By Leonard William Zajicek
The truck hit a pothole and again I was on the road to our next town. Now I think of all the beautiful places I've been with the circus. I've seen the wondrous birth of the new day, the birds waking and searching for their breakfast, the ribbon of cement and asphalt, - it's my yellow brick road. I think of the crowded, dirty streets of the big cities we go through to our next small town. I remember the huge redwood, the white capped mountains, the rushing water as I stop and look below from a mountain road. I've stood by waterfalls and felt the cool mist surround me. I saw the cactus and road runner, the corn and wheat pushing it's way to heaven.
I've flirted with the cute little waitresses at the truck stops, shared yarns with farmers, cowboys and businessmen. I learned to walk slow, listen and appreciate life as I never did before.
I remember missing the "arrows" that are attached to fence post and light poles that direct us to the next town. One time, I had to drive an extra 100 miles and when I pulled onto the lot, everyone knew what had happened. I just grinned and said I had stopped for an oil change. You would be surprised how often the vehicles on the circus get their oil changed and yet the motor's dip stick always was low. I remember the time I left the lot early and going down a hilly country road, looked ahead and saw a black cloud of smoke that rose from the hill ahead. I thought some farmer was burning brush. As I came over the ridge, I stopped and saw the circus sleeper aflame. It was hooked up to the generator truck with the driver standing as though he was hypnotized. I yelled at him as I rushed toward the inferno to disconnect the truck. We pulled it ahead a safe distance and watched as all the bright colors of the trailer gave in to the relentless flame. The aluminum sides dripped to the ground, and the metal cots came into view. Six roustabouts lived in this sleeper and now their home and possessions were brought to an end in ashes. Now other trucks were coming up the road and stopped. The roustabouts who lived in this trailer ran to see everything they owned consumed by this hungry fire. Stereos, TV's, and personal possessions that could not be
replaced - gone forever. What they had now was upon their backs. I saw one hardened roustabout look and the tears fell
slowly down his face. He had had pictures of family and friends never to be looked at again reduced to ashes.
It was now, more than ever before, that I felt proud of this circus family. For after the local fire department put out the flames, we moved to our next town. The show must go on. We all kicked in money, clothes and emotional help to these men who lost all. The local people of this town we were in found out about our disaster and contributed with help to us unknown circus folk. This was a small town and people who lived there care. If this had happened in a large city, we probably would stand alone. One bright spot in all this was my son went to the blackened remains and pulled out the elephant's first "tub" she worked on. This is the prop that the elephant climbed up on to perform. It was her first one, when she was about three years old and meant a lot to my son. The wood was charred but the metal was intact. He saved this tub and when we were in winter quarters at the end of that season, he had it chromed and with a new varnished top, made a coffee table for his mother. It now stands in her living room with the story on the bottom for someone in the far future to read and know about the sleeper fire that happened to this small circus late in the season somewhere on a lonely country road in the midwest. It is a bit of history that I hope endures time for it is of people who in some small way bring our troubles to an end, if only for a short time, when the show begins and the ringmaster says, "Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of All Ages".