I went to the circus while it was in town a few weeks back

The Ringling brothers Barnum and Bailey circus to be exact, where their motto is The greatest show on earth.

It is a great show.

Everything from the lighting to the elephants to the cool motorcycle riders in the iron ball was pretty neat.

But a circus it wasn’t. Let me tell you about a circus.

When I was a kid in Vermont occasionally some rag tag excuse for a circus would  get hungry enough to think they could scrounge up a buck or two in the backwater town I lived in. It was usually an outfit that was either about to be bought out by a larger outfit or one that that was teetering on the brink of collapse.

Peta would have promptly gone into a spasm if it had seen the animals used by these circuses.

I remember one tent filled with what were supposed to be awe inspiring wild animals. One of which was a less than awe inspiring lion that looked half dead. More like a rug with a tail that listlessly waved at the flies buzzing around it than the king of the jungle.

And the elephants. They made the elephants actually work. They had to carry stuff around, pull wagons and help set up the big top. You haven’t really seen a circus until you’ve watched a few elephants carry the big top tent poles around and pull on ropes to raise the tents.

My point here is that the circuses I remember had equal elements of show biz, sleaze and danger. They were gaudy without being particularly pretty like a high wire trapezes artist with too much makeup and a pot belly.

These were events that were here in a field one day and hundreds of miles down road the next leaving only a steaming pile of elephant doo doo.

Under the tent you never really knew what was going to happen. The bleachers seemed rickety, the sawdust was in the air and the performers looked just a bit scary. Like they might at any moment revert back to axe murderers or bank robbers or whatever it is they did on the off season.

I always remember feeling like I was sort of voyeur at these shows, although I sure didn’t know that word. It’s just that the circus always seemed a little bit like forbidden fruit. Like you really shouldn’t watch but you couldn’t help it.

Not so the greatest show on earth. It was ok to see and safe as could be. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that it wasn’t like it was when I was a kid . Like a lot of things.

And maybe that’s  just the march of progress and I should be happy.

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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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