Ode to Jimtown

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

This one has been in circulation before and is one of my favorites...

The Jamestown Fair has a certain magical charm about it, an aura of a summer’s end festival that has a feel of the harvest, the camaraderie of friends gathering at the animal barns and the spirit of a small town event that many people enjoy.

The landscape surrounding the Jamestown area, in my opinion, is an especially beautiful one. Big trees and open fields lead to the shaded areas of Pymatuning State Park, while small country churchyards and horses lazily munching grass in sunny pastures give tourists good reasons to come for a visit.

Some of the architecture and houses in town are quite stunning, adding a Victorian flair to its overall picture.

The Fair is one of those small town affairs that are unique unto themselves. It boasts of cookie and cake contests, art and photography exhibits, "Lion’s Fries,"a Fair Queen, vendors and their trinkets, along with animals and a smash-up derby.

Does anyone, anymore, call Jamestown, "Jimtown?"

When I was growing up, it was referred to as "Jimtown" by a generation of folks, most of whom are no longer with us.

Nowadays, people look at you strangely if you call it "Jimtown," and you have to jar their memories to force some recollection.

The Jimtown I knew had an auto parts store and old Mr. Grey ran the Mark Twain Manor. We used to sell him sweet corn that we had picked from our fields and they would serve it at the Mark Twain. The Shenango River ran high and a real freight train passed over a stone arch at the edge of town. There was a kindly, old Vet named Doc Werner, who received patients most every week night, and he would come to your farm to check on a sick horse. His picture can still be seen at his old establishment, now under new ownership.

They say old Vets never die...

The big Jamestown Parade is one of the largest you’ll ever see. The sidewalks lining the main drag are power-packed with people and there are huge cash prizes and trophies for bands, floats and Fire Departments.

I can remember riding my beloved DannyBoy through the back streets to get to our #200 position in the lineup, yes, it’s that big, passing by floats, flowers, muscle cars, marching bands, scarecrows and clowns, as they waited their turn.

The big, gray horse with the long white tail, complete with ribbons and flowers made quite an impressive sight coming up the street. He always took first place for Best Parade Horse.

DannyBoy always put on a fancy parade trot that any good horseman would know was just an annoying trail jig, because he had to leave the Draft Horse barn and his nice pile of hay. Throwing in some excited whinnies along the way (horsetalk for, "Where are the other horses, when do we get to go back to the barn?") and every spectator thought he was the star of the Parade.

Things would begin to get exciting while waiting in the lineup, as the parade swept past and it came time for the horses to join in. Majorettes in sparkly uniforms marching in time to a band would turn the corner in perfect unison while huge fire engines blared their sirens. Candy flew through the air as children squealed in delight from the sidelines.

...I wasn’t always riding a well-mannered steed, doing the Queen-of-England-Wave to an adoring crowd; one year he tried to buck me off on someone’s front lawn, and then there was the time he tried to run over Levi Byler’s mini’s to get to Dane Mitchell’s Draft Hitch, two places up.

There was another time some children had come out of the crowd to pet him, just as some pranksters lit off some firecrackers. DannyBoy spooked and swung his huge, Draft Horse hind end around; lawn chairs went flying as a whole slew of spectators ran onto the nearest porch, one fellow clinging to a pole.

These past few years are a bit poignant; as the big guy isn’t at the Fair, nor have I been.

There had been dozens of kids coming by the Draft Horse barn to see him, the year after he died, and he wasn’t there.

To say that going to the Jamestown Fair without DannyBoy felt weird, would be saying the least. I continue to be amazed at the large number of people whose lives were touched by this wonderful horse.

He seemed especially attracted to small babies and elderly ladies. No one seemed to mind that he would try to take a sip from the baby’s juice bottle, or steal a lick off of someone’s ice cream cone.

Perhaps DannyBoy’s greatest gift of all was his kindness to anyone he met, and to the people who have no horse of their own, who got to visit him in the Draft Horse barn each year at the Fair. He and his heart were big enough for everyone and if only for those five days, he was their horse, too.

There was even a lady from Andover, Ohio, I had no idea who she was, come through looking for him. After I had explained he was deep-six, she went on to tell me she had a photograph of DannyBoy, and that he is the screen-saver for her computer!

Special thanks went out to my friend Ann Pearson, Parade Horse Department, for the lovely full-page dedication to DannyBoy in the Fair Book.

A year or so ago I said I didn’t know if I was going to show Jamestown ever again; I think I’ll be sitting this one out again, folks.

I do know that when I look up into the field at night and see the solar lantern glowing atop DannyBoy’s big grave that I still can’t believe he’s really gone.

You hear cowboys talk about that one-in-a-million horse; this one truly was, there will never be another one like him.

Always so friendly, so sweet.

As I’ve said, that empty stall at the barn and now the Jimtown Fair is matched only by the empty place in our hearts that has been created since he’s been gone.

Well, that’s all for now. Somebody get me a handkerchief.

Drying my tears to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, "Happy Trails to You."