OLD TIMER’S CARNIVAL TUSSLE!
At one of these fun things I observed a big roulette wheel made
from a piece of three quarter inch plywood. It was a nice round disc
four feet in diameter with large numbers painted around the outer edge
and various colorful decorations in the center section. It had a nice
round piece of dowel protruding about three or four inches on one edge
and this formed a very nice grip for the operator to give the wheel a
nice, long spin. There was a long nail between each number and as the
wheel turned a plastic pointer flipped over each nail. A long bench at
the front of the booth had numbers painted along the top to match the
numbers on the wheel. The game was simple. Just put your dime on a
number and when the wheel was turned by the operator if it stopped with
the pointer position matching the number on the bench where you had
placed your dime, you won a beautiful home-baked pie.
I stood and watched the operation for a few minutes. As beautiful
as the wheel was I noticed that it was a little bit heavy on one side
and that it usually stopped on one of about five numbers on the heavy
side. The middle number got more pies than the two on each side.
Apparently no one had noticed the peculiarity and the game was
doing a brisk business.
This was a good thing to know if you were going to try for a
cheap pie. I felt like trying for a cheap pie so I crowded into the line
and positioned myself in front of the five “lucky” numbers. For a
little less than a dollar I won three pies. I didn’t want to attract
too much attention and be pointed out as a pie pig so I moved out with
the intention of storing my pies somewhere so I could explore some more
of the big bargains. I had hardly cleared the line when I almost bumped
into Mrs. Blum.
“My, my!” she exclaimed. “Did you win all those pies on the
pie wheel?” I assured her that I did. She started complaining that she
was not lucky and could never win one. I felt real generous and I told
her I’d give her all three of mine for two dollars. She was as happy
as a pig in the sunshine and made me feel like a great guy for being so
generous. I handed her the pies and continued browsing the carnival for
After a generous bowl of home made ice cream I ran across an
interesting game. They had a piece of plywood about two feet square on a
card table and had fenced the perimeters with pieces of glass. There was
another fenced area in the center about four inches square. It was also
fenced with pieces of glass. Believe it or not, there were about a dozen
red ants in the enclosure. The object of the game was to pen five ants
in the center pen with a soda straw without touching them. The ants
could not climb the glass fence to escape and if they were penned they
could not climb over the glass fence. Of course there was a one minute
time limit. I had played with ants a lot as a kid and this game looked
like a good deal. I handed the operator my coins and picked my herding
The man clicked his stop watch and I started herding ants. They
weren’t cooperative at all. They tried to climb my straw. The rules
wouldn’t allow me to push them. After a quick minute I had to admit
failure. I tried again, but this time I had an idea. They hadn’t
mentioned a rule about blowing in the straw so I bent over with the
straw in my mouth and quickly blew them through the gate, one by one. I
collected my meager winnings and continued my journey through fun-land.
After a few more exciting revelations it was about time to go home. As
we walked through the thinning crowd on the way out I noticed that the
pie wheel booth still had pies on the shelf. Why not go by and take a
pie or two home with us? We stopped and I put five dimes on the center
spaces, expecting to get a least one pie. I didn’t even come close.
Some fellow on the end of the bench won.
I tried again with the same result. Something was seriously wrong
– the wheel was not unbalanced now as it had been earlier. The
operator looked at me and grinned as he took my dimes.
“Good try!” he said. “But we got the wheel balanced.”
I grinned back at him.
“What a dirty trick!” I told him. He laughed out loud. I
chocked out a muffled laugh and we headed for home. But all wasn’t
lost. We did have fun!