the fair runs.
The cannon looked a little like a great artillery piece, set up on the back of a large truck. I couldn't tell what materials the barrel was made from, but it looked considerably lighter than the actual multi-mile giant guns of WW I and II. The guy wore a helmet, but no great flowing capes or feather-covered costumery. He even offerred to answer question before launch, with one exception. He wouldn't give out secrets about the "gun" itself, lest it lead to a glut of cut-rate
As launch time came, he rode the top end of the barrel to a position almost vertical, then disappeared inside. About a minute later we heard a huge "bang" (but no smoke, making me doubt that gunpowder was involved), after which he came flying out the top of the gun.
There was something familiar about his mid-air posture. In an instant I realized he was mimicking the techniques used by skijumpers: body bent forward, head up, with hands at his sides making small adjustments that helped guide him to the landing net, which was only about 60 feet from the cannon and seemed to be about 25 feet square. His head rotated slowly underneath his body to make it more likely to land with his upper and lower back sharing the shock with the net, which was ordinary cargo-holding ropes. He was careful to keep his hands pressed to his sides as he bounced twice in the net, then stood and saluted the crowd of about 100 as they applauded him. A very interesting ten seconds.
They say the capitalist credo goes something like this: find a need and fill it. I have no idea what the guy earns for doing this kind of stunt, but he evidently requires little or no full-time help as he crisscrosses the nation wowing the crowds. I suppose his work deals quite a bit with tiny matters pertaining to safety: checking parts, measuring the wind, etc. I wonder what his first conversation with a banker was like? "I'd like to give you the first chance to see my plan to 'launch' my career as the Human Cannonball. Danger? Oh, very little really. You see, what we do is......."


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