by Kelley Bell


Pretty, Blonde and innocent.

A girl of only seventeen.

I ran off to join the show. It was an adventure, and I fell for a motor drome thrill show rider who looked like a gorgeous Jesus.

The old timers all called me a forty miler. (a local who gets forty miles down the road, and then runs home crying.)

Not this kid.

I passed through the gauntlets of fetchin light bulb grease and left handed wrenches.

I searched for the key to the midway.

IzI Lizearned Tizo Spizeak Cizarny.
(I learned to speak carney)

I worked the Bally stage of The Hall and Christ Ten in one Sideshow as Houdini's great granddaughter, "the snake charming escape artist."

Once, a big fight broke out in the area behind the bally stage. All the performers jumped into the frey. There were twenty or thirty locals duking it out with the men from the show.

What a scene! The knife thrower and sword swallower, and all the other guys in their sequined show outfits fighting like true swashbuckelers!

Someone shouted "Hey Rube!!!" (The signal for all to come to their aid)

The fight got bigger and bigger.

I was watching from above, tied to a cross on the bally stage with a ten foot python named Oscar, wrapped around my neck.

Then, the owner of the show, a little old man in a white suit and hat, came up on the stage, took the snake, yelled at the top of his lungs, and threw poor Oscar into the crowd!

It was like oil and water! The crowd parted as if Moses himself had commanded it.

End of fight.

Mr. Hall then instructed me in the art of caring for our hero...Oscar the python. He suffered a black eye and a cut lip.

I pampered and nurtured him back to health over the course of several weeks.

I became the snake girl, the gorilla girl, the girl who gets cut into pieces, and I even stood for the drunken knife thrower...ONCE!

I became friends with the side show people, and learned a lot about life from my able bodied pals.

I was tricked into driving the fat man to Texas, and my poor car never quite recovered from the strain.

I learned the customs and the cons, and the loyalty of the clan.

We lived like kings when the sun would shine, and we pooled our change for bologna and bread in the rain and cold.

I wintered in Gib-Town (Gibsonton Florida...carney town USA)

I apprenticed under a showpainter named Butch of Wanderin Art. I learned from Johnny Meah, and Bill Browning and The Wizard.

I started hop scotchin the shows as Sunshine Art...Showpainter.

I have a thousand stories of those years, and I cherish them all.

I'm a writer now. Living the life of a townie, up north.

So, to all of you who I met along the way....

I remember you fondly, and I still feel the calling of the sawdust in my veins.

Fell free to drop in and visit, old friends. I would love to hear from you.



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