CIRCUS MEMOIRS
Early Ventures - 2

 

The tents were up, I had food for the horses, and back of the side show I was cooking breakfast for the side show people, when I was approached by a gentleman who informed me that he was Mr. Cooper. I introduced myself, stating that I had bought Mr. Norman out. He in return said that Mr. Norman had no right to sell to us. We discussed the matter and left each other with the understanding that we would settle it another time. On leaving he said: "I do not want you to keep your horses on the show lot; they don't look well and you might get the habit of giving them our feed."


I could appreciate the remark fully, as to the show our horses would make, but I would hardly have slipped them his hay. So here in Paris, Kentucky, (Paris is in Bourbon County, Kentucky, where the Bourbon whiskey gets its name. The excuse I once heard made why the town remained small was that the ground was too valuable to build on), was my first introduction to the show business, as well as my first dollar in this business. We were routed through Kentucky in every county, showing each day, usually at the county seats.
I found this business congenial and the opportunities for making money looked good to me in my new field.


My army life had a great deal to do with my being able to adapt myself so readily to the inconveniences and emergencies to overcome in this life. I took to it like a young duck to a pond.


I was so well contented for the forty-two years that I followed this business that I did not look for another. This is surprising, considering that up to the time I bought into this side show I had never visited one. Some of my friends had misgivings as to my venture remarking that I would not find the people in it to my liking. On the contrary, I found them honorable men in all transactions, their word being as good as a bond, and first class, reliable business men.


Leaving Kentucky we crossed the Ohio river, and our route took us through Indiana, Illinois and into Missouri, showing in St. Louis the first week of July. I remember this very well, as the great race of the steamboats Robert E. Lee and Natchez was finished at St. Louis at this time, the Robert E. Lee winning. The crowd was so great at the levee to see the finish that our tents were deserted that day. We moved on up into Iowa and Minnesota, then down through Arkansas and Louisiana. Unfortunately, while at Rayville, Louisiana, Mr. Whitby, while taking tickets at the door, was shot, getting into a dispute with a desperado, who insisted on passing without a ticket. It was a most wilful murder. This was a very sad affair and cast a gloom over the party, or circus family.
The show moved on, crossing the Mississippi river to Vicksburg, Mississippi. We made a few more stands, closing at Okalona, Mississippi, for the season, shipping the outfit to Louisville, Kentucky, where it wintered. Madame Lake, of Cincinnati, was starting a show and I made arrangements to take the concert and side show with her. We put in the winter showing in the South, getting as far as Florida, closing a fairly successful season.
With arrangements for the next season, we routed through the West, around Denver, Colorado, taking in the gold and silver mining towns; then into Utah, where we were the first circus to show, the price being one dollar, with side show and concert fifty cents. While here Brigham Young attended the circus. We had a very pleasant chat together and I found him a highly intelligent old gentleman who had come into this desert and accomplished wonders.


We left our railroad cars at Salt Lake City, putting the outfit on hired wagons, and toured the small towns around to a very satisfactory business. Working back toward home we closed the season at Cincinnati.


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