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   Chapter 9 No.9

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 7362

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


The Bad Boy and His Pa Return to the Circus to Find They Have Been Quite Forgotten-The Fat Lady and the Bearded Woman Give Pa the Cold Shoulder-Pa Finally Makes Himself Recognized and Attends the Last Performance of the Season.

We arrived from the far west and struck the show at Indianapolis, where it was playing its last date of the season, before going to winter quarters. It was a sad home coming, 'cause the animals and the performers had forgotten us, and we had to be introduced to everybody.

We arrived about noon and while I stayed down town to get a shine, Pa took a street car and went right up to the lot, and the crowd was around the ticket wagon getting ready to go in. Pa went up to the ticket taker at the entrance and said, "hello, Bill," and was going to push right in, when Bill said that was no good, and there couldn't any old geezer play the "hello Bill" business on him.

A couple of bouncers took Pa by the elbows and fired him out, and the crowd laughed at pa, and told him to go and buy a ticket like a man, and Pa told the bouncers he would discharge them on the spot. Pa went to the manager's tent and complained that he had been fired out, and the manager said that was perfectly proper, unless he had a ticket, and he told Pa to get out. Pa told them who he was, but they wouldn't believe him. You see pa's face was all red and sore where the buffaloes had licked him, and the buffaloes had licked all the hair dye out of his hair and whiskers, and they were as white as the driven snow. Pa looked 20 years older than when he went west. While they were arguing about Pa and examining him to see if he had smallpox, I came up and Pa saw me and he said, "Hennery, ain't I your pa?" and I said "you can search me, that's what they always said," and then I identified pa, and they all shook hands with him, and he reported about the trip to the west, and what talent he had engaged for the wild west department for next year. Then we all went into the tent. I guess everybody was mad and excited, 'cause the show was going to close, and the salaries stop, as some of the performers were crying, and everybody was packed up, and all were paying borrowed money.

{Illustration: A Couple of Bouncers Took Pa by the Elbow and Fired Him Out.}

Pa went up to the freak's platform and tapping the fat lady on the shoulder he said, "Hello, you seem to be taking on flesh, now that the show is going to close, and you ought to have got that flesh on earlier in the season."

I shall never forget the scene. The fat lady did not recognize pa, but thought he was just an ordinary old Hoosier trying to take liberties with her, and she kicked pa's feet out from under him, and pulled him down across her lap and with her big fat hand she gave him a few spanks that made Pa see stars, and then cuffed pa's ears, and let him up. He went over to the bearded woman for sympathy, asked her how she had got along without him so long; and she got mad too and swatted Pa with her fist, and yelled for help. The giant came and was going to break Pa in two, and Pa asked the giant what it was to him, and he said the bearded woman was his wife, and that they were married the week before at Toledo. The giant lifted Pa one with his hind foot, and Pa got down off the platform, and he told them that was their last season with the show, when they had no respect for the general manager.

Then they all found out who Pa was, and apologized and tried to square themselves, but Pa was hot enough to boil over, and we went off to see the animals.

Say, there wasn't a single animal that would have Pa around. The zebras kicked at pa, the lions roared and sassed h

im, the hyenas snarled and howled, the wolves looked ugly, and the tigers acted as though they wanted to get him in the cage and tear out his tenderloin; the elephants wanted to catch Pa and walk on his frame. The only friends Pa seemed to have was the sacred bull and cow, who let him come near them, and when they began to lick pa's hand he remembered his experience with the buffaloes, and he drew away to the monkey cages. The ourang outang seemed to look on pa as an equal, and the monkeys treated me like a long lost brother.

It was the saddest home coming I ever participated in, and when the performance began Pa and I went and sat on the lowest seat near the ring, and the performers guyed Pa for a Hoosier, and the lemonade butchers tried to sell Pa lemonade and peanuts, which was the last hair, until a fakir tried to get Pa to bet on a shell game, and that was the limit.

Pa got up with a heavy heart, and started to go into the dressing room, and was arrested by one of the detectives, and put out under the canvas, and we went down town almost heartbroken, I told Pa to go to a barber shop and have his hair and whiskers colored black again, and put on his old checkered vest, and big plug hat, and two-pound watch chain, and they would all know him. So Pa had his hair and whiskers colored natural, and dressed up in the old way, and at evening we went back and stood around the tent, and everybody took off their hats to him, and when we went into the show at night everybody was polite, the freaks wanted Pa to sit on the platform with them, and the animals came off their perch, and treated Pa like they used to, and he was himself again.

He went around the big tent and watched the last performance of the season, and complimented the performers, went into the dressing room and jollied the members of the staff, and when the performance was over, and the audience had gone, all the managers and everybody connected with the show gathered in the ring to bid each other good bye, and make presents to each other. Everybody made speeches congratulating the management and all who had helped to make the show a success, and they all joined hands around the ring and sang "Auld Lang Sine," the animals in the next tent joining in the chorus.

The lights were lowered, and the canvas-men took down the tents and loaded them on the cars for home. We went down to the hotel and the managers listened to the reading of a statement from the treasurer showing how much money we had made, Pa drew his share of the profits, and we took a train for home.

At breakfast the next morning in the dining car, going into Chicago, Pa said to me, "Hennery, we have had the most exciting five months of my life. The circus business is just like any other business. If you make good and we are ahead of the game, it is respectable, but if you run behind and have to deal with the sheriff, you are suspected of being crooked. Make the people laugh and forget their troubles, and you are a benefactor, but if your show is so bad that it makes them kick and find fault, and wish they had stayed at home, you might as well put crape on the grand entrance, and go out of the business. The animals in a show are just like the people we meet in society. If you put on a good front, and act as though you were the whole thing, they respect you, and allow you to stay on the earth, but if you are changeable, and look different from your customary appearance, and come up to the cage in a frightened manner, they pipe you off and give you the ha, ha! See? Now we will go home and get acquainted."

"Well, pa," said I, looking him straight in the eye, "where are we going next?"

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