"Little Egypt and The 'Oachin Monkey"

 

by Pete Kolozsy

 

OK kids, gather around and I'll tell you about the Oachin' Monkey I saw one year at The Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.


Athena and I were set up with two grindshows at the fair there in Terre Haute, IN.
Years ago the Vigo County Fair was held in Big Egypt.


That was good.


Then it got moved a few miles south of Hwy 40 to the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds and that put it in Little Egypt.

That is not so good.


You see, ever since carnival folk have worked that territory they've always found that the fairs above (North of) a certain point were usually pretty good, financially speaking.


But if you got a little too far south, folks weren't as free with their hard-earned money.


The geographical big-bucks vs. chump-change line was Hwy 40.(The Nile) North of 40 was Big Egypt.  South of 40 was Little Egypt.

So, you see, since Terre Haute sits squarely astride Hwy 40 moving the fair from the north to the south side of town effectively ruined it.


We were in Little Egypt.

Biz was slow.

I had free time.

 

One day I went to visit my friend Mr. Wrangue the Monkey Man.

 

Mr. Wrangue works his monkey (when the weather is nice) on a string in
kiddie land on the midway.

 

Since I figured I'd only be gone a short time I asked Athena to watch my gate and I didn't bother to take off my change apron.  I found Mr. Wrangue and his monkey at there usual spot in kiddie land and we (Mr. Wrangue and I, not the monkey) started talking about trivial things and general gossip.

I was wearing a three pocket apron and, when I wear a three pocket apron, I always keep the big bills in the left pocket, the singles in the right pocket and chump change in the center pocket.  That way when I'm not making change or otherwise occupied I can keep
my hands in the apron on the real money and the chump change can fend for itself.

Well, like I said, Mr. Wrangue and I were talking and Biz was slow.  The monkey was standing next to Mr. Wrangue, apparently bored and paying no attention to us.


I had my hands in my apron.


Force of habit.
Good thing, too.


Suddenly, with no warning at all, that damn monkey leaped and within a split-second had removed a coin from the center pocket (the unguarded one) of my apron and resumed his position.  Standing next to Mr. Wrangue.  Nonchalantly, as if nothing had happened.

"What the F***, Mr. Wrangue?" was my nonplussed reaction, as I recall.
"You know why he did that, Pete?"
"Cause he's a f***ing little thief?" I ventured.
"Right, and he knows you got money in there. He ain't dumb.
People think animals are dumb.
People that think that... they're the dumb ones.
This monkey works the marks for their money and gives it to me.
 

Then I give him all sorts of nice things to eat.
You don't think he's put 2 and 2 together?
Ha! He ain't dumb!" Mr. Wrangue spoke from experience.

 

He had a point.
Biz was slow.
The monkey was just looking out for himself.
I took 2 steps back and we (Mr. Wrangue and I, not the monkey) resumed our talk.

 

Well, after a time business picked up and I started getting antsy to get back to the shows. Athena was alone and it isn't easy to work two shows alone.  But Mr. Wrangue was in the middle of a story and I didn't want to be rude and leave in the middle of it.  Besides, the monkey was working the crowd alone just fine.


Maybe a little too well.

"Hey Mister, ain't the monkey supposed to give me a photo when I give him a dollar?" A girl asked Mr. Wrangue.

"Did you give him a dollar?" Mr. Wrangue asked the girl.
"Yeah, I gave him a dollar and he didn't give me no photo!"
"Well," Mr. Wrangue explained "when someone gives him a dollar, he brings the dollar to me and I give him a photo. Then, he gives the photo to the person who gave him the dollar. Are you sure you gave him a dollar?"


"I gave him a dollar!" She insisted.
"Did she give you a buck?" Mr. Wrangue asked the monkey.

The monkey shook its head no.


"He says you didn't." Mr. Wrangue told her.
" I did." She insisted.
"She gave the monkey a dollar, I saw it."
"I saw it, too."
The situation was starting to look bad for the monkey.

Mr. Wrangue started grilling the monkey:
"Did that girl give you a buck?"
The monkey shook its head.
"That girl did give you a buck! Why didn't you give it to me?"
The monkey feigned innocence.
"Give me that buck!" Mr. Wrangue demanded.
The monkey reached into its apron and gave Mr. Wrangue a quarter.
"That is not her dollar! You better give me that buck, right now!"
The monkey gave him another quarter.
I snorted. The monkey gave me a dirty look.
"Come here!" Mr. Wrangue said sternly and when the monkey came to him he said something to him that only the monkey could hear.
The monkey looked at me, then he looked at every face in the crowd with an expression that would have rivaled Chaplin. Then the monkey reached in his apron and pulled out the dollar, which he handed to Mr. Wrangue sadly.
Mr. Wrangue gave the monkey a photo.
The monkey gave the photo to the girl.
But he didn't tip his hat.


"I gotta go, Mr. Wrangue.." I said.
"Hey Pete, you know why the monkey did that?"
"'Cause he's a no-good 'oachin son-of-a-b****?" I ventured.
"Right. Just like me and you!" Mr. Wrangue said with a grin.

(For the agent of a concessionaire to skim off the top is referred to as "Holdin' Out" or "H.O." .  H.O. thru common usage was further corrupted into "'Oach" or " 'Oachin ".)

 

 

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