Charlotte's Web

Sep 1, 2017

This is the time of year for Maine’s agricultural fairs.

Today's segment isn't a poem, but an excerpt from E.B. White’s classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web. It’s a scene where Charlotte (the spider) has decided to accompany Wilbur (the pig) to the Fair Grounds. Since E.B. White lived in Brooklin, I think of this fair as being modeled on the Blue Hill Fair, and think of this passage every time I’m eating there.

From Charlotte’s Web
by E.B. White

Just then Charlotte interrupted.

“I shall go, too,” she said, softly. “I have decided to go with Wilbur. He may need me. We can’t tell what may happen at the Fair Grounds. Somebody’s got to go along who knows how to write. And I think Templeton better come, too—I might need somebody to run errands and do general work.”

“I’m staying right here,” grumbled the rat. “I haven’t the slightest interest in fairs.”

“That’s because you’ve never been to one,” remarked the old sheep. “A fair is a rat’s paradise. Everybody spills food at a fair. A rat can creep out late at night and have a feast. In the horse barn you will find oats that the trotters and pacers have spilled. In the trampled grass of the infield you will find old discarded lunch boxes containing the foul remains of peanut butter sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cracker crumbs, bits of doughnuts, and particles of cheese. In the hard-packed dirt of the midway, after the glaring lights are out and the people have gone home to bed, you will find a veritable

treasure of popcorn fragments, frozen custard dribblings, candied apples abandoned by tired children, sugar fluff crystals, salted almonds, popsicles, partially gnawed ice cream cones, and the wooden sticks of lolly-pops. Everywhere is loot for a rat—in tents, in booths, in hay lofts—why, a fair has enough disgusting left-over food to satisfy a whole army of rats.”

Templeton’s eyes were blazing.

“Is this true,” he asked, “Is this appetizing yarn of yours true? I like high living, and what you say tempts me.”

Excerpt from Charlotte’s Web, HarperTrophy,
copyright © 1952, 1980 E. B. White.
Reprinted by permission of Martha White.