Early Ventures - 3


Mr. Bailey, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Hemmings were anxious to have me with them again, so I arranged to go with them. I was very glad to return, as it seemed more like home to me. Mr. Bailey took an interest with me in the concert side show and candy stands. We started from Hillsboro, Ohio, by wagon. It rained incessantly for weeks. We were discouraged and in financial difficulties. The roads were so muddy and heavy that we lost a great many stands, which meant paying out money without taking in a cent.

A funny incident occurred here. I always kept my wagons ahead of me, driving in the rear alone. Arriving at a toll gate in charge of a German who could speak a very little English, he informed me that he had a "ledder bolise". We could not make this out, but after a while he showed us that he had a leather valise that one of the men had left in pawn for the toll. I hustled for some small change to pay the toll, taking the "ledder bolise" out of pawn.
It looked as if the rainy season would never be over, it lasting about six weeks. We traveled through the West and got through Indiana into Illinois, when business began picking up. We had good business through Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, when we decided to go south again. Everything was going on very nicely when the epizootic broke out among our horses, as it did among the stock all over the country. We crossed the Mississippi at Natchez and closed the season. I went to New Orleans and arranged with Captain Neil to take us on his steamboat, the Indiana, up to Louisville, where we wintered.
We started the next season, opening in the Exposition building in Louisville, where the post office now stands. This season, besides running the side show and concert and candy stands, I contracted with the company to feed their men in camp and got along pretty well. Sometimes it was quite a wait between meals, but it was a case of the whole outfit being late and no one to blame.

Mr. Cooper said to me one day, "Middleton, it looks as if you would run out of soup for the men." I replied, "There is no danger of that." He said, "What will you do?" I answered, "We will put a little more salt in it, then they won't eat so much as they won't like it so well."
We took the Kentucky country first, as the tobacco crop selling at about this time of the year always made money quite plentiful in the tobacco country. One of the features with the show this year was the Cardiff Giant, the discovery of whom about this time caused great excitement. While there was only one genuine Cardiff Giant, three or four different circuses claimed to have one, which will give you an idea of how enterprising the managements were. We also had a whale stuffed and mounted, which gave us much trouble, as it required a long, coupled wagon, and the roads being poor, it was a pretty hard proposition to get over them.

I had a long, covered passenger wagon in which I carried curiosities that belonged to the side show. As the horses went trotting along one morning, one of the front wheels struck a root and over the wagon went, the bows of the top splintered and the hair on the fat woman's head tangled in the splintered bows. We also had a basket of eggs which we intended to cook when we reached town, but by the time we got the fat woman untangled and out there was quite a mess of eggs, splinters and hair.

We also had a snake case, in which we carried several large boa constrictors, which we used also for a seat. That toppled over, the glass was broken and the snakes were in a mix-up.


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