Last night, I helped out at the Turner County ice cream booth. From the get-go, we knew it was going to be one of those evenings that never slowed down. When we did have a lull, which could hardly under different circumstances be considered a lull, we tried to stock ice cream, wash dirty pails, and stay hydrated. We also talked to each other in order that we didn’t go crazy. One of the other workers in the booth said it best. “When you’re scooping ice cream, your world becomes the pail of ice cream before you.” She expressed so beautifully the same emotion I was experiencing last night as a scooper. Each pail in front of me and each scoop had a slightly different feel as I moved it quickly from the pail to the Styrofoam bowl. “Work your magic” I wished the little bowls as I topped them off with the black, awkward spoon. As I scooped, different adjectives for the ice cream started running around in my mind: “creamy, smooth, velvety, gritty, cold, grainy, malty, light, fluffy, dense” and on and on the adjectives cycled depending on the batch of ice cream and the amount of time it had been refrigerated. Although the ice cream was melting fast under the high humidity and setting sun people didn’t seem to care, and the lines kept coming. We were going through ice cream fast.
At about 8:30 or so, the real drama began; one of the ice cream machines quit working at its normal speed. At the same time, we realized that we only had about 4 gallon pails of ice cream left in the big freezers that are meant to hold about 30 pails of ice cream each. On a normal night, at least one of those coolers should be three fourths full of ice cream. And that’s when we heard the daunting words: “We’re going to run out of ice cream” spoken by the guru of the ice cream booth. We all looked at each other nervously and hesitantly. “If we run out, do we get to leave early?” I asked naively.
“Ha!” the guru responded throwing his chin up in the air.
“We keep making ice cream until the fair closes down. We’re behind big time.” The fact that there we didn’t have much ice cream combined with the fact that one of the ice cream machines was on the fritz, seemed to up the value of the ice cream in all of our minds. It was like we were now working with gold or pearls in the form of home-made ice cream.
It was only a few moments later, that we had some guests. Traditionally and under normal circumstances, the ice cream booth trades bowls of ice cream for pork sandwiches from the pork producers in the booth across from us. This evening, shortly after the bad news, who should show up but the pork producers. “We want our ice cream” they demanded standing by the doorway of our booth. One of the mentors working our booth responded.
“Well, we don’t have enough ice cream; it’s just not going to happen tonight.”
The pork producers eyes got buggy-wide, and their cheeks got red. Another pork producer stuck his hands on his hip, and reiterated, “We NEED our ice cream to keep making these sandwiches.”
Another worker from our booth somewhat jokingly responded, “Show us the sandwiches first, and then you’ll get your ice cream.”
“Come over and get them whenever” responded the pork producer somewhat ambivalent to the fact that we were scrambling to serve ice cream, much less to take a break, get a pork sandwich, and shove it down our throats.
The head pork producer, tired of waiting said to his side-kick, “We’ve always exchanged like this. You stay here and wait until we get them ice creams.”
And so the pork producer with his cream colored apron that said the word “PORK” right across his belly, folded his arms across his chest and glared in at us workers. There were a few more heated exchanges of words, and I honestly couldn’t tell if the exchanges were in jest or not. But finally, one worker who was tired of being pestered by the pork producer muttered, "Let's just take care of it," and took him 3 ice creams. "Now don’t forget about getting us those pork sandwiches” he said as he walked back into the ice cream booth.
It was one of those situations that you wouldn’t think you’d meet at the Turner County Fair, one of the friendliest fairs in the country. I wonder what would have happened if things with the pork producers would have grown more intense. Here we are, a group of volunteers, from Salem Mennonite church being threatened by the pork producers, (some of whom are also Mennonites). If we hadn’t given them ice cream, would they have thrown fatty pieces of pork into our booth or snuck a pig’s foot in one of our freezers to be found the next morning? How does a group of Mennonites working at an ice cream booth defend themselves against this kind of intimidation? Is the idea of “defending ourselves” even in our peripheral?