Imperial Chinese Jugglers


"In many incidents while racing, one of the riders might scrape the safety cable at the top of the drome. That is why we ask you to please do not put your hands on the cable, and don't be surprised if one of the riders goes over the top. It does happen. This is where they face death at every turn of the wheel!"

"Stop and think for a moment, my friends. What would happen if a front tire was to blow out, or the chain was to break and lock up the back wheel, or the handlebars were to work loose?"

"In here you can't pull off the side of the road and park. There's only one place you can go, and that's down into the "Pit of Death" at the bottom of the Drome!"

"I've seen it happen a few times, some to my sorrow."

"This being the opening day of the fair, we are featuring Australian Criss-Cross racing, with not one or two riders on the wall at the same time, but three, and believe me, they won't be playing games. They will be shoveling on the coal, trying to bring the bacon and eggs home to Mom and the kids."

"On the racing card for today we have Bill Anderson, dirt track specialist from Rome, Georgia, riding his souped up Indian. Jack Newhart, ice racing champ from Fairbanks, Alaska, riding an English Triant. Kenny Holsteen from Salt Lake City, Utah, salt flat champion and runner-up for the Holley Cup, riding a Harley and Bill Monroe out of Tucson, Arizona, the fastest man on two wheels."

"I can assure you that the riders will be scraping the cable at the top of the Drome as they criss-cross each other in one of the deadliest races devised by man."

At that time the riders get off their bikes and go inside the Drome. Inside they start their engines and let them idle. Meanwhile, I make the last gig.

"We operate the same way here as they do at the Brickyard in Indianapolis. The riders must qualify in time trials to enter the big races. Our time trials will be starting in a few minutes."
"My advice to you is, if you intend to see the time trials, you better hurry. Now is the time to get your tickets and go in, because if you wait, you'll have to stand on somebody's shoulders to see the races, and I don't think the guy underneath would appreciate it one bit."

All that time the riders revved up their motors, and with straight exhaust pipes, the sound ricocheting off the walls of the Drome sounds like a half dozen planes taking off.

"You better hurry, while the matinee prices are still on sale, it's fifty cents for adults and twenty five for children under twelve, children in arms admitted free."

At that time I happened to look up the midway and see a blonde headed gal with a baby in her arms, and an old guy with whiskers in bib overalls, toting a double barrel shotgun, along side her.
Almost immediately I recognized her. She was the Mempha that myself and one of the Imperial Chinese Jugglers (part of the free acts) and one or two other carneys had banged the year before.

They were headed my way. Figuring what was up, I did a quick exit off the back of the bally and ran around behind the Drome to Speedy's house trailer, and knocked on the door.

Marge, Speedy's wife, came to the door. I explained what was about to happen and she said, "Come on, I'll fix you up so your mother won't be able to recognize you."

It so happened Speedy and Marge worked the off-Broadway theaters in the winter months (when all carneys were closed) as makeup artists.

After I went inside, she reached under the bed, pulled out a makeup kit, opened it, and started making me over. In a few minutes she handed me a mirror. I took a look at myself. Sure enough, I don't think my mother would have been able to recognize me. She had blackened my hair and my eyebrows with spirit gum. She glued a beard and mustache on me, then gave me a pair of specks to put on. As I put on the specks, a knock sounded on the door.

I opened it and it was speedy. Next to him was the gal with the baby in her arms and the old geezer with the whiskers and scattergun, backed up by two dudes with baseball bats.

Speedy recognized me at once and with a grin on his face said, "You all ain't seen Bill, that talker of mine around here, have you? This lady says he's the father of her baby."

Right away I said, "Yeah, he was here about ten minutes ago. Put all his belongings in his car and took off. Said he was going to New Mexico to his wife and kids."

I wanted to see what the baby looked like, so I stepped out the door, took a few steps over to the gal and looked down at the baby and saw that it had slant eyes.

Knowing there was no way the punk could have been mine (unless there was a skeleton in the closet I didn't know about), I breathed a sigh of relief. At that time, the gal started to cry and said, "Daddy, what are we gonna do now?"

I said, "Lady, the best advice I can give you is to start looking for the Imperial Chinese jugglers, or start building a hand laundry." Well, they left, and that was the last time we ever saw them.

To be Continued


Posted here courtesy of Midway Publications - Copyright 1999 William T. Usher All rights reserved


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