maybe I should call it a blowup…as that’s exactly what happened.
was playing the Stutsman
County Fair in Jamestown, North Dakota, back in the spring of
1971. It was my first fair after leaving Florida. My next spot
would take me into Canada. I was showing one of my uncles Giant
Steers and was setup across from the grandstand. We didn’t stake
down the 20’ x 24’, red & white show barn back then. If a storm
came up, we’d park the horse trailer on one side of the barn and
the pickup on the other and throw a rope over the barn and
tie-it-off on the vehicles.
After setting up and bedding the steer, I headed to the camper, a
9 foot cab-over unit that slid into the bed of the pickup, for
some shut eye. During the night the camper started to rock
violently as the wind picked up. Jarred awake, my first thought…I
had to get the barn tied down. Quickly slipping on my
jeans, I jumped out of the camper. Gawd, it was blowin’ up a
storm. Before I got the rope out of the trailer it started
raining. Then the hail hit and the wind kicked up a notch. There I
stood in the dark, drenched to the bone, pelted by hail, holding
the rope in one hand and helplessly watching as the barn
shuttered, levitated eight or nine feet into the air, and rocketed
off toward the grandstand. As it increased altitude I thought it
just might clear the grandstand and set down in one piece on the
Clipping the top few inches of the grandstand at 30 or 40 mph it
exploded, scattering parts and pieces across the infield.
The steer was still standing in his pipe pen, his straw bedding
had blown away. The teaser tarp was tied to the front of the pen
(a 10’ x 6’ tarp that allowed the fair-goers to see the steer’s
back from out front, enticing them into paying the small admission
to see the mammoth bovine). The wind was blowing so hard by this
time that the completely horizontal, flapping tarp was actually
dragging the metal pen across the gravel parking lot. The steer,
acting like this was an everyday occurrence, was walking along
trying to keep up with his pen.
dropped the rope and ran over and cut the tarp free. Opening the
pen, I lead the steer to the closest safe haven, the cattle barn.
first light I began to realize the size and power of the storm.
Rides, shows, and trailers were turned over and laid there looking
as if they’d been in a demolition derby. There was little to save
from the Giant Steer barn. The metal frame was so bent and twisted
it had been reduced to scrap. The plywood was busted and
splintered. Only the barn door was salvageable.
However, the steer was safe.
The truck and trailer were undamaged except for some hail dings.
All I needed was another barn and I would be back in business.
Then my help quit…
problem, I’ll run the show by myself.
called my uncle and told him what has happened. He said he had a
spare barn. It was new and had a couple coats of red paint but the
front had not been lettered. That’ll work. I’ll letter it when I
get to Canada. I located a farm where I could board the steer for
a couple days. My uncle would drive north from Florida and I’d
head south. We would meet up at a truck stop in St Louis, transfer
the new barn to my trailer and I would head back north to round up
The following week, I arrived at my first spot in Canada a day
I’m in the horse trailer hand-lettering the front panels of the
new barn as rain leaks in through the air vents and the back
“See BOZO, the World’s Largest Steer”
“10,000 Hamburgers on the Hoof”
Finally getting the barn set up, I was standing back admiring my
lettering the first day of the fair and noticed the Z in BOZO was
quickly realized what had happened. Working in the tight, leaking
quarters of the horse trailer, I had mistakenly turned the
pattern for BOZO upside down in my haste to compete the lettering.
You couldn’t tell the other letters were upside-down, they looked
no different right-side-up or upside-down…but the Z looked
backwards. I don’t remember anyone asking about the upside-down
Z... maybe they thought we painted it backwards on purpose!
ShowBiz…you gotta love it.
Image - Rick West
with Bozo the World's Largest Steer.
patterns…the lettering design is laid out on Kraft paper and the
outline of the letters are traced with the pounce wheel. The teeth
on the wheel punch tiny holes along the edge of the letters. The
pattern can then be laid over any surface you wish to transfer the
design to and taped in place. Using baby powder or ground charcoal
in an old sock you dab along the perforated lines transferring the
lettering to the piece you wish to paint. Pounce patterns can be
reused numerous times.
All stories are the property of
Sideshow World & their respective authors. Any republication in
part or in whole is strictly prohibited. For more information
contact us here
Back to the
Good Old Days
Back to Main