Marias Fair, Shelby, MT, July 20, 2003

Montana State Fair Meet, Great Falls, MT, July 26-27, 2003

Here's a teaser: "Gopher Wheel". And wagering thereupon. Read on.

Racing was starting to look iffy at Shelby during the Marias Fair, so I decided I better take another run up there and get while the getting was good. And a fun day of racing it was, even if hot and dusty.

But this year I did some wandering around the fair during the racing, to check out attractions and stick food items and so on, and in the process found the most marvelous contraption right out behind the grandstand, with a small knot of people standing around expectantly. "Gopher Wheel" read the sign. I decided I better take a closer look at something named Gopher Wheel for, you know, posterity.

The Gopher Wheel was a big round flat piece of wood maybe 4' - 5' in diameter, mounted on a spoke to make a waist high wheel like a roulette wheel, with a restraining wall around the outside. The top of it was painted up various colors and divided into eight numbered pizza slices, and out at the big end of the pizza slices was a hole, about gopher size, leading to somewhere. In the center of the wheel sat this big clear bell jar thing. People were purchasing pizza slices, for $1 I think it was. 

This looked interesting. So what's next?

Well, what happened next, when all the pizza slices were purchased, was that the proprietor would produce a gopher. Just a garden variety gopher like you might find out on the prarie just outside town, nothing special, generally squirming pretty good. Then that gopher would be placed on the Gopher Wheel underneath that clear bell jar, and the wheel itself given a mighty spin until it was whirling around like a roulette wheel with that gopher in the middle going around and around and around under that bell jar. When the wheel was spinning real good, the proprietor would lift off the bell jar and that gopher immediately run for cover but the second he left the center of the wheel he would be flung, skittering and dancing, about the surface of the wheel by centrifugal forces, all the while looking for some way to get out of this whole affair. Eventually he would get close to one of the holes at the big end of the pizza slices, and duck down it. The owner of the numbered hole he ducked down would get the wagering pool, minus the proprietor's vig.

I thought maybe PETA would not approve of this, but it was pretty hilarious. And really, usually gophers are an economic drain upon rather than contributors to the Montana economy. I wagered on it once. Did not win. Tragically, did not get a picture either. Just some others of the Marias Fair, and the Montana State Fair racing the next weekend.