(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Abel Frake knew that this year Blue Boy would be judged the finest boar at the state fair. As he discussed his hog with the men loafing in the store one Saturday night, he found the storekeeper as pessimistic as usual.

The storekeeper believed that something intangible was always working to see that things did not go too well for most people. What it was he could not exactly say, but he was willing to bet Abel five dollars that it would either keep him from winning the blue ribbon or let him win because some other catastrophe would occur later. Abel, accustomed to the storekeeper’s gloom, went home with his confidence in Blue Boy unshaken.

As Abel and his wife, Melissa, made plans for the next day’s start for the fair, their son and daughter were not so carefree. Wayne was with Eleanor, home from her first year in college, but she was changed. Before she went away, she had always been his girl; now she did not want to be committed to any promises for the future. Wayne drove home in gloomy silence. When he pulled into the farmyard, he found his sister Margy and Harry Ware sitting in his convertible. Harry was begging Margy to marry him as soon as she came home from the fair. Margy, like Eleanor, did not know whether it was Harry she wanted.

Sunday was spent in making last-minute preparations for their departure. Melissa checked the jars of pickles she intended to exhibit at the fair. Abel could do nothing except groom Blue Boy.

That evening, they started out in the farm truck. The pickles and Blue Boy were given most consideration in the packing, for they were to win honors for the family. Abel drove all night and reached the fairgrounds in Des Moines on Monday morning. Blue Boy was taken at once to the stock pavilion, and the family set up their tent in an area reserved for fair visitors.

As soon as Wayne could get away, he went to the fairgrounds to look for a barker who had cheated him the year before. During the past year, Wayne had practiced throwing hoops, and he almost cleaned out the barker before he stopped throwing. When the barker threatened to call the police, a girl who had been watching called his bluff and walked away with Wayne. Her name was Emily; she was the daughter of a stock-show manager. She and Wayne visited other booths together. In the afternoon, they went to the horse races, and Emily won some money for them to spend.

While Wayne was...

(The entire section is 994 words.)