It takes a half village (at least) …

Americans love statistics. And even worse, they believe them.

Someone’s looking for a book to read. What to do? He could go in the library and skim a few books till he finds one that grabs him. But that’d take some time and effort. So he’ll check out the Times Best Seller list, because, hey, if it’s on that list, it’s got to be the best.

Or if in a poll of “select” nutritionists, Sugar Drex are declared the best breakfast cereal, you can bet little Biff and Babs are gonna be force-fed it till the cows come home.

Or maybe the latest TV diet guru states nine out of ten people who drank a quart of sauerkraut juice for lunch lost all their fat, effortlessly. An hour after that program’s over, there won’t be a drop of sauerkraut juice in any store in God’s green listening audience.

Of course if peeps had any exposure to critical thinking, before they believed anything, they’d want to examine how statistics were derived. A perfect example occurred in Tuesday’s Enterprise.

It was the result of an internet poll run from Feb. 6-13. The question was “Are you going to any Saranac Lake Winter Carnival events?” A mere 28 percent said Yes; 68 percent said No, 4 percent undecided.

So if you took the poll at face value, you’d assume carnival week in My Home Town would look less like Blue Line Party Central than a frozen ghost town. But if you actually wandered about during carnival you would’ve seen peeps at all the events, including the meshugges playing rugby at the high school or playing ice golf at the boat launch.

So what accounts for this discrepancy? I don’t know any of the subtleties, but the most obvious drawback of the poll was the number of respondents. The No votes totaled 190 people; the Yes votes were cast by 78 people. So the total number of folks chiming in made up a grand total of 6 percent of Saranac Lakers. If you take into account a bunch of the respondents may’ve come from out of town, the poll itself is meaningless when predicting how many folks would be taking in carnival events.

And if you’d been in town from the coronation to the final fireworks, you would’ve seen people everywhere, for everything. Not that it would’ve been a surprise.

Chaos on parade

I always used joke that it took half the town to put on Carnival. Now I’m not so sure it’s a joke. In fact, it may be an underestimate.

A systematic survey of the number of people involved in carnival is way beyond both my ken and energies, but even a cursory look tells me the number is huge. Add up how many folks it takes to put on the coronation, Rotary show, and parade (not counting the participants), and it’s considerable. Add the Ice Palace crew, the fry pan toss and torchlight skiing and the number climbs more. And we’re talking only people, not people-hours of work.

I have no idea of the Winter Carnival Big Picture, but since I indulge in a wee bit of the action, I’ve some idea of the effort involved in this undertaking. The “wee bit of action” I referred to is of course the Brothers of the Bush.

The Brothers are one of the smaller parade groups, but what we lack in numbers and forethought, we make up in enthusiasm and bungling. Still, it takes a lot of enthusiastic bungling – and enthusiastic bunglers — to get us in the parade itself.

It starts as soon as we know the theme. The theme I’m referring to is not the carnival’s, but ours. Sometimes they coincide (albeit loosely); other times they’re a couple of worlds apart. This year, while the carnival theme was Adirondack Wildlife, our theme was Adirondack Wild Thangs. And what does that mean, exactly? Good question, and one we’re still trying to figure out. And that’s to our advantage because given the freewheelers we have in the group, as long as the theme means something to everyone, they can figure out some sort of get-up to go with it.

As for a group logo for Adk Wild Thangs? We managed an image (note insert), which was then going to adorn a T-shirt. But the design was only one part — if it’s going on a T-shirt, it required attention of Greg Moore at Bear Essentials. He not only had to make the shirts, but he had to figure out the lettering and the layout.

Sartorial splendor dealt with, we had to move on to other B.o.B. Accessories, foremost among them our money. Every year we hand out Bubkes Bucks (bubkes is Yiddish for “nothing”). But as your parents told you repeatedly, money doesn’t grow on trees — not even phoney money. In our case, it’s drawn up by our official cartoonist, Mike Cochran. And since every year we feature two different members on the bill and a new theme, every year he has to think them up and then draw them up. And that’s the art itself — they still have to be copied to size, printed and cut. So the folks in Compass Printing’s services are called for.

OK, how about signs? Well, we have our group sign, which is eight-feet long and was made by the group woodworker and armorer, Russ Defonce. Beyond that, we always make a few signs for people to carry and when we do, the sign painters are me and Ron Burdick.

Then there’s the Brothers of the Bush Official Parade Day Headquarters. You know it by another name — Hyde’s Fuel. I mean, get real, you don’t think we’re going to be waiting around outside, do you? A guy could freeze his fadooli off doing that. A gal could freezer hers off, too. So, thanks to the generosity of Tommy Hyde, we get their office building to hang out in pre-parade. It’s positively sultanic – it’s warm, has a bathroom, coffee’s to our left at the Mobil, beer’s to our right at the Vet’s Club. The only drawback is our bagpiper Cam Anderson practices in there, but at this point our hearing is already shot, so what the hey.

This year we had some new licks, one of which was brought about by necessity: Bud Ziolkowski wanted to be with us, but his bum knee wouldn’t allow him to walk the route. What to do? Call on another brother, naturally, in this case Jack Drury. Bother Jack has a small trailer, which he offered as Bud’s transport. All we needed was a rocking chair (which Bro Ron contributed) and a couple of signs (“Never too old to rock” and “Rock steady and keep the fib paddles ready”) drawn up by you know who. Of course, we needed something to pull the trailer and Jack worked his marital magic so well his wife Phyliss allowed him to take her truck.

Arms and the Dope

Clausewitz, the famous military strategist, coined the phrase, “Fog of war.” Essentially, it means no matter how well any army plans, when in the midst of battle, all sorts of things not planned for go wrong. Had Clausewitz been a Saranac Lake townie, the phrase he would’ve coined would’ve been “Fog of Carnival parade.” Usually, something goes wrong just before the parade and this year was no exception.

Late Monday night of parade week I was jolted out of a deep sleep by a sudden idea — marshmallow guns! I didn’t know if such a thing even existed, nor did I have to, as long as Brother Russ is our armorer. Russ is one of those guys who not only helps out, but likes to help out. He’s always generous with his time and effort and was no less so with the marshmallow guns. I called him on Tuesday morning and asked him if he could come up with such a thing. He said he’d look into it, and knowing his competence I let it go at that.

On parade day he showed up with six of them made of PVC. I thanked him but he stopped me.

“We got a little problem here,” he said.

“Oh?” I said. “What is it?”

“I glued five of them and thought the glue fumes’d dissipate, but they didn’t.”

“Yeah? So?” I said.

“Well, I think the fumes may be enough to give the shooters a good buzz.”

“So whattya think we should do about it?” I asked.

“Simple,” he said. “I’ll take the unglued one and you can give the glued ones to the stoners.”

Which I did.

And I might add, exercising amazing self-control, the one I took didn’t have the most glue.