CIRCUS MEMOIRS
 
In Foreign Lands - 1

 

Our stay in Australia was marked with financial success as well as very pleasant business acquaintances with Australian people. They always extended us a hearty welcome. I never was in a country where they were as fond of athletic sports, horse racing, rowing, cricket, etc.


The bathing beaches of Australia had to be guarded by driving piles around them to keep the bathers out of the jaws of the sharks. On going up the coast of Australia on our way to Java we had some strange experiences. At one point, which was the land end of the cable, was a small settlement where people in the employ of the cable company lived, and at the time we were there, living out about half a mile, were quite a number of aborigines. The climate being very warm, they did not require much clothing, but when any of them had occasion to come into the station, they would take a coffee sack, cut a hole in the centre to push their head through, and holes in either corner for their arms, and with this for clothing they were permitted to come in. On their return they would loan it to another native, which usually kept it in use.


At a place called McKay, I remember one black chap coming down to our steamer wearing a brass plate about the size of half the head of a barrel, on the plate being engraved and inlaid with black letters: "Jimmie Strongstink, King of Patrick's Plains". It was hung around his neck by a chain, and was presented to him by some of the boys about town as a joke. But he would call attention to it and point to it with great pride.


There was a Mr. Robinson, a cannon ball performer, whom we heard of in Australia. They used to tell about his wonderful strength, etc. One of his tricks he used to do when he took offence at the people of the music halls where he was working. All the music they had was a piano, so when he was offended in any way, in the course of his act he would use one of the cannon balls to smash the piano, putting it out of business, he claiming it to be an accident.


At one time on our trip along the coast of Australia we had to wait for the tide to come in to get us over a bar. I asked if I could go ashore in the wilds to shoot a kangaroo and the captain consented, saying he would have the whistle blow every little while so I would not lose my direction. After being ashore awhile I shot a kangaroo and dragged it down to the steamer, where it was taken aboard. Everybody had a look at it. The captain finally ordered the men to take it back to the cook. Some of the women folks asked what was to be done with it, and he answered, "Cook it and eat it." They all exclaimed that they wouldn't eat it. He told them that it was very nice. The next night after dinner the captain and everybody were on deck and feeling very happy, when he asked them how they liked the dinner. They said very well. "How did you like the soup?" "Fine!" Then he told them it was kangaroo soup. So they had eaten kangaroo soup without knowing it.


On this trip we stopped at Cookstown, and the only ground we found large enough on which to erect our tent was down at the edge of the water. Our tent extended on the beach and before the performance was finished the tide had come in, and there were our seats standing in the water. It was my second experience of that kind. The other was at Shreveport, Louisiana, when the river was very low, and we erected our tents on the river bottom.


We gave a circus performance at Cookstown. Our troupe was made up of first class artists, but the only music we had was an old fashioned hand organ. It was really comical to see it, but everybody seemed to enjoy it.


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