About the time
that I started to doze off, someone tapped me on the
shoulder and said, "move over." I turned to see who the hell
it was. The moon was shinning bright and I saw that it was
May. You can bet your sweet bippy that I didn't waste any
time moving over!
All the carnies said that Fats would unload that broad in a
couple of weeks and get another one. How wrong they were in
their assumptions because for the next fifty three years of
our lives, we were together! And what a life it was! The
world was our oyster and we dined on it eagerly without a
worry in the world.
I remember that three weeks later, we were in Scottsboro,
Alabama, and I heard via the grapevine that the Feds had
snatched a carny friend of mine on a Mann Act charge. That
charge was for transporting a woman across the state line
for immoral purposes and white slavery because he was
shacked up with this broad and taking her from state to
state. I figured the best thing for me to do was to get
In Alabama, all
you needed to get married was a fin (five dollars) and a
report from a crocker (doctor) that you didn't have a
disease. The five bucks went to the judge in that county for
performing the marriage and the license.
Well, that morning I had a sawbuck in my pocket to pay the
doc but needed a fin to pay the judge. So, I borrowed a fin
from May but she didn't know what for at the time. Then I
went to the crocker and he checked my ding-a-ling. He saw it
wasn't infected and signed a report that everything was
I paid him the sawbuck, went back to the lot and told May to
get ready to go to town. She asked me, "Why? What's the
reason?" I answered, "Because we're getting married today!
Is that reason enough?"
She hugged me
and started crying. A few minutes later I wiped the tears
from her eyes, kissed her and then she looked up at me. With
a slight smile, she grabbed my hand and said, "The hell with
getting dressed! If shorts and a sweatshirt are good enough
for you, it'll have to suit the judge. Let's go before you
change your mind." That I wasn't about to do.
We had been married but a few weeks when Bob Nole joined the
carny with his boxing and wrestling chimpanzees that
challenged all comers and paid a dollar a minute to anyone
who could stay in the arena with one of them.
Bob plastered the spots where he played with big placards in
store windows and on telephone poles and abandoned
buildings, saying in big letters, "WANTED-able bodied men to
box or wrestle a sixty pound chimp. We pay a dollar a minute
for every minute that you stay in the arena."
drew people from near and far. It was one of the funniest
shows on the road, because of the shenanigans the chimps
Bob and his wife (also named Mae but spelled different than
my wife), happened to have parents that had been in
vaudeville years before. Just like mine, when the talkies
came in and vaudeville faded, their folks took their acts
outdoors to medicine shows, circuses and carnivals.
We became good friends. In the daytime before the carny
opened, we used to sit around and tell stories about
experiences that happened in the past. A lot of the stories
were really funny.
At that time, Bob and Mae had just bought two baby gorillas,
one named Tommy and the other named Tobie. In the daytime
when the midway was closed, my May and Bob's Mae would sit
in the chairs on the chair swing ride and nurse the baby
They were treated and cared for just the same as human
babies. They had to be nursed, pampered, loved, their
diapers changed and scolded if they did something wrong and
they loved to have you talk baby talk to them. While the
gals sat and rocked the babies, Bob and I would cut up
Jackpots (talk) about different things our folks did to
shuffle a buck. Eventually, the conversation would get
around to how he lost his fingers (he had two fingers off
his right hand).
Bob would say, "Old Joe bit 'em off but it was my own fault.
I should not have tried to work him that day, knowing Mae
was having her period." All male animals, be it bears,
chimps, orangutans, baboons and monkeys, if they're full
grown, get unruly when they get a whiff of a woman who is
having her period, or a female chimp that is in season.
"Well, I knew
better but I decided to work him anyway. When I took him out
of he cage to put on his muzzle, he turned on me and bit off
my two fingers. But I still have 'em, give me a few minutes
and I'll go to the trailer and get 'em and show'em to you."
He would go to his trailer, get a small glass pickle jar
with his two missing fingers in it, pickled in alcohol and
show them to me.
To be Continued