Posted by: patwogan | April 13, 2009

The Circus

I don’t know exactly how old I was when Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Independence.  I was probably seven or eight.  The circus travelled by rail and Daddy took me to town early in the morning to watch them unload.  I remember they set up in a field by the railroad tracks not too far from the depot.

It was so exciting to watch the roustabouts and the elephants set up the big tents.  The whole process was a confusing jumble of sights and sounds with the wild animals roaring and the men yelling.  I remember that I had never seen anything like it and thought it must be a glamorous life travelling from town to town.  It was show business!  I kind of made up my mind that when I grew up I would like to be a trapeze artist and wear beautiful costumes and travel all over the country with the circus.

 I am sure one reason Daddy took me to see the circus unload was that we really couldn’t afford the price of circus tickets and this was one way I could experience the circus atmosphere for free. 

Later that day we came back and we could afford the tickets to see the Side Show.  I remember the different people in the side show…the bearded lady, the fat lady, the wild man from Borneo, and last, but not least, the sword swallower.  It was the sword swallower to made the biggest impression on me.  He swallowed, not only swords, but a fire stick.  What a marvelous talent to entertain.  I didn’t know whether I could do it or not, but vowed to practice when I got home. 

Of course, I had to practice the acts I would do when I became a trapeze artist, too.  So I tried to stand on one leg in my swing and do other tricks like that.  I hung by my knees from the limb of the cedar tree in the front yard and just to perfect other tricks, I used a tea towel as a parachute and jumped off the high end of the front porch.  I practiced bowing and smiling and generally getting ready to become a star.

I also practiced sword swallowing.  I used a table knife as we didn’t have any swords available.  I put my head back just like the sword swallower did to make a straight path to my stomach  and started guiding the knife down my throat.  There was only one problem.  I gagged.  Each time I tried to swallow the knife, I gagged.  The knife was cold and my throat would not accept it.  I kept trying and I kept gagging.  My mother heard me and that was the end of my sword swallowing career. 

I imagine after a week or so of practicing to be a circus trapeze artist, something else must have captured my attention.  I guess I just didn’t have the stick-to-it-iveness to make it in show business.  Of course, a lack of talent might have also been the problem.


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