It’s funny how rituals develop. When you do something the first time, you don’t know that it’s going to be something repeated, and that it will take on a meaning beyond the experience.
Every year at the Kansas State Fair, we go visit “The Little Man.” This automation is at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union booth under the grandstand. He moves and the book turns as he does.
I find it completely charming that the book is filled with pages made from cut up magazines and handwritten messages – all about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. It wouldn’t be the same if I went one year and they had employed a graphic designer to make everything slick and fancy. I like it just the way it is. It’s perfect.
That’s one of the things about rituals. We don’t want them messed with. At all.
Whenever we’re at the grandstand during the fair, we always meet at “The Little Man.” We make a trip up to visit him, even if we’re not going to the grandstand for any other reason.
We were shocked to learn that Trish had never seen him. She has been to the fair every year of her life, and not seen him. Isn’t it interesting how something that’s meaningful to some of us has completely escaped her notice? I insisted on taking her photo with him. Maybe this will just be the first of many such photos.
What is his hold over us? Well, we joke about that. First of all, it’s just cool that an automation who’s been around many more decades than me is still working, raising his eyebrows, ringing his bell and pointing at the pages as they turn. He has truly withstood the test of time.
Beyond that, there’s a comfort in returning to the same place and seeing the same scene each time. What’s near that booth changes – this year it was a mix of tie dye garments and Jesus Sandals (their phrasing, not mine) – but The Little Man is in the same spot, doing the same thing, year after year. It’s something you can count on. Something that makes your world feel a little more normal.
Sometimes we all need a little normal and that’s part of the power of ritual.