By Ralph Hood
I have always loved circuses. While I was still in grammar school, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey (RB&BB)The Greatest Show On Earthcame to my home town of Brunswick, Ga. This was one of the last few years RB&BB played in a tentunder canvas, as we circus fans sayand I was so excited!
This was before the polio vaccines existed and there was a polio scare that summer. Mother and Daddy were terrified that one of their three kids would catch polio (a neighborhood friend did), so we avoided crowds as the experts advised. We couldnt go to RB&BB.
When the big day arrived everyone at school talked about going. One of my friends had seen the elephants getting off the train and couldnt stop talking about it (decades later, when I was a grown man, I once visited Rudy Bundy, at that time treasurer of RB&BB, in his private railroad car on that train). I ran all the way home from school to beg my parents to let me go. No dice.
During college I actually spent a summer on a circus. Decades later our youngest, Brett, decided he wanted to do the same thing. I got him a job on a tent circus as a common laborer. He got a promotion within the first few weeks and the next four years he was the ringmaster of the whole showwith top hat, red jacket, black pants, tall black boots, whistle and microphone.
Ill go ahead and admit that in 1968 Wife Gail and I, along with our three-month-old daughter Melanie and another couple, formed The Childrens Magic Circus and hit the road. We traveled from north Pennsylvania to north Florida. The show had a circus theme and circus acts, but no elephants or other animalswait, I take that back, we did have a six-foot boa constrictor.
We lived in a travel trailer and had a good time. One of the fun things was visiting a real circus every now and then. On one such visit we parked on the circus lot in our trailer and visited most everybody on the show. That circus had a well-respected elephant trainer, and we enjoyed him.
Early that evening we retired to our trailer for supper. Gail was preparing supper andif I remember it correctlyI was setting the table. At that point there was a firm knock on our trailer door. Come in, I responded.
The door opened and the entire head of a full grown elephant came through the door, filling up most of the front half of our trailer. The elephants trunk waved around, sniffing everything and evidently hunting for a good snack.
I dunno how much you know about travel trailers, but once an elephant head comes through the door and into the living room that elephant head tends to dominate the scene. We were sore afraid. After all, we had never before had to contend with an elephant head in the living room, and had no idea how to remove it.
Fortunately, it was all a joke orchestrated by the elephant trainer. He removed the elephant; we gave the elephant half a loaf of bread, and the world returned to normal.
But we never forgot it!
By Ralph Hood