I met Grady Stiles once
when I was about nine (roughly a hundred years ago;. My
folks had their show set up on the same midway as Stiles
and being a kid I had to check out everything on the
The ticket seller waved
me in when I said "I'm with the show".
Mr. Stiles was seated in a wheelchair as I recall and he
and I were the only two in the tent. He appeared to be
sober. After a short silence we talked and I told him my
dad owned one of the shows on the midway. He asked who
my dad was. I told him and he seemed to know who I
meant. That was it. I left with the impression
that he was no better or worse than a hundred different
old carny's I'd met in my life so far. I still
have that impression today.
The one person who made the biggest impression on me in
that same time period was Johann Petursson. The
Icelandic Giant. I entered his show tent for the first
time the same way ( "I'm with the show").
Once again he and I were the only two in the tent. Mr.
Petursson and my father were good friends and he
recognized me. I was unaware of this. He asked me
"Did you pay?" I mumbled something about being with the
He evidently could not
make out what I was saying because he repeated a little
louder "Did you pay?!" At this point I was starting to
tremble ( I was 9 years old ) because I had the
impression that he was angry because I had not paid.
Finally, he stood up (the
man was nearly nine feet tall!) and literally bellowed "
DID YOU PAY!!!?"
I squeaked out a "No!" as loud as I could without peeing
"Good! Come here." he said and sat down.
When I came up to him he took a gold ring off his finger
and gave it to me. I could have worn it for a bracelet!
"Come back again," He commanded." and never pay!"
Over the years I did just that. Many times.---
Photograph of Grady Stiles submitted by