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Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

posted Jun 25, 2017, 3:13 PM by Viktor Zólyomi   [ updated Jun 25, 2017, 3:13 PM ]
The words `keep your friends close and your enemies closer' are synonymous with the idea of keeping a very close eye on your enemies in order to prevent them from doing you any harm. This is a meaning that the above phrase acquired over the decades, but when it came into being it stood for something quite different.

In the 1870s and 1880s the annual Con City Fair was a popular summer attraction in the community of Con County. Visitors would flock to the growing market town to purchase locally produced art and prize winning melons grown in the fields east of town, and also to participate in games. The most popular of these was the farting contest.

The competitors would prepare for the contest by eating elaborate meals comprising beans, onions, and various spices, cooked specifically for the event. After the meal they would stand in the middle of a crowd of thirty people within a circle marked with chalk on the ground. The contestants would then have one minute to drive as many people out of the circle as possible by farting.

By 1881 the contest was synonymous with the words `keep your friends close and your enemies closer.' The philosophy behind the strategy, as recorded in news articles of the era, was to use the contest to make one's enemies suffer as much as possible, if only for one minute. Yet it was essential to keep one's friends nearby as well, in case the contestant turned out to be so successful that their enemies decided not to abandon the circle but to converge upon them with intent of bodily harm.

The most successful contestant in the history of the fair was a man from Brickton named Kyle Willis. He won the farting contest in five consecutive years between 1879 and 1883. In 1884 he lost to a Con City born man called Alec Strong, who managed to drive everyone out of the circle in a record breaking seventeen seconds. `I guess my bowels are just that foul,' he said after claiming the trophy. When later he was seen celebrating in the company of the very people whom he ejected from the circle in the contest, many began to question whether he had adhered to the principle of keeping your enemies closer to you than your friends. Kyle Willis petitioned the organizers to disqualify Strong, but no one could prove any wrongdoing.

In 1884 the farting contest was won by Kyle Willis in a record breaking five seconds. While no one could prove that he had broken the unwritten rules of the game, the organizers saw it fit to put an end to the contest and from 1885 the Con City Fair went on without the infamous farting competition. The concept of keeping one's friends close and one's enemies closer survived the demise of the contest and lives on to this day, as does the memory of the violent beating Kyle Willis and Alec Strong both suffered at the hands of the disappointed attendees of the Con City Fair in 1885.