In which we learn the meaning of humiliation, meet the Romaine sisters and admire their artistry, while finding you can smile through it all if you just don't grit your teeth too much.
Our Millie used to say that bein' the Outhouse Queen of the Clayborne County Fair when she was just sixteen made her the butt of so many jokes that she's still not over it, even after all these years. There ain't nothin' like wearin' a toilet paper tiara while ridin' on a float made of a wooden door with half-moons cut in it, pulled by a rusty old John Deere tractor that belches smoke and dirt in your eyes, to make you want to just disappear in the nearest hole in the ground and never come out again.
She couldn't put it on her resume — she had just discovered that word and was trying to get one started — for a modeling career in New York City, and it wouldn't help in Nashville for a singin' career. She kept tryin' to think about a song with an outhouse in it but nothin' seemed to fit. It ruined her chances with Mick O'brien, the only rich kid nearby enough to know. He wasn't goin' to want to be seen with a girl in a sash saying "This Year's Best Outhouse Queen in All the County."
It happened this way. Our Millie had always wanted to be a beauty queen or a fair princess ever since she was a little girl. She would watch in awe as the girls who were the chosen ones rode on the floats with their white lacy dresses and colorful sashes announcin' they were Fair Queen, Poultry Queen, Junior Miss Clayborne County, Dairy Princess and a girl from the river district who was proudly named The Water Queen. They all wore cubic zirconium tiaras and flowers in their arms. They wore big smiles and waved to everybody and the crowd loved them. They got to go to dinners and meet the mayor and speak on the radio, and sometimes a country star came over from Nashville and rode on the float with them and gave them a kiss for the camera, and they were in all the papers and it was wonderful.
Our Millie thought about it all the time and when fair time came around she made it known that she sure would like to be riding on one of those floats.
Our Millie didn't know that there was a new parade coordinator that year and he wanted to do something different. He announced that the senior class at Clayborne High could come up with a float and he told them to make it funny and creative. Our Millie missed school the day it was first mentioned and nobody told her about it at all. It pretty much became the project of the senior boys and nobody really thought about it for long. But as time went by some of the boys were out at Benny's cabin in the woods one Saturday night playin' poker and drinkin' beer. The cabin didn't have indoor facilities and many trips were taken to the outhouse in the back throughout the night. The idea of the Outhouse Queen grew and they were rollin' on the floor laughin' about it. They thought it would be right funny to see one of the local girls ridin' in the parade with a big pink sash and a tiara bein' just as royal as the real Clayborne County Fair Queen and all the others. She might even be in the papers and on TV herself.
Much to the boys' surprise the fair committee liked the idea and said that outhouses had always been an important part of the county history and it would be a way to honor the dying art of outhouse construction.
Our Millie never did really know how she ended up being chosen. They said she should be happy that they thought of her but she didn't quite understand that. Maybe they just ran out of girls or it might have been a joke. She knew that Pearlie Gates had yelled a resounding "no," and stomped away. What did it mean when you weren't even first choice for Outhouse Queen? She didn't really want to think about that much.
Big Mil got real excited and got the Romaine sisters who lived across the road to make a tiara and sash for Our Millie. It took some needle work to get all those words on the sash and they outdid themselves with the glitter which came off on Our Millie's white dress from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. The dress was really nice and since the catalogue was the reading material that Grandma had in her own outhouse it seemed appropriate that she found the dress there. The most artistic work of all was the toilet paper tiara the sisters fashioned with twisted strands of two ply forming a fancy crown. They used a large amount of glitter on it too, so it would shine like cubic zirconium. Our Millie did appreciate their work and it was a shame that half way through the parade it began to rain and globs of glittery toilet paper kept slipping down her face and into her eyes. Big Mil said it was a good thing she had the eight-by-ten glossy taken before the parade when Our Millie still looked so pretty.
When it was all over and things started getting back to normal Our Millie tried to forget it all. She came home from school one day and saw the eight-by-ten glossy proudly framed and sitting on the mantle. Big Mil left it there for all to see and kept braggin' about her girl the Fair Queen.
Our Millie looked at it for awhile and thought about leavin' home, but she hid in her room and read romance novels instead.