In 1897 lightening struck a center pole on the Ringling bigtop, erected in North Dakota. Several workingmen died. As always, that night the show moved on.
We all know that on some level the circus and the carnival are about the stories that we tell. The oral traditions of a sometimes insular traveling society. The jackpots of a subculture. And when we stand around sharing our stories there are always characters that pop up with names like Cowboy, or Indian Phil, or Mad Dog, or in a place like Lucerne Valley, California, certainly Hog Jaw.
The heroes and the goofs.
That these same names are less often mentioned when we talk about the history of this outdoor amusement business doesn’t diminish their contribution. In a discussion of history we recall acts and owners, promoters and trainers, the guys who run phone rooms, or paint trucks – but by no means should that suggest that somebody on a tent crew or shoveling dung is any less important. The act that earns $3000 a week may love the circus. The man or woman making a small fraction of that and doing it for twenty years loves it no less.
The jags, the majordomos, the batmen, the heavy-lifters who make a life of it…
Invaluable, dear friends.
Two weeks feeling miserable, now I understand why people get flu shots. Anyway, that’s over now. Yesterday walking up the steep hills in Ithaca I managed to cough up the worst of the crap in my lungs, and today I actually felt like a full-fledged human being again.
BJ Hebert drove up to Hugo from Goree, TX and reports that at the Culpepper WQ Scott Moss is busy getting the trucks ready for 2010. There’s work on the seat wagon to be done, and another new floor for the candy wagon, but before Christmas most everything will be prepared for another season.
In recent years I’ve spent time in New York State with Carson & Barnes and Kelly Miller, seen some great towns booked by guys like Jim Mead in Owego – but driving around central New York and northern PA it amazes me just how many towns that were once regular stops for Wayne Franzen, or extended KM tours in New York, but there are others that haven’t seen a tented show in ten years. And not just small towns. Carson and Barnes comes to the northeast only now and then, and in recent years Mr. North’s Kelly Miller moves through the state quickly on the trek from New England into Ohio. Everybody knows how complicated the regulatory picture is in New York, though it’s certainly no worse than California… but regulation alone isn’t a great explanation for why New York seems to have fallen off the map when shows still play Michigan annually season after disappointing season in the likes of the Thumb. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that there are thirty days of goof outdoor dates in New York and the northern tier of PA. What I don’t know is if anybody will ever book and play them.