CIRCUS MEMOIRS
 
In Foreign Lands - 3

 

In going up the coast of Australia the natives would pull out into the ocean in little log dug-outs, come as near to the ship as they felt was safe, and cry out to us to throw them tobacco. The captain always threw them food, such as a leg of mutton or meat of some sort, but they never seemed to care for anything except tobacco.


It was very interesting to see them throw the boomerang. I left that country under the impression that they were the only people who could do it, but I have since seen people employed by me stand on the stage, throw them over the audience and have them return to them with more precision than shown by the Australians.


We get our eucalyptus tree, which is so plentiful in California, from Australia. It is surely a great asset to that country, as it is a fast grower, a hard wood, and of many varieties. The tree sheds its bark instead of its leaves.


While there are many birds with beautiful plumage in Australia, there are very few, if any, song birds.


While in Australia I never heard of or saw a snake.


We found Van Deeman's Land, now called Tasmania, a very fine island. Its name was changed in order to lose its former identity as a penal colony.
New Zealand is a very beautiful land. It has beautiful harbors and attractive cities, with a fine climate.


When in Lima, Peru, on Sunday afternoon Mr. Bailey and I attended the bull fight, never having attended one. After the matador had killed several I remarked to Bailey that I would like to see the bull get the best of it one time and I had scarcely finished saying the words until the bull had the people's idol down on the ground horning him in good shape. The audience in turn applauded the bull.


We chartered a sailing ship named the "Golden Sea" and sailed from Auckland, New Zealand, to Peru, South America, and were for fifty-four days out of sight of land. We were surely glad when we reached Callao.
After being out for about a week on this voyage, the elephant, which I have already mentioned, ate a box of sulphur matches which one of the men had left carelessly near him, and died the next day. We threw the carcass overboard. We learned afterwards that the tides carried it back to Auckland, where the people concluded that we had been shipwrecked. We certainly experienced some very severe weather. We were in one storm in which fourteen ships were lost along the coast, but, luckily, we pulled through.
I remember we had a couple of sea lions on board, and after our fish were consumed we had nothing to feed them. We thought they would only eat fresh fish, but soon found that by running the thread off of a linen spool, which was used to sew on spangles, and letting that fly from the rear of the ship for a couple of hundred yards, the gulls and Cape pigeons and albatross would get tangled up in it, when we would pull them on board and feed them to the sea lions. As the birds had a fishy flavor the sea lions would eat them, and by this means we kept the sea lions alive until we reached port.


The hotels in South America seemed very strange to us. Of course, on account of giving night performances, we were always late in returning to the hotel. We found that the doors opened outward. The hotels were generally located on the second floor, with large steps leading up to them. The porter would sleep at the head of the stairs in a cot, with a strong cord, one end of which was attached to the door knob and the other end to his big toe. Upon any one opening the door the cord pulling on his toe would awaken him.
I have spoken of James Robinson being a great rider in his day, but I must not lose sight of the fact that no man can be a grand rider without a grand horse. Then, when he has a grand horse, he must also have a person who understands it, to follow the horse around with a whip in his hand, "Keeping the horse up ", as it is termed. He must start with the right foot first, as the rider cannot ride him if he is running what is termed "False". Often it is necessary to put rosin on the back of the horse, which sometimes makes the horse's back sore. Naturally, when the rider attempts to throw a summersault, or do some other trick, the horse flinches, which tends to throw the rider off.


I have nothing but good words for circus people. They are kind hearted and always willing to aid each other when in distress or trouble. It is surprising how little drinking is done in the circus.


It is strange how easily a person can get into extravagant habits. I have seen some of the performers go along with the show, earning, I will say to illustrate, one hundred dollars per week, and with no one to provide for, and I have seen those same people go to a man who was earning, perhaps, only forty dollars a month, and borrow money from him; then stay in his debt the whole season.


It is strange how men's lines fall. In the army I was where the military bands and bugles and fifes were always playing. From the army I went into the circus business, where we were always with music. Then I got into a line of business where the principal thing was to make people laugh, to entertain them and amuse them, as well as to instruct them. I don't feel that I ever got a dollar by making people feel badly, and as I look back now, I am much pleased to know it. Sometimes, perhaps, they may not have thought they had the worth of their money, but I think that was because we are all of different minds.


Sometimes we would do things and say things which would make us laugh among ourselves. I remember one time when Kohl and I, and a man by the name of Morton, talked of leasing the Columbia Theatre in Chicago. Morton was managing it at that time with other parties. We began figuring up what the probable expense would be to run it. The three of us agreed along pretty well until we reached the treasurer, who was to be in the box office. Morton told us that a man to fill that position should get a salary of about thirty-five or fifty dollars per week. We didn't think it was worth so much. Morton then began to tell us about the way a man would have to dress; how it would be necessary for him to have a full dress suit, etc., so as to make a nice appearance in the box office. Kohl, in a half joking way and half in earnest, replied that it would not be necessary for the man to have a full dress suit; that, standing up there with his breast to the window, it would only be necessary for him to wear one of those fronts they put on a corpse. I thought Morton would drop dead, and when Kohl and I were alone I think we laughed for full ten minutes at Morton's appearance when he heard Kohl's remark.


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