Stories from the 1981 Tennessee State Fair
By Spalding Gray


PT - 8


September 20.  Now, Maurice put up with him because he identified with him and thought he was his father, but finally Reuben got so upset that he stole Maurice's $2,000 macaw. Maurice had been able to get it for $400 because it had a liver ailment and then he nursed it back into a $2,000 bird. Reuben stole it and took off. So Maurice's younger brother Pierre had to go in the pit, and they began to alternate: security guard, B. J. Reed.

Then Maurice showed me his scars. He pulled up his right pant leg and there were these huge snake bites. And I said, "What happened?" And he said,

The other day we had the snake out on the road airing it. Just out on the carnival grounds. And this pickup truck starts driving toward the snake. And everyone starts yelling, "Whoa! Hey! Oh! Oh! Hey!" and I walk in front of the pickup truck and say, "Stop!" And the guy keeps going, and I jump out of the way, and the guy runs over our python. When he gets out of the truck, he is totally freaked out. I say, "What the fuck did you run over our python for? I thought you guys were kidding." And another carny comes over and punches the guy right in the jaw. So the guy is standing there, bleeding, in shock, looking at the snake. And he said, "I've got to call my mother, I'll get you guys three hundred dollars for a new snake." But this isn't helping. The snake is in total shock. Its lung is crushed, it's recuperating, it can't swallow, it can't eat. So it gets so hungry, and it has very bad eyesight, and I had white socks on and the snake thought the socks were a rabbit and it went for my leg. Now, Reuben told us, if the snake ever bites, twist the tail. And Ellen and Pierre were twisting the tail and it turned out it was Reuben's joke. It didn't work at all.

So it took three of them to pull the snake off. Ellen, Pierre, Maurice they were tearing at this python. Ellen told me, "I don't know why we ever got involved with snakes. I hate snakes. I wanted a baby horse." She was practically crying. She said she couldn't help it. She fell in love with Maurice when she saw a photo of him at eight years old in his red confirmation gown. She was determined to go along with him for better or worse.

What was amazing to me was that whoever was in the cage had to be with that snake for twelve hours. They'd sit with all 0-pound python for twelve hours. Pierre was working the cage in Nashville, and he had nightmares where he saw threads on his blanket as snakes coming at him, and he screamed in the night. Twelve hours with it! And the way they kept the people moving through the show; it was the most popular show on the midway, and the other carnies were very jealous. To keep the people moving through so they could sell more tickets they grossed them out. That's essentially what they did. After a while Pierre started to piss in his pants. If he had to he'd just let go. That's why the place reeked of urine. I'd thought it was the snakes. But, if that didn't get them out, then Pierre would pull down his pants and show just a little pubic hair. He couldn't show more because the show would get busted. He'd grab his balls and that made them run. The other thing that really grossed them out was that the snake actually feeds sometimes in front of the people, and it ate three rabbits and two chickens one night and, as those digested, gas came out either end of the snake. So that, combined with the piss, made for a beautiful stew that just kept the people moving right on through.


To be Continued


Special Thank to Kathleen Russo, the Estate of Spalding Gray and official website of Spalding Gray

All stories are re-printed with the permission of the Estate of Spalding Gray

All stories are copyrighted Spalding Gray & Spalding Gray Estate and posted here with their expressed permission,


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