Patrolling the fair from on high
Different jobs require different horses. Bob Anderson knows that better than anyone.
For his cross-country trip on horseback in 1996, he needed one that had endurance. He found it in an Arabian named Coach. It brought him from his home in rural Kandiyohi all the way to his brother's place in Pinedale, Wyo.
This year, for his 12 days of mounted security patrol at the Minnesota State Fair, he needs one that can handle the crowds. He has that in Piper, a 16-year-old mare.
"I believe she'd ride the Ferris wheel if they had a place for her," he said.
This year will mark Anderson's eighth trip back to the fair as part of a group of 20 mounted security guards. For the nearly two weeks of the fair, they'll roam the grounds -- watching from on high for pickpockets, visitors in need of directions and fair personnel in need of assistance.
Anderson, a retired Willmar High School industrial technology teacher, said he learned of the mounted patrol from his friend Lee Johnson, also of rural Kandiyohi. Since then, he's been making his annual pilgrimage to St. Paul.
Save for the occasional car break-in, the fair is relatively crime-free, said Anderson.
"We used to get a lot of fence jumpers, but we don't see that much anymore," he said. "Kids today have money."
So his time is spent mainly helping the fair run smoothly -- assisting with moving and parking livestock trailers and helping visitors find their vehicles.
But they work long hours. Anderson said that a typical day lasts from noon to around 10 p.m. And they don't head home afterward, but camp on the grounds.
"By the end of the fair, you're tired, boy," he said.