Kenny Fussell published a book, "Chico’s Monkey Farm and Other Southern Tales," in 2002. He graciously gave me permission to share his stories.
Here is one of my favorites: "In our southern area, fall meant the coming of the carnival. In the late 1960s the carnival or fair always set up in a large field at the edge of Hinesville. The smell of popcorn and hotdogs covered the entire town. The field was roped off and an area laid out for parking, although most people walked.
"There was a section with rides, the Ferris wheel, the Twister, the Screamer and the Swings to name a few. You’d eat three corndogs, a barrel of cotton candy, a funnel cake, a candied apple, washed down with a huge glass of flat Coke, and then try and ride the rides and be sick for three days!"
"From the top of the Ferris wheel, one could see the clock on the Liberty County Courthouse and all the way to the old Ponderosa restaurant.
"The fair had one section for kiddy rides and another for games of chance. You remember throwing plastic rings at Coke bottles, those basketball games where the ball was the thickness of a dime smaller than the hoop all but impossible to make, or hitting the milk bottle with a softball? The trouble was that the balls were really soft and the bottles were made of lead!
"And then there was the show I liked best as a kid, the sideshow or freak show as we knew it — a collection of raggedy old red tents and camper trailers. They had everything, even the Alligator Boy, whose body was covered with what appeared to be large scales. There was the bearded lady and the tattooed man. There was a tent filled with such things as a stuffed two-headed cow, a two-headed snake, white deer and baboons with multicolored tails.
"There were several ripoff tents, as I called them. One had a sign with a man holding a small horse in his hand. Once inside the pony was 24 inches tall. When I confronted the man about the picture, he told me, ‘Kid, if there was a man as big as the one on that sign, he could hold that horse in his hand.’
"The one I liked best had a sign, which showed a huge chicken holding down a man with one foot and ripping the man’s flesh off. The sign on the tent read: See the 300 pound man-eating chicken. Ticket 1 quarter. I paid my quarter and went inside the tent. There was a 300 pound man sitting on a chair eating a bucket of chicken from a local fast food store!
"One year, when I was a preteen and had an opinion about everything, there was a tent in a dark corner that held the fair’s main attraction. It held a wildman captured in the Florida Everglades. He was the missing link between man and beast. My friend and I talked it over for a long time and finally got up the courage and $1.50 for the ticket. Inside, the ground was covered with straw and in the center of the tent was a structure with a set of stairs to a platform circling a large tank covered with metal bars. Animal bones covered the floor of the dim pit. A creature covered in animal skin was huddled against one side of the pen. It had long hair halfway down its back. Its face was covered with hair and it was covered with dirt. The people laughed and made fun of the creature. Some tossed peanuts and parts of candied apples to him. My friend and I did our share of picking. In response, he would scream, throw objects back and run around the pen.
"We had been in the pen about half an hour when I noticed something strange about the wildman. Around his left arm was a tan line where a watch had been worn. My friend and I began shouting ‘fake’ and told everyone that came in.
"After several minutes, the wildman leapt up, caught the bars and pulled his face to us, and in a voice that sounded just like the man who worked at the local SOC station, said, ‘You two had better get the *&*# out of here before I come out there and fix you!’.
"The thing was, my friend was the son of a police officer and when we let the creature know that, an arrangement was made to get us free admission to the fair and all of its rides for the next three days. At the end of its run, as we watched them take the carnival down, we noticed a fellow with long hair who looked a lot like the wildman driving the truck that held the Twister. Even today, when I smell popcorn or taste cotton candy, I can’t help thinking about the Wildman of the Everglades."