Sunday, September 21, 2008 -- Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

Tomorrow, Monday, at about 10:44am CDT, the sun crosses the equator and begins it's 6 month journey around the southern hemisphere. Known as the day of the autumnal equinox, it marks the first day of autumn, which, of course, also marks the first day of the long slide on the ice-covered slippery slushy slope into winter. The day is especially important here in Beaver Dam where the town pretty much comes to a stop so everyone has an opportunity to celebrate (or mourn) in their own unique way.

Down at Chili Johns diner they have an egg-balancing contest. Local lore has it that on the equinox, especially at the exact moment the sun passes directly over the equator, it's possible to balance an egg on it's point. Everyone knows that this is an easier feat to accomplish during the Spring equinox, but that doesn't stop large crowds from trying in the Fall. Besides, it's good for business and Chris, the owner, provides prizes for anyone who can actually accomplish it. The local newspaper has a reporter/photographer on hand to catch the moment and people, supporters and naysayers alike, from all over Dodge County are straining to see through the crowd filling the diner and plugging the doorway.

Last year, just prior to the moment of the equinox, every seat at the lunch counter was occupied and each contestant had an egg personally selected from the flat of eggs delivered fresh that very morning. As the moment grew close each was getting a "feel" for their egg and straining to stand it, point down, on the counter so it would balance for the necessary 5 seconds required by the rules. The countdown began, courtesy of Clem Miller from Clem Miller's Jewelry Store (the home of the most accurate watches in Dodge County). The entire diner was silent... not a sound except for the countdown. At the precise equinoxial moment, the very second the sun broke through into the southern hemisphere, there were, amazingly, three eggs that, in fact, were standing on their points in clear violation of every law of gravity and balance known to man. The crowd let out a collective gasp as the reporter/photographer's finger searched for the shutter button on his camera. But fate and verbal reports of feats of impossibility are what legends and lore are made of, and that documentary photograph was not to be. No, before the shutter was pressed, Chris's old refrigerator compressor kicked in, giving a little shake to the entire building... just enough to un-balance the heretofore erect eggs which went down and rolled around the counter to the dismay of everyone in the place. A photograph was made but revealed only images of blurry eggs and the frightful disbelieving faces of the contestants. A collective "Ohhhhhh Nooooo" went through the room as smiles and laughter began to slowly emerge. The tension was gone in a blink and the room filled with loud verbal instant-replays.

Chris made a mental note to turn off the fridge next year and, as consolation, everyone got a free cup of coffee with a purchased breakfast. The eggs that failed to stand were the first ones in the pan. The story spread far and wide, and this year, I'm sure, contestants and gallery alike will be camping out overnight in front of the Chili Johns cafe for a front-row spot at what's promised to be a sure thing.

See you there.



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