A minefield of gargantuan turds
The death of the circus a sad passage
I love the circus. Not the broken-down rides and rigged games variety like the Bill Lynch Show, but the flashy, lions, tigers, tightrope walkers and clowns of the three rings under the big top variety.
The first real circus I ever saw was the Clyde Baetty Circus, which came to town in the 1950s and set up at the old Prince Street Playground, about where Sobeys and Shoppers are today. I remember driving the Old Man nuts to take us to the circus to see real lions and elephants, something we had only seen in books in these pre-television days. I’m sure he didn’t have the money to buy tickets but he somehow put together a package of free tickets and coupons to get us there.
On the day of the show we were scrubbed and polished, dressed in our church clothes, and marched from Ashby to the playground. The excitement grew as we cut through the Brookfield Dairy lot and saw the gleaming white tent with hundreds of colourful flags waving in the breeze. The whole scene was magical and so was the show with the ring master in his red coat, the parade of animals and the clowns in their little exploding car. Then came the highlight, Clyde Beatty himself, climbed into a cage with the most wild looking lion we had ever seen, and, considering this was the first lion we had ever seen, I am not fibbing. We screamed every time the lion roared or swung his paw, but old Clyde was quick with the whip or the chair to ward off any danger.
The circus was all we could talk about the next week at school so the nuns finally im- posed a ban on circus talk until recess.
With this much excitement, you can imagine my disappointment when I read last week that the Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus was closing after 146 years. Another victim of changing tastes in entertainment and the rising costs of putting on such a large show.
Years later, Mike and I managed to get work at one of the circuses in return for free tickets. Our job was basically to make sure there was lots of water for the animals. The job wasn’t too bad until it came to the elephants. Elephants require 50 to 80 gallons of water a day, only some of which they actually drink. By show time we were soaked and bone tired when we were told we had one final job to do, clean up the elephant poop. I am no scatological expert but it is easy to calculate the larger the animal, the larger the poop. We were given shovels and garbage pails and were put to work. Everything was going fine until we heard a strange rumbling coming from one of the animals. Suddenly one of the carnies yelled “There she blows.”
What followed resembled a truckload of cabbages dumping its load. Mike and I found ourselves in the middle of a minefield of gargantuan turds while the perpetrator trotted away seemingly unconcerned.
We cleaned up the mess and spread sawdust as instructed, then headed for the water trough to get cleaned up. When we approached the head carnie for our free tickets he told us we couldn’t go in stinking as we were but he was kind enough to let us watch from the rear door.
I’m really going to miss the circus.
I’m just sayin’...