"to see the world in a grain of sand...." William Blake
"Carthage is a city in Jasper County, Missouri, United States. The population was 14,378 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Jasper County and is nicknamed "America's Maple Leaf City."
Bright and early Saturday morning, we find ourselves just west of the courthouse square in Carthage, Missouri. The sun has not yet risen behind the courthouse and the color guards and veterans' floats are in deep and chilly shadow. In front of us is a snazzy old Ford in up to date paint and behind us is the Cabool Marching band, warming up their horns, rocking some fanfares and showing more energy than I would expect considering how early they must have hit the road. Our hosts are putting the finishing touches on their float entries, taping up signs and filling the milk pails of candy that will soon be handed to importuning sweet tooths.
I get the lowdown on this event from one of the locals:
1) the parade will take two and one half hours start to finish.
2) there are more than 300 entries.
3) it always takes place this weekend in October, whether or not the Maple Leaves that are the erstwhile draw cooperate or not.
Then she takes me aside and in an act of infinite courtesy, asks if I'd like to walk over to the Post Office and use the restroom.
If you want a windshield survey of small town America, join a parade. Choose your basic components: a courthouse square, a color guard, a marching band, a grand marshal, a little miss and mister, elected officials and/or candidates more or less, church floats, school floats, local business floats.....and dance academies and emergency vehicles galore. Leaven your parade with any combination of Shriners' entertainment...I particularly enjoy the train, the bandwagon, and especially the calliope. The shortest parade I know of takes place close to home: two blocks south and two blocks west in length, but even it boasts riders of two wheeled and four legged saddles both.
As we neared the Middle school, the very first of the marching bands started straggling past us, headed in the opposite direction. We rode back to the beginning of the parade, followed by a convertible containing a tattooed biker, a guy in a University of Northern Iowa sweatshirt and two well coiffed members of the local theater group.