I’m convinced my memory is accurate regarding my baby sister’s reign as Pork Princess (no reflection on her petite frame) for the annual Dairy Festival Parade in our hometown. She insists she was some other kind of princess—name a farm product. Silage Princess? I don’t think so. 

What is it about small towns? Novelists count on the similarities when they create their stories. A small town will have its unique quirks. A Dairy Festival may be Armadillo Days in some other locale. But there will be a park and a creek and a kindly postmistress and a plank-floored grocery store and a pamphlet thin newspaper and a gathering spot.

Whether the trees are birch or magnolias; the soil black, red, or sandy; the crops corn, wheat, or oil…a small town is a small town.

In the one our family called home for many years when we were kids, Dairy Fest meant marching in the band (our dad was the band director), working on the 4H float, and counting the princesses.

Each princess, dignitary, and parade marshal rode in the back seat of a slick, newly car-washed convertible, driven ever so slowly by an acutely focused driver trying to avoid the pockmarks left by the equestrian team and the rodeo club earlier in the parade. On the doors of the convertible a fabric sign announced: Pork Princess, Alice in Dairyland, Mayor, Parade Marshal, Cheese Curd Princess, FFA Princess, Alfalfa Princess.

But a small town like ours didn’t have many convertibles. It had, in fact, one.

So the Pork Princess made her way down the parade route. At the end, she was booted out, a new sign hung, and another sash-wearing princess hopped into the backseat for the mad dash through the side streets to the beginning of the parade route so Miss Cheese Curd’s convertible could fall into step behind the junior high band and the American Foreign Legion. The procedure was repeated until the one shiny convertible had transported all the dignitaries and dairy-related princesses through the route past the waving crowd.

It’s a memory we laugh about now, in an endearing way.

A parade is supposed to “pass by,” not cycle through again and again. The town made do, in those days. But the same convertible making another pass turned the car into the focus, rather than the dignitary or person it carried.

What are people noticing in our lives? The person we are or the recurring vehicle of our past pain? Have we recycled our regrets so many times they’re all anyone knows about us? “Oh, there she is—the one with the history of horrible childhood abuse.” “I know him—the guy who spent most of his youth in juvenile detention.” “She’s the one whose husband left her while she was giving birth to their child, right?”

Does the “sash” that introduces us rehearse our brokenness and point to the recycled convertible that carries us the length of the parade route then circles around to the start again? Or does it announce, “Child of the One True King. Redeemed. Mended. Free!”?

And all who see them will recognize that they are a people blessed by God,” -- Isaiah 61:9b Common English Bible


Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, speaking for women’s events and retreats, writers’ events and retreats, nonfiction books and devotionals, drawing from 33 years of on-air radio ministry. Her books have been recognized by RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Retailers’ Choice Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and Carol Award nominations, among other honors, including a Family Fiction Readers’ Choice Award.

As of 2014, she has a total of eight books on the shelves, including four with Abingdon Press, and has more contracted for 2015 and beyond.

She and her plot-tweaking husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.

Find Cynthia on the web at CynthiaRuchti.com.

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