CIRCUS MEMOIRS
Animal Anecdotes - 3

 

I often look back and laugh at my first experience with snakes. We wanted a snake charmer, so Fulton sent up to Indiana and brought a little girl on to the show to charm the snakes. We got hold of a few garter snakes about three feet long, sent off to Tucker Brothers, the painters in New York, and had them get up a painting representing a lady handling these monster reptiles, which on the canvas looked as though they were fifteen or twenty feet long. Fulton would do what we called "talking" in those days; they call them "spellers" or "barkers" now. But he would stand and harangue the crowd, informing them that they were "just in time to see this brave little woman risk her life by entering the iron-bound den containing these monster reptiles." All the iron-bound den there was consisted of nothing more nor less than an ordinary soap box. She would swing the lid around, dip down into the box, pick up two or three of these gentle snakes, let them wiggle around, and that ended the snake performance.


After a while we sent to New York and brought out some South American and Brazilian snakes, which were not dangerous, but which were generally a good show. There is an old expression, "I guess so and so is living on the fat of his stomach", and I think that is the case with snakes. I have had them live a year without a mouthful to eat. Snakes go blind once a month, at which time they will shed their skin, starting at the nose, blow it off the head and crawl out of it. I never knew a snake to eat anything that it did not kill itself. A snake can eat animals much larger than its own body. Their jaws seem to unlock until they are as large as the body. They first catch the prey, a chicken, guinea pig or a rabbit, then as it works down through the jaws it is covered with saliva. After the food gets beyond the jaws the snake throws a knot between the food and its jaws, then crawls through the knot until it locates what it has eaten in the stomach.


In moving a show the very heavy wagons would leave first, then the animal wagons and the performers, the proprietors leaving last, the lighter teams enabling them to get over the ground faster, sometimes overtaking the heavy wagons. I remember Mr. Cooper was very indignant when he landed in town one morning and a young lady stopped him as he was going along the road with his family, and informed him that her friend owned the show and that there had been some mistake, as she had been left behind. Mr. Cooper asked her what her friend's name was and she replied, "Mr. Cooper." Mr. Cooper was quite angry but he could never find out who it was had given out his name.


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