Jeffrey Reid and his America's Smallest Traveling Museum


Interview with Jeffrey Reid

Aka big kahuna aka The Professor


SSW- For the folks that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing your exhibit, would you tell us a little about your show?


Jeffrey- I took great pride in conjuring up an image that people would never forget. It was a combination of not only the image in front of them, but the background music, the inside talk...all of it would combine to create an experience that would invariably leave the patron with their head shaking in amazement.


What was inside was not as important as how it was presented.


SSW- What did you do before you owned the show?


Jeffrey- Well, I still do it...make and sell tie dye. I am almost getting good at it. ( This winter I did a line of shirts for the world renowned blues guitarist Tommy Castro of Tommy Castro and the Painkillers. You can see some pictures on my website.


SSW- How did you come to be the owner and operator of the Smallest Traveling Museum?


Jeffrey- We had been in the fair business, my wife and I, since the early 90s. "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to do." We make and sell our own tie dye, as well as sell body jewelry, incense, make our own ceramic incense burners. We have a real Hippie Shop right on the midway.


Anyway...after about a dozen years of dealing with idiots, I mean customers, I was looking for something else to do. I was sitting in Cottonwood, Arizona, talking with my friend Snakey Steve, (Steve Dornin).


He had a hot cobra show. We were tossing around stuff one afternoon and suddenly the words "Freak Show" came to my feeble mind. Steve said he knew someone with a Fee-gee Mermaid in Texas. I immediately began figuring out how to frame the show. This was in the spring of maybe 2005?


We got back from our spring run and I began researching exhibits. That is how I ran across Doug Higley. I contacted Doug and he made a mer-creature for me. I had some banners made and did a summer run at selected shows. It worked. The end of the season I had him make a chupacabra for me. 2006 was the first full year run of America's Smallest Travelling Museum.


It was a smash hit so to speak.


SSW- Why a Traveling Museum?


Jeffrey- Pretty elementary really. The whole idea was that the museum would be adjunct to our regular fair business. The two booths were set up right next to each other. The museum was to pay for all the expenses of being at the fair. It did that and more...


SSW- The first two season you said you exhibited creatures that you got from Doug Higley.  How have you expanded your museum?


Jeffrey- At first it was just a mer-creature. Then Doug's chupacabra. After that I began collecting all sorts of things. I had the ear of a Solomon Island Giant from Guadalcanal. (In my talk, it was the first exhibit I ever acquired.


My grandfather got it off of Guadalcanal in 1942. Found in in the middle of a pile of dead Japs that were ripped asunder. One of the untold stories of WW2).


In all, I think I have thirty exhibits, including a 3 foot Juan Cabana mermaid.


Now the most talked about exhibit, beside the chup and the boys, was a little finger in a box. I had Doug make a finger. I put it in a little cedar box with black satin lining. I made a little sign and told the following story: "Mrs. Robinson was a friend of my mother. She would refinish used furniture.


She bought a used credenza and was talking out all the drawers getting ready to sand it down. She found this little box in the back of one of the drawers, thinking there might be some trinkets inside she opened it.


Imagine her surprise." Folks could really relate to that one.


SSW- What do you like about the business?


Jeffrey- Making the unbelievable believeable.


SSW- How has it evolved over the years?


Jeffrey- Ha! It has evolved to the point that it is on haitus! Let me explain. I found out that a single-o can only work for a limited time. I have been at some of my fairs for nearly 20 years. The money started dropping to a point that it was not feasible to keep bringing it to the same fair year after year. We still have our main booth. But the museum has been put away for now. In a few more years I will bring it back out. It will be all fresh, and sparkling and new again.


But let me tell you what I did do. About three years ago I made two coin op museums. They were out of wood and very old fashioned looking. This stemmed from the blow-off exhibits I would create in my little ten by ten. So for 50 cents, folks would get a peek at what was inside. Worked very well. No heat and paid for lunch everyday. I am a little upset because I could not bring it along this year do to lack of loading space. It is sitting in the barn right now, waiting for someone to plunk two quarters. Maybe next year.


SSW-  If you could own your “Dream Sideshow” what would it be?


Jeffrey- I think a 20x20 show that is dedicated to the usual, the bizarre.


SSW- What are your favorite exhibits?


Jeffrey- Zack and Mack, my two-headed turtle. You see, they are a creature to behold. Each has their own separate personality. In the wild, they would not have survived, but I am spoiling them the best I can.



SSW- 2-headed turtle are very rare. I think most of the folk that see them still think that you have one turtle with two heads, not two turtles that share a body. Could you give a little back ground on how they come to be?


Jeffrey- I love my boys, Zack and Mack. As far as we can tell, it is just one body with two heads. I would bill them as America's Smile Ambassadors. When I got them, they were literally the size of a quarter. Now they terrorize villages. One body, Two Heads and All Heart.


SSW- Could you tell us a little about each of them?


Jeffrey- Zack is the dominate one. You want one dominate. He does most of the eating and decides where to go. Mack is passive but more curious than Zack. Zack is a bit of a 'fraidy cat, while Mack is a bit more out-going. While Zack does most of the eating, Mack usually holds out until Chicken night. He loves his chicken and cooked shrimp meat. The boys will not eat greens or any commercial turtle food at all. Currently they are eating fish. Little silver backs I get frozen from the pet store. For years the boys ate meal worms. First the little ones, now the mega super worms.


SSW- Zack and Mack, when did they come to own you?


Jeffrey- You know, it was a six or seven month search for Zack and Mack.


Snakey Steve helped out on that one. I missed getting a two-headed box turtle by days, so we had to wait until hatching season. We had Snakey Steve, as well as Robby, the new Crocodile Hunter--I think he helped out too. Finally we got a call in September nearly eight years ago. We were setting up at the Puyallup Fair. We arranged it over the phone. They were being shipped overnight Fed Ex. I went and picked them up in Tacoma, WA.


I opened the box and there was a little styrofoam container. I pulled off the lid and there was this little two-headed turtle. Cuter than a button. Now mind you, they were just the size of a quarter. My wife and I had already picked out their names, Zack and Mack. Everyone always asks about the boys.


SSW- You mentioned that you got the turtles in Washington state, What was the first show Zack and Mack appeared it?


Jeffrey- Zack and Mack's first show was the Arizona State Fair. We had a little ten foot front. We had 12 thousand paid go through our exhibit. Not bad considering it was a crappy location. Tom Bierbaum (sic) The guy with the world's biggest Horse, steer, Crocodile, etc,...He was set up in Phoenix too. he came by just to see Zack and Mack. He was amazed that I could make money with an exhibit that I could carry in my pocket home every night. Like I said, everyone loved the boys. They just sort of make you smile with their simplicity.


You know, I look at them and they look normal. A one headed turtle looks kinda strange after Zack and Mack. (They know I am writing about them here. Right now they are in their tank. They have a special tank here in the RV. Its a large black tub of sorts that has a large water area and a land area where they can bask.)


SSW-  How did the story of Zack and Mack come about?


Jeffrey-  It was just a year ago. Last April at the Yuma County Fair. Next to use was Linda the airbrusher. She had retired, but was doing this show.


She had given the business to her daughter and son-in law. He was a documentary producer/maker. He was telling me of his projects in Afghanistan and another in Rhodesia (he was Rhodesian, nee Zimbabwe). B. said if I had any ideas, let him know and we would go in on them. Well, let me tell you. No sooner than those words were out of his mouth, than I had the project written in my mind. I said "Great" I raced back to my rig and pounded out an outline. I took it back and pitched it. He said, "A director will want more than one animal to do a shoot, just in case something happens." I said "CGI." But I knew that he was more interested in his coming of age in the Rhodesian Army flick than one about a two-headed turtle. Oh well, there went my chance with Disney.


So I continued the season. After Fresno (of which I am the Voice of the Fair), I came home and half-heartedly began researching what it would take to produce an e-book. Easier than I thought. I just have to write the dang thing. Which is what I did.


Let me re-phrase that. Zack and Mack told me what to write. I do the actual typing. They would walk around the keyboard, making a real nuisance of themselves. They would knock over the can holding all the pencils and stuff.


So we had an agreement. I would write what they wanted, if they stayed off the keyboard. It was an arrangement that has worked out pretty well. Now no one is going to believe that a two headed turtle wrote the book, so I explained to the boys that I need to put my name on the cover. They were fine with that.


SSW- How do people re-act when they are around the boys?


Jeffrey- In real life, Zack and Mack have a special effect on people. They sort of give a warm glow from the inside out as you stand there and look at them. They always appear to be smiling, hence they were billed as "America's Smile Ambassadors" early on. So it was this effect that Zack and Mack have on people that I wanted to turn into a story. I wanted to write a story suitable for all humans, especially children. The book is geared toward 9-12 year olds.


There are moral lessons in the story. There is drama, excitement and a vivid description of the rough and tumble action of full on turtle racing. I don't want to give anything up here...



SSW- Do the people you met on the midway figure into your book?


Jeffrey- I was going to use people I know in the story so it was only natural to include Jim Zajicek and his Big Circus Sideshow in the book.


SSW- What was your first impression of the Curator (Jim Z. owner of the BCS)?


Jeffrey- It is an interesting meeting. We met in Tucson. I had America's Smallest Travelling Museum at Tucson for a few years before BCS arrived.


In fact, a few months before the fair I read on Magic Cafe that BCS had booked Tucson. Ha! After one look at the front, I knew that I was going to be blown out of the water. Anyway, April came around. I was setting up our main tent of tie dye goods. After measuring the space, the fair shorted us some three feet that I needed to set up the museum. There was no way I could set it up. During all of this I was suffering from the Valley Fever Grunge that I get in the desert. All the dirt and dust really affects me health-wise. So while setting up, I was fevered, coughing, blowing snot and not really in a good mood.


Up comes this guy with a bow tie and pork pie hat. Now I knew everyone on the grounds because I have been playing Tucson for nearly 15 years at that point. I knew that was The Curator. So with a head full of snotty infection, I held out my hand and said, "you must be the Curator, I am Big Kahuna." I think my reputation had preceded me, because he knew who I was.


We chatted for a bit. Later on that day, I took him to a joint and bought him a cup of coffee. After that, we hit it off pretty well. We would go to each others joints and share the jackpots. It's been that way every year since.


SSW- Does The Smile Ambassadors take place on the fair?


Jeffrey- The fair figured in the plot line early on.  Actually using Jim and BCS  was important to the plot in The Smile Ambassadors and will figure again in the sequel, The Smile Thief. I wrote and asked Jim for permission, he said as long as he was a "good guy". He is. He is a very likeable character in the book as well as in real life. I changed the name of the show to Big Time Sideshow and his moniker to The Professor, only to protect the guilty.


Before press time in February, I wrote Jim asking if he wanted me to change it to Big Circus Sideshow and his character to The Curator. I didn't hear back. I then began worrying that perhaps he had a relapse of his cancer. It was only a few days ago that I found out that indeed he did have a relapse as well as other very bad health issues. I saw that Lori had set up a gofund site. I decided that afternoon to do what I am doing now, which is offering the book for sale with all the proceeds going to help Jim. I don't know if he has read the book yet. I sent a draft to him at the end of February. If anyone can nurse Jim back to health, it is Lori. We have met her, and she is just what the big lum-ox needs to get back on his feet.

Zack & Mack - Book about the Only Two Headed Turtle


Above Meet Jim Zajicek


So, if you can't afford 20 bucks or so at Jim's gofund site (which is here).


Then we have a deal for you to help Jim here at Sideshow World. If you can afford a cup of coffee.  Then for a special price of $2.84 you can get a copy of the e-book about the adventures of a two-headed turtle.


Out of that, the distributor takes a percentage as well as credit card fee.


That leaves $2.09, which will go to Jim Z.   To help him with his battle to over come cancer.


Mr. Reid will donate all his proceeds from the book to Jim until he's on his feet an on the lot.  


The Smile Ambassadors


You can buy The Smile Ambassadors by following this link at smashwords  use download code SW48R to get five percent off.


Remember you can help.  $2.09, of you purchase price will go to Jim Z.  to help him with his battle to over come cancer.


We are very grateful for your and Mr. Reid's contributions to support Jim Z.



click on above image to learn more about Jeffrey Reid's Book The Smile Ambassadors


Zack and Mack live in the idyllic Gold Country of Northern California.


When we are not busy with our adventures, we like to eat and bask in the warm sun. Of course there is always training for our next turtle race.


Training, training, training, that's all we seem to do these days. Can't we have a break so we can smell the daffodils growing along the fence-line?



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