Fair Tales: Sharp eyes, persistence pay off in mullet hunt

Got one: Sandy Davis stamps the hand of Arthur Slaughter of Pratt, Kan., on Monday. Davis' group took part in a mullet hunt, tracking down people sporting mullet hairdos at the Iowa State Fair.

"These are the rules for the mullet hunt," Sandy Davis announces to the six other women, her pink "Mullet Hunters" shirt catching curious glances from the people around her. "Then we'll get going."

The rules are simple and to the point.

1. Find the mullet.

2. Verify. The mullet must be three times longer out back than up top, and it must extend from the bottom of the hair.

3. Get the mullet man's (or woman's) name. Record it in the team's official Mullet notebook.

4. Mark the target. Use the Homer Simpson "Mmmm Mullet!" stamp to ensure this mullet cannot be used by the opposition.

5. Return in one hour to crown a Mullet Champion.

Kim Burch, happily drinking vodka and Kool-Aid, starts frantically clapping her hands.

"Come on, come on, come on, let's go, come on!"

That's the signal.

The women ready themselves.

Strangers stare.

Mullets beware.

"All right, let's go girls!"


Team One - Sandy, Michelle Eaton and 19-year-old daughter Anna Eaton - hurry into the State Fair crowd.

"To beat them," Sandy says as she scans people for mullets, "we probably need four."

They head into the Varied Industries Building, past people selling cookies and cleaning supplies and food and furniture.

They swivel their heads.

They search.


"Where are the mullets?" Michelle asks.

They head outside, take a left . . .


There's a mullet 5 feet away.

Michelle and Anna stop. Sandy barrels forward.

"Ma'am, excuse me," she says, interrupting a conversation. "We're the mullet patrol. We're in competition with another team. Can we take your picture?"

The woman looks stupefied, but Sandy explains that her team has an hour to beat the other mullet hunters.

“Sure,” the woman says, though she doesn't sound at all sure.

“First we have to mark your hand so the other team can't use you,” Sandy says.

The woman reluctantly agrees.

“Don't worry!” Sandy screams as she simultaneously smiles, pulls the woman toward her and readies the stamp.

The snap of the camera makes it official.

Seven minutes.

One mullet.

And the lead.


Team Two can't find a mullet.

“Where are they hiding today?” asks Angela Davis, Sandy's daughter, five minutes into the competition.

Maybe under that man’s cowboy hat.

Kim, clutching her spiked Kool-Aid, runs over, asks him, checks.


Maybe that man across the street.

Nope. Not long enough.

Marty Scarpino knows they're somewhere.

They have to be.

“Cattle barns, that’s where the mulletheads are,” he says confidently.

Into and out of a restaurant serving smoked beef sandwiches to folks sporting normal hairdos.

“It's like finding a mullet in a haystack,” Kim says.

The worry deepens.

For Team Two — Kool-Aid-sipping Kim, Sandy's Bud Light-swilling daughter Angela, Marty and his girlfriend, Deena — the always-ubiquitous mullet has suddenly become elusive.

Into the sure-to-have-mullets horse barn.

“How about the horse? Does that horse have a mullet?”

Angela is getting desperate.

A man on a ladder is hammering nails into a stall at the exit of the horse barn.

“Sir, we happen to be on a mullet hunt,” Angela says, using her best manners. “Have you seen any mullets going this way?”

“No, not that I noticed,” he replies, befuddled.

“Thanks," she says, hurrying on.

Thirteen minutes. Not one mullet.

Worry becomes panic.

Isn’t this the Iowa State Fair?


Filled with confidence — Team One has five mullets in 30 minutes — the women spot a group of men watching a high-dive act.

“We got a mullet!” Michelle screams.

They shoot into the crowd.

Sandy arrives first. Michelle and Anna arrive seconds later.

For a moment, they stare.

Five men.

Two mullets.

“Niiiice,” Michelle crows.

Sandy taps the first man on the shoulder. She explains their mission.

The man shakes his head. No.

She tries again.


His friends look at the her nervously, but none seems more nervous t
than Arthur Slaughter, his mullet like a bull's-eye on his back.

Sandy goes to him next.

“Oh man,” he says, after she's explained the stamp, the photo, the race against time.

“Pleeeease,” she says.

A pause.

“I guess.”

The women smile, pose, stamp and move on, leaving Arthur scratching his head and his friends laughing.

“This is crazy,” he says.

The Mullet Patrol hurries away.


Team Two spots it 20 minutes into the game.

Business up top, party out back.

Kim sprints toward the man and his mullet.

“We're having a mullet contest and —”

“No, I don’t got no hair up above,” he interrupts, removing his John Deere hat.

“I think you have a little bit of a mullet,” Kim says.

He waves his hands emphatically. A signal that means "go away."

Instead, Kim chases him for a good 20 feet.

“No, no, no, no,” he insists, and walks away.

“It was a mullet, no doubt,” she says sullenly, watching the one that got away.

Team One must be winning.

They must be.

Then, a breakthrough.

One gen-u-ine mullet, straight ahead.

“Can we have our picture taken with you?” Kim asks Steve LaRue of Muscatine, an innocent man in line for a drink.


“But we're on a scavenger hunt, please, you're our first one!!!”

Kim doesn't mention the “M” word. LaRue, a confused look crossing his face, relents.

Now they tell him it's a mullet contest.

“What's a mullet?” LaRue asks as he walks away.

What's a mullet? A Tennessee waterfall. An ape drape. A mud flap.

The very thing these ladies have been searching for, and now, at last, the floodgates open.

They spot one on a fair food employee riding a golf cart. The third comes 30 minutes into the competition. Then a 9-year-old Des Moines girl. Then a school bus driver. Then a carnival worker.

It’s raining mullets.


Team One lollygags back to the beer tent, smiling, laughing, feeling good.

Seven mullets.

Gotta be a winner.

Gotta be.

“How many did you get?” Kim yells.

“How many did you get?” Sandy yells back, smiling.

No answer.

“Seven,” Sandy says proudly.

Kim pauses. She thinks. She jumps up and down.

“Yeeeeeesssssss!” she screams.

Sandy stops smiling as Kim giddily squeals, “We got 12!”

Sandy looks dejected.

“I thought we were good,” she says quietly.

Her daughter comes over.

“Don't worry, we're just getting started.”

Sandy smiles again. The day is young, the fair is filling and the mullets are many.

Time to go again.