Opening Day & the End of the Story

by CC

It was 1971, Frankie's Amusements (I 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 him instead.

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 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 Kreg Yingst Sideshow and Circus Series


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