By Karl Terry
The sharp blast of a whistle immediately silenced the tent and the barking ringmaster directed attention to the ring in the center. The circus was in town.
Traditional circuses are quickly going the way of the rotary desk phone and the Do Do bird. Touring circuses packing their own big top from one small town to the next are few and far between these days. When one does pull into town it’s often a rip-off that leaves you feeling cheated. Not so with the Carson & Barnes Circus.
I’ve been a part of several clubs that sponsored Carson & Barnes in other cities and when I heard they were coming to Portales I wanted to go to the circus again.
Two of the three college students working in my office confessed this was the first circus they had ever experienced; Quite a difference from my experience back when I was almost too young to remember it. I’m not sure but the first one I remember was probably before I ever started school.
My grandparents lived just north of the fairgrounds and when the circus came to town we noticed it immediately. We could sit on the swing set and get a good view of what was going on across the road. Just seeing those brightly colored tents put my imagination in overdrive.
On set up day my grandmother took me over to check things out I remember wanting to make sure I kept a safe distance from the elephants and I recall being even more fascinated by the first live llama I had ever seen. It seems Dr. Doolittle had misled me a bit because llamas only have one head.
That night at the circus I was excited to start with the noise, the sights the smells, three rings — it was just too much to keep up with. The strongest memory of the night was when they brought all those elephants under that tent with us. To my young eyes the beasts seemed to be in full stampede, though I’m sure to an adult “lumbering” described the action better.
As the lead elephant neared my side of the tent I seem to remember searching for a way to get underneath the bleachers. The dust in the tent was swirling, the spotlights were chasing and the brass band blared — it was all too much for my preschool brain.
There have been fewer elephants every time I go to the circus. But I guess if you or I were paying a circus fuel and hay bill we might be hauling a few less pachyderms ourselves.
As the excitement and fun continued non-stop and the kids in the bleachers around me laughed and stared in disbelief at what they were seeing in person I didn’t see any of them looking to crawl beneath the bleachers. I am thankful that showmanship is still alive and clinging to life under the big top.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org