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Monday, May 12, 2008 

Internet still down...

May 10th. Horton, KS. 70 miles. Gravel lot. Rain, wind. Poor advance sales.

And so we reach Kansas where the middle west meets the real west. When the show leaves Kansas for Colorado we will have ascended into the High Plains five thousand feet above the river banks of southern Missouri.

The west is the land of high grass circuses comfortable on the sparse lots of the prairie. Culpepper was born for the high grass country, conceived in the imaginations of performers who cut their teeth working Big John Strong’s famed high grass show. CM is most at home in the west.

But the greatest of the western shows wasn’t a high grass circus at all… The west was the land of Sells-Floto, a railroader born in Denver and for twenty years comfortable in the stretch between the Texas tablelands and the sleepy town of Los Angeles in California. Later Sells-Floto would join the great circuses that called Peru, Indiana home, but before that it owned the Plains, sharing Montana rail crossing only grudgingly with easterners. Only George Christy’s Texas based Christy Bros Circus of the 1920’s and Al. G Barnes’s great California wild animal circus were equally comfortable in big sky country.

Horton was probably the worst day we’ve had since Waldo, Arkansas. We’ve entered a state where fuel is nearly $4.65 a gallon. The good days needs to outnumber the bad ones.

Have been thinking all day about imagination and role it plays in how we look at any show. On one day, with sufficient imagination even the most threadbare of circuses can appear to be magic. Without that imagination it’s just a ragbag sitting in the rain. Fiften years ago a British writer named Geoff Ryman revisited the OZ story in a novel called WAS. In Ryman’s tale Dorothy Gale is a bitter, bully of girl living in abject poverty in a cruel Kansas, escpaing into an OZ of her own imagination and despising the world she lives in when she can no longer make that leap as she outgrows childhood. Last night a little boy dragged his grandmother out of the tent saying, “I want to see the rest of the circus.” I wanted to tell him, there is no circus outside of the tent, outside of the ring – everything else is just equipment and flash. The ring inspires our imagination and gives a luster to the rest of it. Walking around Horton today with its empty storefronts I thought of Dorothy Gale and her dreary Kansas, and her imagination and the weariness that’s overcome my own this week. The circus is the circus. People falter and fail.

Culpepper has reentered its native territory.