1971, Frankie's Amusements (I think...one of the small,
western PA shows, at any rate) and a small town outside
Pittsburgh. A 10-in-one that was the epitome of ragbags.
No freaks, all acts; Howie, the oldest son of Sailor
Barney doing tattooing in the corner. One REALLY BAD
Spidora illusion. You get the idea.
And the closest thing we had to a star...Tetragramaton,
the boa. The day we got him I was holding him so Butch
could check his mouth and Butch found himself with a
cheekful of boa teeth. Nasty, nasty snake.
Anyway, he got loose and crawled into a drainage ditch.
I didn't have a snake loop with me and he was too far
back to reach. Word got out and there were lurid
headlines "KILLER SNAKE LOOSE IN LOCAL PARK", and
stories about how the snake could eat cats and dogs and
small children. It was a <ahem> circus.
Along comes a cop who looks and is doing his best to act
like Jackie Gleason in one of the Burt Reynolds movies,
and actually uses his mace on the snake. (To no avail,
of course) When asked about why he did this he drawled
(which was absolutely silly, this was PA, for cripe's
sake) "Wall, I've had this yere mace fer 3 years now and
never gotten a chance to use it." Keystone cops time.
We moved on, without the snake, but not so far that we
couldn't drive back easily to pick him up if he came to
light. We could see he had eaten at least one and
possibly 2 rats and wasn't going anywhere for a while.
The next we heard was the arrival of a bill for bringing
in heavy equipment, digging up the sidewalk, down to the
snake, shooting the snake and then putting everything
back. One of the itemized things on the bill was the
bullet to kill the snake.
We wrote them a counter bill for vermin
eradication...for the exact same amount. I left the show
then and don't know what ever happened and Dennis didn't
say when he came to visit me in the hospital.
I get a good giggle out of it now.
Twenty-seven years later I finally have the finish of
what happened with the snake.
Dennis emailed me with the finale. He paid the bill that
had been presented and was given the snake's body. The
cop suggested that maybe the skin should be stretched on
a board and exhibited along with the story. Denny buried
I have to say, if I'd still been there I'd have had to
go with the cop on that one. Considering that it was
headline news 3 days in a row...and a legitimate
story...it would have made a great draw. Build a tip
from a sandwich board outside with the stories on it.
But then, Denny was a very new carny at the time and
didn't have that much larceny in his heart.
Snake Charmer from
Sideshow and Circus Series