Early Ventures - 4


I remember on the show grounds one day when we first drove in (I think it was in Bairdstown, Kentucky), we ran across a grass snake which must have had thirty or forty young ones, not more than an inch or an inch and a half long. On our appearance the mother snake opened her mouth and every one of the little ones ran down her throat.
It was always a curious thing to me that in taking the curiosities, the fat woman, the Albinos, the midgets and the Circassians, from the wagons, when they would have to walk two hundred yards over to the tent, exposed to the view of hundreds of people, these same people would go right up to the ticket seller, pay their money and go in to see the same curiosities that had just passed before them.

It was now about the Fourth of July and in Mattoon, Illinois, there was to be a fireworks display given by the citizens. The time set for setting them off would interfere very much with the time for giving our show, so we arranged by giving them fifty dollars with which to buy more fireworks, and set them off after the circus was over at night. This made it agreeable all around and I was delegated to attend to the display. The most fireworks I had ever fired off before was a simple fire cracker, but I undertook the job. As was often the case, we had some temporary lemonade stands on the grounds with just loose boards spread over the top for shade. I had all the fireworks placed on top of one of these roofs and started the display. I took up a large sky rocket, leaned it up against a pole I had placed and set the fire to it. It commenced to sputter fire and flames among the fireworks on the roof, and the first thing I knew everything was ablaze - the rockets, Roman candles and all the different articles they had in those days, were shooting off into the audience in every direction. Down below some of the men were selling lemonade and to protect themselves they gathered up some wet gunny sacks which they had to cover the ice, and put them over their heads to keep from burning to death. On the whole, the display was a failure, or at least, I was in taking charge of it.

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