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Title: Red Wagon Stories - or Tales Told Under the Tent
Author: Hawks, Wells
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            RED WAGON STORIES
                        TALES TOLD UNDER THE TENT

                               WELLS HAWKS


                           I. & M. OTTENHEIMER
                      NO. 321 WEST BALTIMORE STREET
                             BALTIMORE, MD.

                             Cover Design by
                             J. R. CROSSLEY.

                            Copyrighted 1904.
                          I. & M. OTTENHEIMER.
                             BALTIMORE, MD.

Between the shows there were seven of the circus outfit who would sit
around the ring bank and on the carpet pads just to talk. Here are some
of the tales told under the big round top when the tent was empty.

And to those happy days of bread and preserves, when we bare-footed kids
sneaked out of the backyard gate to the circus lot and led the spotted
ponies to water, these little yarns are affectionately dedicated:--



    THE PRESS AGENT’S STORY                                     7

    THE OLD GRAFTER’S LAMENT                                   14

    THE BILL POSTER’S VISIT                                    21

    THE CANDY BUTCHER’S DREAM OF LOVE                          30

    THE BOSS CANVASMAN’S YARN                                  33

    THE SIDE SHOW SPIELER SPEAKS                               48

    THE BAND MASTER’S SOLO                                     54

      ENCOUNTER WITH THE BUCKWHEAT MAN                         59

    THE CONCERT MANAGER GETS REMINISCENT                       70

    THE HANDS AT THE WINDOW                                    75



The Press Agent of the Big Show had formerly been dramatic editor of
the leading daily in Council Bluffs. It was his star boast that he was
the only critic in the Middle West that ever had the nerve to roast Joe
Jefferson, and he said he did it in the interest of art.

“Art,” says he, “must be preserved, an’ the only way to do it is by

The Press Agent wore his hair long, had a smooth face, and looked like
a police reporter out on a three-column story with the facts coming in
slowly. He hadn’t much baggage, but he always carried about a ream of
adjective hit paper, two lead pencils, and a pass-pad. No man ever heard
him talk without wondering what kind of stuff he beat out on a typewriter.

The saw dust spreader was smoothing out the ring for the night acts
and the rest of the gang were sitting around roasting the route when
the Press Agent came through the red curtains at the dressing tent
entrance picking his teeth with a straw. He sat down on the box where the
Greaser Knife Thrower kept his keen steels, and filling his pipe waited
for a break in the conversation. Then he asked the gasoline man for a
match. After he got the fire he saw there were no words loose from the
ring-bankers, so he starts his skein.

“Well, lads, we hit ’em up hard at the mat today, 12,000 on the blue
boards an’ the ticket wagon window down before the harness is on for
the entree. S’pose them laddy-bucks in No. 2 car will say it was a good
billin’, but I’m tellin’ you people that this is a readin’ community, an’
it was the press work that had the coin hittin’ the window this date, an’
that’s no cold cream con, either. The Gov’nor knows it, for he gives me
a good word an’ a back pat jus’ as the parade was startin’ for the main

“I’m given youse the real word, an’ it’s this--when you can get ’em
readin’ about the Big Show you’ve already got ’em feelin’ for change to
buy, an’ that’s as true as ticker talk. The old man sees in the paper
that the Big Show will soon be on the lot, an’ when he gets home to daily
bread he tells it to the old woman; the kids get next and there’s no let
up on papa ’till he promises to buy in for the whole family. An’ workin’
one is workin’ all--that’s my motto. It’s the press work that gets ’em
talkin’, an’ it’s the talkin’ that’ll make ’em give up even when wheat is
down to 48 an’ interest on mortgages is starin’ ’em in the face. Get the
paper talk an’ the money is so sure that you can be plannin’ new acts for
next season before the first pasteboard hits the bottom of the red box on
the gate.

“But, say, it ain’t no children’s game to get this paper talk. The good
old days when you could blow into the newspaper offices with a loud vest
and a tiger claw hangin’ on your watch guard is done. Them times the old
agent would lay down a cigar on the editor’s desk, spread a lot of salve
about the greatest yet and the only one in captivity story, and then work
the gag ‘write me somethin’, old man.’ But them days is strictly past.
It’s a new make up now, an’ a new line of talk that wins ’em. You want
to enter quiet like just as if you were one of them Sunday school boys
with a write-up on a rally in the church basement. The editor gives you
the size-up for this, an’ when you says ‘I’m ahead of the Big Show comin’
25th and 26th,’ he’s so surprised that he’s glad to see you, an’ it’s
once aroun’ the track before the bunch sees the flag that he asks you out
to drink before you spring your pass-pad. And, if you don’t believe me,
ask soft talking Jim Jay Brady and have it passed off for gospel.

“It’s the approach that makes the center shot this new century. Go in
easy, be skimp with your talk, don’t spread the salve too thick, an’ give
’em clean copy--that’s the game; be you ahead of Henry Irving with ten
carloads of stuff, a dinky little farce comedy with a society dame doin’
the lead, a melodrama with a real convict a-cracking the safe, or one
of them Broadway big ones--no matter, it’s the same, an’ what goes for
them goes for the Big Show, whether you’ve got 68 cars on the sidin’, or
you have slipped in after night with rubber boots on--and that’s no Tody
Hamilton catch line.

“But you don’t want to be too certain; you can get your chances in this
line just as easy as in the shootin’ gallery when its bullets against
clay pipes. Some of the boys that handles the copy for the Eastern press
can put up a frost that would keep Chicago beef around the world in a
sailin’ ship. But you can melt ’em if you make good. Remember hittin’
Boston las’ season an’ runnin’ up against one of these heady boys with a
foldin’ forehead. I give it to ’em easy, an’ when I says circus he looks
at me through his windows an’ says so haughty:

“‘Ah, the circus! Quite a diverting entertainment. Originated with the

“Now wouldn’t that make you itch? Me mind gets to chasin’ ’roun’ for a
proper come-back, an’ I tries to recollect the names of some of them old
guys what went paddlin’ ’roun’ in a sheet an’ sandals spittin’ out wise
words that no one has forgot. An’ mem’ry lands me at the right dock, so I
han’s this to the college boy:

“‘Yes,’ sez I, ‘I believe it was Aristophanes who wrote an epic on the
circus to be read at one of Nero’s spring openin’s.’

“The words is hardly out of me mouth when he gives me one of those
looks that would have made Peary thought he had found the pole. So I
lays me copy on the desk and gives five bells to back water an’ I’m in
the elevator. An’ so help me Bob, I hardly reaches the pavement before
I sees sheets of paper flutterin’ in the air an’ me copy falls on the
asphalt. The college boy had lifted it. Now you would think that it was a
sheet that roasted us. Not at all, not at all. He gives us a two-column
write-up and three half tones that had me up to the bar an’ dizzy for a
day. The worst will fool you.

“An’, say, that reminds me. Remember when we was playin’ the week’s run
in Chicago las’ July? Well, I’d been skatin’ roun’ to the papers an’
buyin’ drinks for the press boys, an’ it was joggin’ along to three on
the dials when I remembers I have a bed at the hotel. It was out near the
lot, an’ I starts out to walk. I’m crossin’ the railroad tracks when a
weary steps out an’ asks me for a match. I gives up, when another comes
into the talk an’ says, ‘Give us money.’ Say, I didn’t have but thirty
cents, an’ I gave up. But the highwaymen thought I was lyin’, an’ was
going to tap me when I says, ‘Now, boys, let’s argue this out.’ So I
takes them two Jesse Jameses under a lamp post an’ gives them a josh talk
on the Big Show that has ’em serfy.”

“Well,” said the Boss Canvasman, who was always interested when there was
any fight talk, “what happened, what happened?”

“What happened?” says the Press Agent. “Hear me! I takes out me pass-pad
an’ writes passes for them robbers until a policeman comes, when I turns
’em over. An’ that ain’t all; I gets a column story in each of the
afternoon sheets on how the Press Agent of the Big Show captures two bold
boys, an’ the Gov’nor gives me the good word and a double X, an’ I says
thankee an’ repeats me motto, ‘An’ workin’ one is workin’ all,’ to every
barkeeper that was sellin’ after midnight that evenin’.”


The Old Grafter had corns on his knuckles from holding greenbacks between
his fingers.

He looked a trifle seedy about the costume, but his moustache was
waxed--the moustache, too, was dyed and you saw the reason when he took
his hat off. The Old Grafter wore a celluloid collar and a polka dotted
dickey, and when his vest was opened it showed up the shyness of his

The Concert Manager was springing gossip about the principal clown who
was having trouble with his wife who did the iron jaw swing. He saw the
Old Grafter coming across the ring and he stopped, for it was pretty well
known that old-timer wouldn’t stand for scandal. The Old Grafter bit off
enough tobacco from the canvasman’s plug to make a comfortable quid and
then sat down on the snake box. He was looking sad and there was silence.
Presently he sent a splash of juice up against the center pole and after
shifting the quid he opened up.

“Say fellers, I’ve been cuttin’ the cards since John Robinson had money
in tent shows an’ I’ve come to the verdict, it’s this--when you’ve got
the green in your pocket an’ the suckers is tipped off they’ll crowd you
as thick as flies on the popcorn pile, but when there ain’t no coin to
jingle you kin get so lonesome that you’ll go to bed with a hot water
bot’l for company.”

This bit of wisdom impressed the gang, for no one spoke, and the Old
Grafter threw his reversing bar and chinned out this--

“The old days is gone an’ they’s left the circus graft on a weedy sidin’
with no roun’ trips back to the lan’ of promise. Them was the one ring
days an’ in them times there was allus fodder for the hogs. Today it’s
one ring, two rings, three rings and a stage--the biggest tent on earth,
but for the grafter--nothin’, nothin’. Me, what use to turn the shank of
the week with a bigger wad than the principal bareback gets, me makes
today a dirty twenty on percentage an’ sellin’ reserved seats. I’m
ashamed to look the old days in the face. Why say in them days many a
time the proprietor of the Big Show was touchin’ the grafter for cash
when business was bad an’ today so diff’rent, so diff’rent--if I gets
into a poker play on the train an’ the ante’s a nickel I’ve got to reach
twice to find the coin. If I’d had the good sense what’s in Bill McGinnis
head I’d a bought a little road tavern like he did twenty years ago an’
I’d a-had a bank book roostin’ back of the bar. But I thinks there’s
still somethin’ doin’ my end an’ I waits an’ loses--and what do I get--a
couple of treasuries and some change at the pay off durin’ the season
with crackers and cheese for me an’ the old woman in the winter. It’s the
diff’rence ’tween horse radish an’ saw dust an’ its got me slippin’ back.

“I’ll tell you fellers somethin’ ’bout the old days. ’Twas ’bout ’76 an’
we was graftin’ with a one ring outfit. We struck good crops and sunny
weather in the one nighters in the Ohio valley. The farmers had money an’
there was peaches in the orchard for every boy with the troup that had a
bag of tricks. Everybody was standin’ in on the graft an’ we had a fixer
two days ahead so there’d be no call. We was carryin’ a car with the lay
out an’ four tin horns that was science on faro and turnin’ the wheel.
The big game was invited to the car an’ there was allus a set out an’
sumthin’ to drink. The little fish was worked on the lot an’ there was
days, many days when the graft was mor’n the ticket wagon count up, an’
the rake off was loafin’ ’bout par, continuous. Good days them, me boys,
for ev’ry body from the boss of the outfit down to the stake driver.
Money was comin’ easy an’ when there was any protestin’ on the part of
the patrons an’ it got to fists, or gun play we passed along the Hey Rube
an’ there was Gettysburg till mornin’ if they was lookin’ for battle.

“The best burg we hit was a lit’l settlement where we had a two mile
haul up the pike from track to lot. Everything was ripe for graftin’ an’
we was ready for harvest. Seems like a reform committee had to hit down
all the games and the folks was hungry for gamlin’. The posters in No. 1
car piped us off on conditions an’ it was said that them paste spreaders
traveled off with a roll from stud polker in the car after the bills was
on the stands.

“They wuz on the lots waitin’ for us when the boss landed to lay off the
pitch for the round top, we wuz only usin’ one then an’ had no an’mals to
speak of. The fakirs got in the game early an’ transparent cards from gay
Paree was the first bait and bitin’ was good. ’Fore the parade started
all hands was busy on the lot takin’ care of the games an’ say the
farmers had it with ’em in rolls. The foxy boy in the ticket wagon has
all his bad coin ready and the constable with the badge has been fixed
with a ten to see there’s no argument when short change is handed out.

“Oh! we worked systematic them days.

“Well, say, before the band had struck up the grand march for the entree
gold bricks wuz sellin’ like cod fish cakes at a nigger camp meetin’ an’
the boys what was workin’ the shells had to lay off to get the stiffness
out’er their fingers.

“I hates to tell it, I hates to tell it in the days there’s nothing’

“You see I was cappin’ for the boss of the show an’ say that day keeps
me busier than a man drivin’ sheep. The outfit was gettin’ thirty-five
per cent. of the graft an’ if the partic’lar grafter who was gettin’ the
coin failed to come up we se’ed that he was prop’ly turned over to the
off’cers of the law an’ we did the prosecutin’ on the groun’ that we was
runnin’ a strictly moral show. Say, while I was watchin’, a farmer with
a bunch of weeds under his chin an’ a face like a quince comes up to me
an’ makes a holler. Somebody had touched him for his wad ’fore he could
get to the games an’ he was dead sore. I se’ed that he was goin’ to make
trouble so I remembers that his wagon is standin’ in the dirt road by the
lot. I gives a stakeman the tip he kicks the off bay in the flanks an’
there’s a runaway. The corn cutter chases after his team an’ forgits that
he ever had a roll.

“An’ say at night down in the car the air was hot. The tin horns was busy
and coin was droppin’ like rotten apples in a mill race. The boys what
was dealin’ the faro had monkeyed with the deck an’ it was far to the bad
for the spenders. ’Bout time to start haulin’ for the cars two burly boys
begins to talk fight an’ it looks like Hey Rube all aroun’. One sticks
his knuckles into me face an’ I says to him sort’er fierce like.

“Say, young fellow, if youse lookin’ for fight I’ll git one of the boys
to stick his teeth in your neck an’ you’ll change your mind.

“There was no gun playin’ but there was a lot of chinnin’ and cussin’ but
we finally gets the tin horns out an’ starts ’em up the road to the first
section. The gang is hot after us an’ there was only one thing saved us.
Jes’ as the crowd was closin’ in I sees the tiger den with the two blacks
pullin’ it comin’ over the hill. I chases forward to the trainer an’ when
the cage gits up close we jes’ shoves them two tin horn dealers in the
den with the tigers an’ saves their lives.”

“Never could make a return date there, could you, Bill?” asked the Boss
Canvasman as he made one of the spotted coach dogs take a jump through
his hands.

“Return date, well I should reckon. Went back there in two months an’
still foun’ ’em ripe. But there was only one way to do it. The Boss had
to paint over all the cars an’ wagons an’ change the name of the show.
The hay boys thought it was a new outfit.”


The Bill Poster was a stranger to most every one in the outfit. He
traveled a month ahead of the show on Advertising Car No. 2, and while
he hung around during the run in New York he never got well enough
acquainted to mix in with the ring bank squatters. While the outfit had
great respect for him, and especially for his work, he wasn’t generally
understood, and this did not keep his popularity up to par. He always
seemed solid with the business staff and called the assistant treasurer
by his first name, and these two conditions were known to the sawdust
boys. They always took off their hats to anybody on the staff, and the
man in the ticket wagon was only known at the pay-off. Then, too, he
dressed well and wore a diamond, that is, a real one, and altogether his
financial condition was too good.

But for some reason or other the Bill Poster did happen back on the show
one afternoon. Just after the matinee, when the gang sat down on the
bank for the spiel, he was seen walking across the track, and the boys at
once began to speculate on what brought the paste spreader back to home.
Some of them thought it was for a call-down, and the concert manager
declared that was the cause, for, said he, “I never seen a town billed
so rotten as this un.” But the gasoline man, who was a close observer,
thought different. He knew that there was a little fairy working in the
Fall of Rome ballet that was sweet on the paste boy, and he put the rest
of the crowd wise before the conversation got too far from the shore.

“Cert’nly,” he said. “Didn’t I see the guy in his plaid rags ev’ry night
when he was playin’ the Garden, gittin’ the little lady at the dressin’
room door and blowin’ her off to butter cakes an’ coffee before she
chases to the bridge an’ home.”

The gasoline man was getting real gabby on the love affair, when the Bill
Poster came through the red curtains over the dressing tent entrance
and walked across the ring to where the gang sat in the shadows. He had
a sassy little “Howdy” for everybody and then passed around a box of
Turkish cigarettes. Everybody passed it up, and the Boss Canvasman bit
off a two-by-three chew from his plug and looked sour.

“Slipped back to see the Boss,” said the Bill Poster, as he lighted one
of the Turkish boys with a match he took out of a sterling box that had a
beer ad. on it. “Ain’t no secret; I want a transfer. I’m good an’ tired
of the slow work on No. 2 car, an’ so I gets a day off an’ runs back to
see if the Boss won’t put me with the opposition crew.”

The gang was silent. Nobody had asked for the why, so nobody commented
on it. The fact that he was going to have nerve enough to ask to get in
the opposition crew filled the concert manager with disgust, for he knew
something about bill posting, and also knew that it took a triple-plated
crackerjack to hold a place with this crowd of rush pasters of a
three-ring outfit.

“There’s nothin’ to it,” continued the Bill Poster, “gettin’ into a town
where ev’rything is dead ready, all the boards up, and nothing to do but
paste. I want a little excitement. I allus gets it in the winter, when
I’m billin’ a hall show. Many a time I’ve laid me bundle of lithos under
a doorstep to punch some guy who was tearin’ down my stuff in saloons
where I’d spent up me money, and then hangin’ his stuff in the window. I
tell you the opposition crew is the crowd to have the ginger. When your
car is hangin’ up on a grassy sidin’ an’ you gits a wire that the other
show is routin’ three days ahead of your own bookin’s, it makes you jump.
The boss wires the head of the gang to jump for the town and beat ’em
up. Beat ’em out, but on the level, legitimate--but beat ’em up. Don’t
tear down none of their billin’, but kill it if you have to buy the side
of the Presbyterian meetin’ house to git a showin’ for them nine-colored
twenty-eight sheet stands.”

As far as the gang on the bank was concerned, the Bill Poster was talking
Greek, and he had ’em wingin’. The Concert Manager thought he was “next,”
but his coupling broke before his understanding left the city limits.
Just then the Press Agent of the Big Show happened in and the talk hadn’t
gone three lengths before the Bill Poster and the newspaper man crossed
bayonets. Both were doing the publicity gag, and both had a well set and
riveted idea that each one and not the other was bringing the people into
the tent and giving the show a good gate to send back on the statement to
the high hat boys in the city who were doing the financing.

“Let me tell you something,” said the Press Agent, as serious as if he
was arguing to get a half column write-up on fourteen dollars’ worth of
advertising in the only daily in the town. “Let me tell you. These days
the people who are spending money for amusements reads the papers, and
it’s the paper talk that lands the coin at the window. I know what I’m
talkin’ about. Bill posting is all right, but it’s the newspaper work
that does the real singin’.”

“Come off!” said the Bill Poster. “You’re only pluggin’ your own job. You
don’t mean to tell me that the boss of this outfit would keep all the
printin’ shops in Cincinnatty goin’ night an’ day to git out the wall
stuff if they didn’t think it was some good. An’ say, they wouldn’t be
runnin’ three billin’ cars ahead of this here show if there wasn’t some
come-back to the money they was blowin’. Why, say, what do you think they
are? Your press work is all right, an’ my bill postin’ is all right, an’
you’ve got to have both.”

“Well, maybe you’re right,” said the Press Agent; “I guess they use the
billing to emphasize my work.”

“I don’t know so sure what you means, partner,” said the Bill Poster,
“but the Boss of our car figgers it out this way: He says that the
readin’ in the papers about the big show makes ’em look at the pictures
on the wall. And, says he, the pictures on the wall makes ’em read what
is in the papers. An’, say, he’s been pastin’ since the John Robinson

“Guess he’s right,” said the Press Agent.

This last statement hit the gang as real good sense, and they half agreed
that the Bill Poster knew something about his business.

“I tell you, boys,” continued the Bill Poster, as he took a seat on the
sawdust pile and lighted another one of the Sultan’s dreams, “in me dull
moments, when we is travelin’ an’ there’s nothin’ to do but layin’ out
paper an’ gittin’ the buckets ready, I figgers it out this way: You can
git ’em with the paper talk all right; but there’s one thing you can do
with good bill postin’ and litho work, an’ it’s this, you can’t make ’em
read the papers, but bless me, you can make ’em see bill postin’. Say,
me an’ the gang I work with in New York have sniped the subway fence so
hard with red-on-yellows that you would think there was nothing else
on Broadway. Did you see ’em? Well, you bet. There was so much color
stickin’ along the ditch that it hurt your eyes when you rode by in
a car. That’s what I claims for proper billin’. You can git it where
they’ve got to see it.

“Say, to prove what I says is right, I’ll tell you a little experience I
has. I was doin’ the litho work for a cheap price house that was playin’
the old favorites with a stock. They puts on ‘The White Squadron.’ The
boss comes to me and says, ‘Look here, Jim, I wants you to do your best
with this piece; its costin’ us a lot of money to get it on, and we wants
to get it back. There’s a diamond stud coming to you if you gets what
I calls a good showin’.’ Say, I would ’a’ done it anyhow for them kind
words, but I says I’ll git that diamond if I puts bills all over the
trees in Central Park an’ goes up in stripes for ten years for doin’ it.
I was thinkin’ all the time some new gag to work, when one mornin’ comin’
down I reads that there’s a yacht race in Harlem river that afternoon.
You know, boys, ‘The White Squadron’ is one of them naval pieces, an’ has
a lot of ships in it. Well, the Sunday before I’d pasted up a lot of one
an’ a half sheet boards with type an’ litho stuff, an’ I has it loaded
in a wagon ready to git out on the street some night and sit the boards
in doorways. But no, says I. Me partner an’ I drives the team out to the
Harlem River bridge. The river is so thick with tugs and launches full of
people to see the boat race that you can hardly find the water. We waits
until the race starts, an’ then we clumps them boards into the river,
carefully like, so they will fall with the picture side up. They hits
the current and starts floatin’ down. They all seems to cling together,
and make a big raft, an’ all you can see is ‘White Squadron.’ Everybody
on the bridge and the boats is a readin’ and laughin’, and we knows it’s
the showin’ of our lives. And say, the boards keeps on driftin’ wid the
current an’ gits so thick that when the guys in the paper boats hits that
part of the river they gits stuck and the race has to be called off.”

“Well,” said the Press Agent, coolly, “did the show do any business?”

“Business!” replies the Bill Poster; “you’d a thought there was a fire in
the neighborhood ev’ry night, the crowd was there so thick fightin’ to
git in. An’ say, the guys what got broke up in the boat race is so stuck
on the joke that they gives a theatre party an’ the papers is full of it.”

“Yes,” said the Press Agent, “and it took the press agent to get that in
the papers.”

“But the bill posters got ’em in the house,” retorted the Bill Poster,
with the air of a man who had knocked the local welterweight over the


It was generally conceded that the Candy Butcher was the handsomest man
in the outfit. To be sure, the gent who did the sixty-one horse act in
Ring Three was a Charlie boy for good looks, but it was only when he was
in the red coat and working. When he left the dressing tent and went red
light hunting in a one night stand he looked like a canvasman on a visit
home to his people, but he was a hot card when he had the dicer on in
the horse act. It was so different with the Candy Butcher--he was always
dressed up and he never looked like he felt it.

No one ever saw the Candy Butcher wear a coat, but his checked trousers
were always creased whether the big show was playing a one night in
Keokuk or doing a run in the Madison Square Garden over in the hot city.
And he always wore a vest, but it was never buttoned and there was a red
striped shirt with one of those Montana boys screwed in the bosom right
under the dickey dot of a bow. The vest was something to speak about--it
had the band wagon way to the bad on the distribution of colors and
looked like page 89 in a wall paper drummer’s sample book. There was a
shiny chain with an elk’s tooth and a tiger’s claw and in one vest pocket
was a date book with a tooth brush and a blue pencil doing a duet on the
other side of the rainbow. The Candy Butcher always wore pink underwear
and had his sleeves rolls up to his elbows. And you don’t want to forget
the little miniature of “blondy” that he had pinned right over his blood

And as a matter of detail the Candy Butcher always had this get up the
whole season and no grease spots ever scored--he was just the same
whether it was back of the tub and the peanuts giving the “five tonight
good people” gag, selling concert tickets during the run-offs in the
hippodrome or Sunday afternoon in the ladies’ coach, section three,
telling the big blonde who did the cloud swing in the round top rigging
that of all the girls she was the onliest.

The gang was sitting on a carpet roll under the big top when the Candy
Butcher came across the track and sat down on the ring bank. He was
looking sad, but his pants were creased and the Montana boy was shining
like a frozen hunk of Kennebec water. He rolled himself a cigarette and
the gang being silent he edged in with this bunch of talk:

“I’m bluer this evenin’ than the paste boards they’re passin’ out of the
ticket wagon an’ if it wasn’t for gettin’ the dock at the pay off I’d be
up against some boozery workin’ the syphon like an engine at a tenement
fire. I ain’t got no life in me ’t all an’ I won’t have until we leaves
the east an’ strikes the west country. B’lieve me, me boys, the east is
all right for business, for I can pass out the sour juice at five a throw
right here as well as any where, but it’s myself an’ not the place. It
was too much of a feather bed las’ season an’ I was fool enough not to
remember that I had to wake up. There ain’t no use talkin’, whenever a
guy gets a good dream in this here life some sucker has got to give him
the alarm clock finish an’ he wakes up with a yell.

“Say, I can call the turn on the folks on the blue boards an’ have ’em
all drinkin’ lemon juice and shellin’ peanuts an’ I likes to do it, but
me heart ain’t in the work, this season and that’s no lithograph josh
either. I’ll tell you and some of youse may give me the grin, but it’s
ten to one you’ve had the soft spot yourselves, so I ain’t a-carin’.
Remember the Congress of Nations gag they was workin’ las’ season? Well
right back of me lay out there was a lot of maidens that was doin’ the
gypsy village and fakin’ a lot of beads and fortune tellin’. There was
one little fairy in the outfit that had me dead, an’ I don’t mind tellin’
you that she had me soft from the start. She wasn’t none of these city
pick ups but a nice little gal that talked quiet and minded her own. She
didn’t mix with the rest of the push an’ we got thick the first day the
canvass went up. She tells me her story confidential like an’ I give her
me sympathy, for her people was dead agin her for troopin’. You see she
had been working in a New York hash house, where they had Bible talk on
the wall an’ where they gave a splash of beans and a draw for a dime.
She gets tired an’ a guy what has been eatin’ at the place gives her
a job in a boardin’ house waitin’ on the table. Here she meets the man
what has the Congress get up to put on an’ he tells her gilt edge stories
about the circus business and to cut the talk down she joins out with
the show. Well, say, she was the real thing to me. In two months she had
me stoppin’ the booze an sendin’ money home to the folks, an’ it was a
center shot to get that out of me. She was allus lookin’ for a chance to
do me somethin’ kind an’ one day she did a little turn that I wont forget
long after I’ve past the old man’ home.

“We had struck a rough run of one nighters in Ohio and was looking for
bright things across the river in the West Virginney townships. I had to
do the German Emperor in the parade an’ when we got back to the lot I
begins to get me stand ready for the sale. I’d packed up careful on the
last stand and thought it was sunny for the next. But when I got me chest
open I finds the citric acid jug missing, and the floaters I’d saved to
throw on the top of the tub was gone too. I had a cussin’ spell for a
brief and then I goes on a still hunt for lemons--the real yellow. But
bless me I couldn’t find one in the village an’ there was nothin’ doin’
with the barkeeper what had ’em. Comin’ back I see’s a dago doin’ the
shaker across from the lot. He has ’bout a dozen lemons and I offers him
a good price, but the brown boy wouldn’t sell an’ I was sorer than a
doped lion. I goes into the tent and meets Maggie, that was the name of
me fairy, an’ she was sewin’ silvers on her little coat. She sees me sad
like an’ I unloads me woes. The gal didn’t say much, but she rubs her
hand across me frowner an’ sez, never mind, John, I’ll help ye out, an’
goes ’way. Say, youse may give me the laugh, but durn me if that lass
didn’t come back in ’bout an hour carryin’ a bucket an’ I mos’ had a fit
when I see’s it full of gooseberries? What’s the game? sez I.

“Watch me?” sez Maggie, “an’ I’ll keep you in the business.”

“Durn me, boys, if that little maiden didn’t mash them berries to a pulp,
strain ’em through the Hoochie Coochie gal’s veil and have the tub full
of sour juice in seven minutes. I pours in the water, finds me floaters
and puts them on the ice bank an’ before the gang is passin’ once
’roun’ I’m sellin’ the juice as if lemons was growin’ on locust trees.
Gooseberries too an’ the yaps couldn’t git enough of it. It was better
than any graft ever in the one ring days an’ the little gal had done it
all. Ain’t no use tellin’ you that I gives her a new shirt waist an’ she
gives me a squeeze that makes me top spin like a merry-go-round.

“An’ say I fixed that dago that wouldn’t give up. I tipped off one of the
drivers and when the first pole wagon leaves the lot with the eight grays
a pullin’ it, the leads shies into the shaker stand an’ gives it the
apple cart finish.

“But the little fairy I lost her an’ that’s why I’m sad. It was this
way. The gal what did the twistin’ for the Turks had the fever an’ they
shipped her home. The guy what had the Congress comes to Maggie, gives
her the jersey and the gauzy pants and sez she must do the part. Maggie
kicked an’ said she was engaged for the gypsie village. The guy says “not
at all” and Maggie pulls off the spangles an’ goes home. An’ say I ain’t
been right since, an’ some days I feels like playin’ quits myself.”

The gang looked at the Candy Butcher consolingly, but no one spoke.

“The las’ I hears from her,” she said, “she had gone back to waitin’.”
She’s slingin’ hash in a Brooklyn Caf’, but I loves her just as hard.


The Boss Canvasman was always sad. He never talked--he just chewed his
tobacco and worked. Like the Candy Butcher, he never wore a coat, but he
cut the pink underwear the Lemonade Boy flashed when he had his sleeves
rolled up at the tub. Of course, the Boss had a coat, one that had run
through a dozen seasons, but he always kept it strapped down under the
driver’s cushion on the pole wagon. Whenever he did use it, the coat was
doing duty for a pillow when the last section was late pulling out, and
he was sleeping on a gondola with the wall poles for a mat.

The Boss Canvasman’s pants were ancient history, and his vest was always
open. He wore one of those motorman watches, with a shoestring for a
chain. He never looked at the watch except at night, for when it was
daytime he could pull off the hour on the second by the slant of the
shadows across the big “top.” The Boss never wore a collar. On Sunday he
would put a gold button in the shirt band, lean disconsolately against
the tongue of the pole wagon, and feel uncomfortable because he was
dressed up.

There was no coin and jewel flash about the Boss Canvasman. But he did
wear a rusty button in the lapel of his vest--one of those G. A. R.
things. Across his face there was a long red scar, and sometimes when
he had been drinking he talked about the first Ohio Cavalry--Gettysburg
was the answer. He feared nobody nor anything. He had no friends, except
probably the Stock Boss, and there was a tie there, because the two had
done the wagon show long years back before three rings were dreamed of
and farmers were living on their own hog meat and were happy. If he ever
did talk, it was when something went wrong, and then his line of words
were unfit for publication--even in a Chicago weekly.

It looked like a squall just as the matinee was breaking, and the boys
at the cages were hurrying the people along to get the tent clear before
the water fell. The Boss Canvasman was hard at it getting the guys tight
and throwing in cinders around the big poles, where the dirt was soft. He
was taking no chances on a blow. He had been mixed up in several of those
wind things down in Texas, where a cyclone struck the lot, and all that
was left when the sun got back was the ticket wagon and the elephants
that were chained to earth. He knew his game.

After the usual beef stew and the splash of beans had been put away with
a cup of black in the meal tent, the gang gathered about the rink bank
for a little rest. The Sawdust Spreader and the Gasoline Man were talking
scandal, as usual. This time it was the Snake Charmer, who mixed it too
strong with the bottles on the last stand, lost the keys to her snake-box
and two boas and a black boy starved to death before the feeders could
get the rabbits under the fangs.

The gang sat down in silence until the Concert Manager cut in with some
weather talk. It looked stormy, and as it was the last night of the stand
and a long haul to the cars, everybody was feeling a little sore. With a
storm coming up, the tent to watch, and then the haul and an eight-hour
jump with a hustle for the march in spangles down the highway the next
morning. It had everybody grouchy and thinking about hall shows with a
roof and a stove.

“Youse is doing a lot of guff about a rain,” cut in the Side Show
Spieler, as he polished up his shiny brim on the corner of the leaping
tick, “but youse kin stay inside when its droppin’, but for me--the open
and still the same old gab for the dimes.”

The Boss Canvasman came up along the ring bank, and without noticing the
crowd on the sawdust began to jamb down the cinders around the net-pole
with the heel of his boot. From the distance came a low rumble of
thunder. The gang looked at each other. Everybody in the outfit feared a
storm; not so much for the storm itself, but for the effect it had on the
Boss Canvasman. He never talked, but when the basses under the hills were
growling and the lightning was doing a fancy jig against the blue, he let
loose a vocabulary that would put a canalboat captain to the blush of
shame and send a sea-soaked old jib reefer to flight as a down and out
cusser beyond appeal, cards torn up, tables turned over and police at the
door. He used the same two-em words, but the way they hit the air would
have made holes in a battleship.

The broadcloth boys, who came over in the sailing ships and scared the
Indians into religion by telling them how warm it was in perdition,
couldn’t touch the Boss Canvasman for a scare when he got on the same
topic. He had a way of saying “hell!” that made you want to turn in a
fire alarm just for personal comfort.

Presently he came across to the gang, and to the surprise of all the
rink-bank squatters loosened up.

“Talkin’ ’bout workin’ in the rain, is you?” he said, with a sneer, and
a cross-hook glance at the Side Show Spieler. “You’ve got no kick. Say,
you’ll have your head on some Mamie’s shoulder in the last day coach, up
an’ away, while me an’ my gang is still workin’ on this lot gittin’ this
round top on the wagon without streakin’ her wid mud.”

There was not a reply, for the boys knew he was right. The Side Show
Spieler hung around a bit, and, with a typhoid smile, remarked that he
guessed he’d bow hisself out, and more than that, he did.

“Speakin’ about storms,” said the Boss Canvasman, as he tied a long,
running knot in the guy that held the triple bars, “I guess you fellows
’ceptin’ some of the old boys, dunno what it is for a rain an’ a blow. I
dun bin circusin’ it for forty year, and, say, I’ve met some blows an’
lightnin’ that no sailor chap ain’t hit, I don’t care how often he’s bin
’round the Horn.”

You couldn’t have looked into the face of that old fellow without
believing every word. He was burned brown by every clime, creased and
seamed by every frost, and parched and dryed by every wind, and his hands
for knots and gnarls had an old oak twice around the track and then past
the judges and turf writers, all off and back to the street cars.

“Say, I’m going to tell you fellers sumthin’,” said the Boss, as he sat
down and began twisting together a piece of rope that was getting to look
like a lion’s tail. The gang was startled, for in the memory of none
there never lodged the fact that the Boss Canvasman had been seen to sit
down as long as the pole was standing. But he did, and what’s more, he
reeled off a yarn.

“Jes, ’fore the war broke out,” he said, “I had enlisted in the First
Ohio, I was workin’ down the Valley of Virginia wid a little wagon show
doin’ the same kind of work I’se doin’ now, ’cept it was nothin’ but play
to this. Funny, too, for six months afore I was down that same valley wid
the cavalry cuttin’ into them rebs, an’ I don’t mind telling you they was
a cuttin’ us, too, wid Mosby in the woods an’ ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, God
knows where.

“Well, we had been doin’ a day an’ a night stand in one of the little
towns, an’ had a fourteen mile haul down the pike for the next. We was
hopin’ for a moon, not so much to strike by, but for the drive, for
the people hadn’t got the roads to right, an’ they was still full of
artillery ruts an’ wagon train wrecks. But we pulled off the show, an’
before the last bareback was on I has the menagerie canvas on the wagons,
all stakes up and the dens down the road, with the boys leadin’ the
elephants and the two camels over the hills. It had been squally like,
all night, but I had the round top tightened up so hard that youse could
have walked the ropes an’ there was no danger.

“But jes’ as Dutch Andy was playin’ his last piece there was a bust
of wind an’ a flash of lightnin’, an’ she began to come down in solid
sheets. We gets the people out and gets to work on the tent wall. This
peels off in a jiffy, an’ the rain lets up. Then down wid the big top an’
on the wagon. But sumthin’ catches in the riggin’ on the main pole, an’ I
sees I has to send me helper up on a climb to get her clear. Everything
was gone but the pole wagon and a few side show things, an’ the ’bus we
bosses rode in, with four grays pullin’ it. Afore I sends my helper, Jim,
a fine boy, what had been a sailor, up the pole, I send four men out to
hold her up by hangin’ on the long rope to the far stake. Jim skins up to
the top an’ gits her loose, but before he kin git down the gang holdin’
the long guy loses their holt, an’ the pole falls.

“Well, we picks up Jim, an’ he is pretty bad. Ribs in, an’ a lot of cuts.
We tried ev’ry house aroun’, but no doctor, though there was one good old
lady who gave us some arnicy and strips of bandage she said she’d kept
to use on her husband when he got shot up in the Saturday night fights
’bout the tavern. So we piles poor Jim into the ’bus, and drives off
easy, while we walks along quiet like an’ sore. Poor Jim, he jes’ groans
an’ talks ’bout doin’ his best, an’ I keeps givin’ him liquor to make him
forget it.

“But it was all over for Jim, an’ we jes pullin’ out of a clump of woods
down by a river when we sees he’s dead. There was no use carryin’ his
body long, an’ he didn’t have no people to ship it to, so we decided to
give him a decent burial. Two of the stakemen digs the place, an’ we lays
poor Jim away under a willow tree. Jes’ then one of the boys speaks up
an’ sez:

“‘Say, boys, it don’t seem right to plant Jim without sayin’ sumthin’.’

“But there wasn’t a mother’s son in the crowd knew what to say, though
they is all on to what the fellow means. We waits awhile an’ I sez:

“‘Well, there might be a little singin’.’

“An’ I wishes that I had the principal clown there, for he was good on
sad songs, ’specially if he’d been boozin’ a little.

“‘Might git the band,’ sez one of the boys.

“‘But the band is way ahead.’ We is all studyin’ like, when over the
hills comes the whistling wagon.

“‘Here is the calliope,’ sez one of the stakemen.

“So we stops it, and ‘Reddy’ Cavenaugh, who played the whistles, besides
doublin’ for Peter the Great in the street parade, sez he has enough
steam on to play a little. We backs the calliope around, an’ three of the
boys holds the hosses. Then Reddy played soft like, jes’ as soft as he
could, on the whistles, an’ we all lifts our hats.”

“What did he play?” asked the Candy Butcher, as he wiped away a tear with
his red cuff.

“Well,” said the Boss Canvasman, “he only knowed two tunes, ‘When Johnny
Comes Marchin’ Home’ and ‘The Blue Danube,’ but we planted Jim to both.”


The Side Show Spieler was a tall dark man with a sad face. He was clean
shaven, wore his hair slightly long and looked like William Jennings
Bryan, after the vote was in and counted and the telegraph operators had
gone home. He had a deep baritone voice and a vocabulary that was always
It. The Spieler carried more education than any man on the pay-roll and
it was said that he was the only man in the outfit that could read the
Latin names on the animal cages. It was generally supposed that he was
one of the better days’ boys, but he never told the story of his past
life to any of the gang.

It had started to rain just after the afternoon performance, and as it
was the night to strike and haul, the six squatters on the ring bank
were silent and sore. The Spieler came in from the menagerie and joined
the layout. He never sat down, so he stood for a while in front of the
others. No one spoke and he let a little conversation hit the air.

“What’s the matter with you fellows? Sore ’cause it is raining! Don’t see
why, you all are under cover. I’ve got to stand out there in front of the
tent and talk for dimes.”

“Yes,” said the Boss Canvasman, “and I’ve got this tent to roll up an’

“Well be happy, be happy,” said the Spieler. Then after a pause. “Say,
you fellows can help me out a little. The Boss gives me a talk last
night, and says while the spiel for the little show is all right and good
he wants a new one for the big stands we strikes next week. I’ve been
digging up the old talk I used to tear off on the Midway at the Chicago
Show and I’ve about studied her out, if youse don’t care I’ll just unroll
here an’ see if its the proper josh.”

There was no objection, so the Spieler mounts one of the red painted
stools, the object holders stand on for the little lady to jump the
banners. Then he serves his spiel:

“And now good people if you will kindly give me your attention for a few
moments I will explain to you the great congress of freaks, oddities of
mother nature and strange and curious collection of wonders shown in the
tent. Remember you have plenty of time, the Big Show does not commence
for fully harf an hour. Surely you will not leave the lot until you
have seen all--all good people--all provided for you in this monster
entertainment, this caravan of canvas covered world sought wonders. Come
a little closer. Please. Thank you. First, let me call your attention to
a remarkable group of reindeer. We have not one--three--five--or six of
these specimens of the animal kingdom, but a whole herd of them--a herd
of them--a herd of reindeer from the land of the midnight sun, where
there is but one night, one day--reindeers, my friends, from the icy
mountains of far away Norway the greatest group ever exhibited in any
colossal enterprise that has ever been organized by mortal man.

“Next you will find the ostrich farm. This strange bird that furnishes
plumage for me ladies’ bonnet, and that comes from the sunny sands of
Africa. And remember the cool of the evening is the best time to see the
ostriches, for it is then you may notice their marked pe-cu-li-ar-i-ties.
Listen, good people, reindeer and ostriches--reindeer from the frozen
north--ostriches from torrid Africa--specimens from each zone, the most
astounding representation of nature’s wonderland ever shown. Reindeer and
ostriches--as the poet says:

    “From Greenland’s icy mountains
    From Afric’s coral strand
    Where them crystal waters
    Run down the heathen land.

“And all for a dime, ten cents, will you hesitate? but wait, good people,
that is not all. The wonder of wonders is yet to come--Bobo--he eats ’em
alive, he eats ’em alive. You must see Bobo. This strange and curious
specimen of humanity who exists upon poisonous reptiles, captured in the
jungles of the Tasmanian blue gum tree and brought to civilized America,
he still lives on snakes--Bobo, the snake eater--Bobo, he eats ’em alive,
he eats ’em alive.

“One moment, good people, one moment--this is not all. Listen--Wild
Rose--the half girl and half dog. This remarkable freak of nature that
has puzzled the scientists of two continents. Queen Mary, the largest
fat woman ever shown under canvas or in hall of curios, the marvelous
Samson, the giant of today, who bears upon his breast great rocks to be
broken with a sledge, and last but not least--Professor Corello and his
troupe of performing roaches, the only attempt ever made to develop the
hitherto unknown powers of these insects. The greatest, most interesting
and educating avalanche of remarkable freaks and strange and curious
people ever shown. And all for a dime, two nickels, good people--a dime,
but a dime. The performance is about to begin--one dime--the sight
of an invested fortune, the greatest stroke of genius of the modern
showman--yours for a dime.”

The Spieler took a long breath and then looked at his audience.

“How’s that,” he asked, “how’s that for a furnace talk?”

“It’s all right, Cap,” said the Concert Manager; “it’ll bring ’em.”

“Say,” said the Boss Canvasman, “how do you keep that voice of yours
shoutin’ all the time?”

“Boozin’, boozin’ up,” said the Spieler, “boozin’ up.”


The leader of the Big Show’s band wasn’t much on technique, but if
there were any notes coming to an E-flat cornet that he had overlooked
something was wrong with the whole theory of music.

The way he could blow melody out of that piece of polished brass was
something that the rest of the outfit never understood. He was a little
fellow with a very small moustache that ran largely to waxed ends. He
always wore a blue uniform and a cap, and he looked like a messenger boy.
The twenty-eight “star soloists” that he directed possessed more wind
than a Western cyclone and an Eastern typhoon blown into one, for twice a
day they played from one-thirty until the last race in the hippodrome was
off, and this was no five finger exercise.

The gang was rather talkative when the leader came across from the band
stand, so he sat down on the corner of the elevated stage and hummed to
himself. Presently the chorus cut out and he soloed thusly:

“I ain’t no Sousa, boys, an’ there ain’t no brass hangin’ to my pea
jacket, but say, if there’s any leader that can get more noise out of
them 28 than I can, I’ll eat every bit of sawdust under the tent an’ say
thankee when I’m done.”

Nobody disputed this distinction and the leader continued to cadenza:

“It ain’t no snap tossin’ off melody for a show like this. When I’m out
with the minstrels in the winter the game’s easy, but the snap is nothin’
but blow, an’ you’ve got a lot of crazy ones in the ring here to take
cues from. An’ talkin’ about them 28 of mine, there ain’t no show band in
the country that can beat ’em switchin’.”

“Say, you know the night we opened in the Garden? Well, we was playin’
‘The Holy City’ for the guy in spangles what rolls hissef up the spiral.
The music plot was ‘Holy City’ to the top, a little of the shiver while
he was makin’ the last turn, an’ then a lot of brass an’ bing-bing when
he makes the rush to the ring. Well, the boys were playin’ the ‘Holy
City’ fine and daisy when the equestrian director comes across the track
an’ whispers:

“‘Here’s Dewey comin’ up by the reserved section.’

“So I knows he wants somethin’ appropriate, an’ I gives the signal for
‘Here Comes a Sailor.’ Well, them twenty-eight switches like a limited
on a clear track an’ the crowd on the boards goes wild. But the guy in
the tin ball, he’s been kneelin’ it up to ‘The Holy City,’ an’ when the
music changes to swift he can’t work his knees fas’ enough an’ he lets go
an’ nearly breaks his back. He calls me a Dutch somethin’, I didn’t jes’
catch, an’ it costs him 25 fine off the pay sheet.

“An’ speakin’ about noise, fifteen year ago I leaves home, where I was
workin’ in a harness factory and leadin’ the Silver Cornet Band in the
evenin’, an’ goes on the road with a medicine show. We has one of them
long-haired boys doin’ the fake dentist an’ pullin’ teeth without pain
while his wife does the female doctor an’ sells pills. We six brass has
to play when Doc an’ his wife is workin’, an’ in the mornin’ go back of
the stage an’ roll pills an’ put ’em in fancy boxes what Doc sells with
the packages of Australian gold pens, the little joker transparent cards
an’ the South American Cyroola Corn Cure what he gives away to each an’
every purchaser of Dr. Sorino’s Death Delayin’ Pellets.

“Well, the game was to git some coon in the crowd to come up on the stage
an’ have his tooth pulled for nothin’ an’ without pain. Doc gets the moke
in the chair an’ makes his spiel ’bout the great pain killer he has an’
says it won’t hurt the boy on the velvet. The band was all brass except
Cooney Watson, who was playin’ a kettle drum an’ workin’ the bass and
cymbals with a pedal. While Doc was gittin’ the forceps on the tooth we
played soft an’ quiet like an’ as soon as he gives the jerk we lets loose
with a march an’ you can’t hear nigger man holler to save your life. It
was great, an’ it worked the countries all the times. Cooney would make
you think there was a thunder storm comin’ up the way he beat them drums.

“But poor Cooney. Doc picks up six Indians to make the show stronger an’
introduce his famous Indian bitters. The red boys had a new moon an’ asks
Cooney to loan ’em the drum to do the Tom Tom. Cooney says no an’ the
Big Chief gets good an’ sore, but says nothin’. The next day we has a
parade an’ we brass is on top of a wagon with Doc’s ads, painted on the
side. The Indians is ridin’ along behind us. Well, say, we had hardly
hit the main street when the Indian what was sore on the drummer throws
his lariat and lassos poor Cooney off the wagon, drums an’ all, into the
middle of a bunch of cows what was gettin’ weighed. He was pretty bad, so
we shipped him home.”

“That ain’t Cooney beatin’ the drum with us, is it?” asks the Boss
Canvasman as he tied a long running knot in the guy rope to the net under
the swings for the brother act.

“No indeed,” says the Leader, “Cooney never joins out again. The las’ I
seen of him he was workin’ at his trade out in Indianny--he was paintin’
the roof of the courthouse when we had the parade.”


The Candy Butcher of the Big Show looked like a cut-out in a Sunday
supplement. He was the best dressed man in the outfit, and no matter what
he was doing and where he was doing it he always looked fixed up, and he
felt it.

His pants were always creased whether the show was doing a run in the
large city or playing the one-nighters on a single-track jerk-water
beyond the Wabash. He never wore his coat when working, and his loud
linen would have stopped a limited with one flash from the tower. He
was there with the pink underwear, and his stockings had more kinds of
color in them than the side of the band wagon when the season was new.
The Candy Butcher was always dressed, and when he got behind the counter
to pull off the “Five tonight, good people!” gag he would have made
the window of an East Side gents’ furnishing store drop the curtain.
The Candy Butcher didn’t mix in much with the men in the outfit. He had
a chemical moustache that he zephyred with a velvet voice, and he was
always aces with the ladies. When Section One was pulling out for a long
Sunday jump, be sure of Him for the day coach with the girls. He was good
at that, and, while he didn’t always make a landing, he managed generally
to get his bowline fast to the pier before the current caught him.

He always wore his coat in the meal tent, but he took it off right after
supper and carried it on his arm. The make-up didn’t miss the ulster
much, for he had on a vest that was three strikes and out for rainbow
colors--one of those rum omelette tinted things that a Philadelphia
button buyer puts on for Saturday night when he’s waiting at the stage
door for some spotlight Sadie. He was there with the cheap tailors, all

The squatters on the ring bank were just settling for the afternoon gab
while the equestrian director, sore because he couldn’t get away to keep
a date, was rearranging the horse acts with a piece of a pencil on the
back of the night’s card. The Candy Butcher came through a crevice in
the tent and stopped to talk to the Saw Dust Spreader, who was standing
behind the wardrobe basket pulling on his plush pants.

“What you dressin’ for?” said the Candy Butcher.

“Oh, they’re gettin’ cheap,” said the Saw Dust Spreader. “I’ve got to
double for an object holder, an’ I’m up for the leaps right after the

“What do you care,” said the Candy Butcher, “long as peppermint is

Then he laughed at his own little trade journal joke. He was full of
those. He was always reading song books and joke budgets when waiting to
get up on the blue boards to sell tickets for the concert after the show.
He came across the track and joined the gang.

“Gee!” said the Side Show Spieler, who was always good on the opening
line, “youse dressed up for fair tonight! Looks like youse goin’ to a
birthday party.”

“Not for me,” replied the Candy Butcher, as he put another piece of gum
under the mustache. “Cut out the parties for Willie in the Summer an’
after this in the winter no more front parlor talks for me after ma is
in bed an’ the old man is out in the cold switchin’ down in the railroad

“Sore again,” said the Concert Manager; “you’ve always got your kick
comin’ on sumthin’.”

“Well, I wouldn’t,” said the Candy Butcher, “but you fellows is allus
runnin’ me in when it comes to any girl talk. Say, I ain’t the masher of
this outfit, take it from me. If I could do the look killin’ an’ have ’em
runnin’ me like the boy what does the principal bareback--the popcorn and
the soft drinks--well, no more for Jamesie.”

The gang sort of warmed up to this talk, so he let her out another notch
and began.

“Say,” he continued, “youse fellows is allus lookin’ for sumthin’ soft.
Well, say, I’ve got a game for this season that will kill ’em. No more
kicks over the lemonade tub for me. I’ve got ’em all skinned on the sour
juice game. Say, you may not know it, but it’s a losin’ game when you’r
runnin’ to one-nighters and sellin’ lemon juice. It looks good to see me
hollerin’ over the chunk of ice an’ takin’ in the half dimes while I’m
passin’ out the cold drink an’ the peanuts; but, say, you never thought
how many of them nicks it takes to buy a box of lemons. All right, all
right in the city, bo’, for the yellow boys, but when you are run out in
the meadows it’s diff’rent, diff’rent.

“So, says I, during the winter when I’m managin’ me penny arcade wid the
talkin’ machines, says, ’ll get up a scheme that will make the lemons
back to the shady groves for you, no more fore me. An’, say, I gits me
think tank on it and I invents sumthin’. Say, you’ll laugh, but I pulled
it off this afternoon, an’, say, they all fell for once.”

“What is it, Bill?” asked the Old Grafter, always ready for a new shot at
the purse.

“‘What is it?’ Well, say! You know how them guys is stringin’ you about
fake lemonade, ’cause you ain’t got no yellow slices floatin’ on the top
of the tub. Well, what is you goin’ to do when lemons is 45 per, an’
even the barkeeps is usin’ the acid for the sour. Well, me, I just has
a dozen lemon slices made out of celluloid, an’, say, Bill, you can’t
tell ’em from the real, ’pon my word, boy, when they is floatin’ aroun’
in the tub after I has poured in me water, me citric acid and me sugar.
Why, say, it looks like one of them things at a Fresh Air give-out, where
everything is dun on the level, ’cause the reporters is watchin’. I jes’
works me celluloid slices on the stan’, an’ when biz is dun wipes ’em
off, puts ’em in the box, an’ theyse jes’ as good as new, an’ there’s
more comin’ to the Dime Savin’ for Will, an’ that’s no song book wit.”

The crowd eyed him in silence with that awe that meets a pack of
undergraduates when they first gaze upon the man who discovered some new
chemical analysis they never expect to understand.

The Saw Dust Spreader joined the crowd just then looking like a cheap
leading man in a ten and twenty “Carmen,” with the red pants and the
little coat. It was he for gossip, so he broke in.

“Yes, you’re pretty good,” he said to the Candy Butcher, remembering the
laugh he got when he came across the tan bark. “But, say, where was you
all last week? No lyin’ now, Willie, ’cause I’m on, dead on.”

“Well, I dunno that it’s any secret,” said the Candy Butcher. “I dun me
duty an’ I suffered for it.”

The gang looked like a listening party, so he began to reel:

“Say, it’s pretty tough when a fellow starts out to do the right thing by
a little lady and gets the flag. It jes’ shows that whenever you gits to
dreamin’ good somebody is goin’ to give you an alarm clock finish an’ let
you wake up with a shriek. Remember two seasons ago, when we was workin’
the Congress of Nations gag in the manager’s tent? Well, me it is who
meets a little lady who is doin’ the bead stitchin’ in the gypsy village.
She’s a pretty little thing an’ quietlike. Well, she seems lonesome like
an’ one wet night I carries her across the lot when the mud is up to your
knees. She seems to like it an’ we has a long talk in the car.

“It seems that she used to work in a bean place where she is called
Number 8. I thinks that is funny, so I allus calls her Number 8.

“Seems like her folks was sore on her for troopin’, an’ she comes to me
for sympathy. Well, she had me stoppin’ the booze before we was two weeks
out, an’ I was gettin’ quiet in me gab and cuttin’ down on the swear
talk. She tells me the way she gets into the circus is that a big guy
what was engagin’ people for the Congress used to eat his butter cakes at
her table, an’ he keeps on tellin’ her what a fine life it is to be an
actress, an’, as he has been readin’ about it in books, she throws up the
waitin’ job and joins out. The big guy gets half of her first week for
the gettin’ her the job.

“But it seems that when Number 8 pulls out of the bean place that she
breaks the heart of the guy with the white cap that cooks the buckwheats
in the window. He’s been sweet on her from the first day she hollered
the hot cakes an’ he pulls ’em off the griddle an’ looks into her eyes.
Well, this guy takes a solemn oath that he’ll kill the bloke that makes
his Mamie give up waitin’ an’ go troopin’. He never gets next to the big
jay what gave her the job, but when he was doin’ the big city he sees me
chasin’ her home every night. He gives me a look I don’t like, an’ I asks
Number 8 what it means.

“‘Oh, don’t mind him’ she says, ‘he used to belong to my euchre.’

“Now, if I’d been wise I’d a-known Number 8 was connin’, for what did
that little fairy know about euchre parties? I knows now that she was
pullin’ off some speech she heard in the theatre where the lady shoots
the dook across the card table because he brings the coachman into the
parlor to get a drink while the other dook is sayin’ his good-by speech.
I is too sweet on the fairy then to know that she’s connin’ me.

“Well, jes’ the last week we was playin’ New York, who does I meet in the
park lookin’ at the fish but Number 8. She looks so sweet an’ nice that
it all comes back, an’ me up an’ speaks. She says sorter haughty:

“‘Who are you, sir? Whom are you addressin’?

“Say, that hit me like a blast, when all of a sudden I get a welt across
the head wid sumthin’ that is iron. Say, I falls, but is up, and though
the knock has given me the blood, I see that it’s the guy what cooks the
buckwheats in the window who was tryin’ to do the killin’. An’ say, he
has run out of his bean place an’ hit me wid the cake turner. I grasps
him, an’ it’s catch-as-catch-can, an’ Number 8 screamin’ on the bench. I
gives him a couple of good ones when in a jiffy it’s rainin’ plates an’
coffee cups, an’ I’m gettin, ’em on the face. Say, his whole gang from
the bean shop was out in their white coats, throwin’ the crockery an’ me
gettin’ it.

“I knows the show is shut up an’ help is a long way off. Somebody yells,
‘Lick the brute,’ an’ I gets another pie plate in the eye.

“‘What’s he done?’ says a cab driver.

“‘He insulted me wife,’ said the buckwheat cake man.

“I tried to explain, but he gives me another one with the cake-turner an’
I’m on the asphalt.

“I’se gettin’ it good, an’ I sees I must get help or cut the season for
the city ward. So I yells ‘Hey, Rube!’

“Well, what do you think? There was a couple of old tramps a-sleepin’ on
a bench, an’ when they hears me scream, me on me back wid the buckwheat
man sittin’ on me, I sees ’em move, I yells it again, an’ one of them
wearies says:

“‘That sounds familiar-like to me.’

“‘Hey, Rube!’ I gives it again, an’, say, they gets in, an’ they put that
waiter gang into a pile that looks like a hash brown in a spill.”

“Well, what happened to you?” said the Canvasman, who was always there
for the battle tales.

“Me, say, I gets it all. A couple of dinnys pulls me to a box, an’ in the
cell all night for me. An’, say, if it hadn’t been for James A., Lord
bless his soul, me to the island for winter quarters an’ in stripes.”

“But what becomes of the fairy?” says the Saw Dust Spreader, who always
likes to know the finish.

“What becomes of her?” says the Candy Butcher, feeling a couple of scars.
“I hears it all later. She had married the guy an’ moves over to Jersey.
He’s keepin’ a saloon, an’ she’s cookin’ the oysters. He gives one with
every drink.”


The manager of the concert company looked like a Methodist minister
going to see the bishop. He wore a high silk hat and a last-winter’s
double-breasted coat. Whenever he talked he held the hat in one hand and
rubbed it with the other so that it looked like a clipped yearling at a
country run off. His voice was a deep bass, and when he did the “remember
good people the Big Show is not yet ’arf over” from the elevated stage
you could gamble on the words hitting every ear.

He was sitting on the ring bank looking over his touch list when the
conversation grew wavy and then dropped to a hush.

“This here tent business is pullin’ down to a theatrical man,” he said
as he lighted a choked stogie. “Give me the hall show every time for the
cush and comfort an’ I’ll be easy an’ shippin’ in money to the backer
if the bookin’s is good. The rep shows is the thing me boys if you can
deliver, an’ you can strike territory that ain’t been ploughed to death
by a lot of yellows.

“Had out a rep company that was a winner. We was playin’ ‘East Lynne’ and
doin’ it good with six people and a band on the balcony at 7 to 8. The
way we threw them dramatic chunks into the ten, twenty and thirts was
sumthin’ remark’ble. We wasn’t connin’ neither, but givin’ ’em a show
that had ’em weepin’ from ring up to las’ curt’n. Say, I had a leadin’
lady that was the genuine. She had been up three times before the school
commissioners for declaimin’ an’ her old man thought she was a Mary
Anderson. We joshed him along on the Mary Anderson gag an’ the old guy
checked in with a five hundred for a starter to get the fit up and the
gal’s costumes. Say, she was a blonde with a figure that set the town
hall tonight people on the road to ruin with all brakes off. The leadin’
man was a cuff juggler and he wouldn’t settle down, but he doubled in
props an’ was all right. The heavy was one of those chesty boys who was
alles givin’ me the jab ‘when I was with Booth.’ He started out all
right, all right in the first act, but he died out before the curt’n got
down; the old man was pretty rotten, thank you, but the way he could play
an E flat cornet on the balcony was sumthin’ strictly proper. I’m jes’
tellin’ youse what you can do with a lot of bum players, if you’ve got
the goods, an’ youse gets the bookin’s. I was workin’ the crowd on a $300
salary an’ playin’ up into the gross on $750 a week an’ livin’ like the
man what owns his lay out. But I let go.

“You see some of the managers down on the coal oil circuit in Central
Pennsylvania got the vaudeville bug and was yellin’ for specialties.
So I gets the soubrette to do a rag time stunt between the second an’
third, an’ the first night the gal’ry window jumps nine and a half to
the good. I says that’s what they wants an’ I keeps the specialty in for
good. But the Lady Isabel of the push was getting artistic an’ she says
no to the specialty. I says yes, an’ her old man comes on an’ says Mary
Anderson didn’t have no gal singin’ and showin’ her legs in her show, so
me an’ the old guy plays quits. Well, it was gettin’ warm, so I picks
up me little soubrette, gets a privilege at a fair an’ starts in to do
the black tent. We had a little round top, blacker on the inside than a
Bow’ry alley. The game was to get the yaps inside, all lights out, flash
the calcium, an’ then do the floatin’ illusion. The little gal would
float roun’ the tent an’ hand me out roses, and the gang would go daffy.
You see she was rigged up in one of these white gowns an’ was chasin’
round in a back flap stickin’ her head and body through wherever I had a
slit. But I has a good lime light man an’ the payin’s never coupled to
the con.

“It was good for thirty a day and the privilege was cheap, but say, the
finish was tragic. You see the gal had run off from home, where she was
makin’ three dollars spinnin’ yarn in a mill an’ payin’ her people two
fifty board. She gets stuck on the show business an’ goes out with a rep,
where I picks her up. Well, it seems that her old man gets sort o’ dippy
’cause he didn’ do the right thing by the little one an’ started out to
fin’ her. Somebody tells the old boy she is dead an’ he falls down for a
while. But he gets up and goes wanderin’ ’bout to all the shows lookin’
for the gal. Well, he gets into my show one day an’ when we flashes the
illusion there’s a yell an’ the old one says, ‘me daughter, me daughter,’
and the gal flops an’ breaks up the show. She gets sorry an’ goes home
with the gray hair an’ I loses the graft and strikes this.”

The Boss Canvasman started in to do a little cussin’ because the round
top over the stage was sagging and he broke up the talk.

But the Press Agent wants the finish of the yarn, and he speaks up:

“Well, Pop, what became of the gal?”

“Oh,” says Pop, “the old man goes under the ground an’ the jig stepper
goes back to the business. Last season she was doublin’ with the iron
chested man doin’ a singin’ specialty in the side show. But they’s both
out now. The iron chested man is yellin’ the stations on the Ninth Avenue
L, and the Mamie girl is makin’ ten a week posin’ for chromos that you
wouldn’t hang over the thermometer, s’ help me.”


The man who sold the red paste-boards at the ticket wagon always dressed
better than the man who owned the circus. He ran largely to striped vests
and wore shirts that were of the sassiest shade of pink. Like the Candy
Butcher, he never wore his coat when he was working, but the vest and
the trousers made him a swell enough picture. The rest of the outfit
regarded him with the same awe that fills the spirit of a man earning
twelve dollars a week who accidentally runs into J. Pierpont Morgan. To
be sure, the Ticket Seller never had as much cash as the Wall Street man,
but he made a bigger flash. He always carried a roll, and as his accounts
never failed to balance and he stood good with the Boss, it was generally
presumed that the gold boys he carried in his upper vest pocket were his

The gang that talked on the ring bank between the afternoon and the night
show had great respect for this member of the outfit. He had a line of
talk that sounded big, and that was always inspiring to the crowd. He
knew just what the Big Show was taking in, and he liked to talk about it.
He talked figures, and the ring bank crowd only knew it by the thousands
of people that roosted on the blue boards when the bill was being run
off under the main top. In the winter months, when the Big Show had gone
to quarters, the Ticket Man managed a burlesque house in Chicago, and it
was said that he wore so many diamonds on the pink bosom that it wasn’t
necessary to turn on the lobby lights when the night audience was coming
in. He was a loud boy, all right, but he backed the noise with coin. When
the Ticket Man wasn’t talking about money, he let loose a bunch of racing
talk that would have feazed the principal writer on a daily turf sheet.
He used words that seldom got farther than the paddock, and he picked
winners like a diamond expert getting out the real shines from a pile of

And with both lines of talk he had ’em all faded when it came to the
con. He had a line of explanations that would make any man think he
threw down a two-spot when he knew that he walked up to the window with a
double X.

“Lemme tell you fellows sumthin’” he said, as he came in after supper in
the meal tent and sat down for a smoke. “You’se can always hear a lot of
knockin’ for the boys what sells in the wagon. Now take it from me, don’t
youse believe a word of it till youse gets the other side. You hear a lot
of hollerin’ that ev’rybody is gettin’ done, and that the boys in the
wagon is buyin’ gov’ment bonds and furnishing flats on the short change
graft. But it ain’t so--not altogether. It was in the old days, when I
started in the business, but it ain’t now. Graftin’ is dead, take it from

“Yes,” said the Old Grafter, with a deep sigh, “you’re right, Bill,
graftin’ is dead, an’ it was a sorry day for me when it died.”

“You’re right, Jim; half way right, but it won’t go these days. But
what I’m tellin’ you is right; when you is sellin’ hard tickets to a
long line that is rushin’ to get to the tent, youse can’t go out and
have a personal interview with every man that runs away an’ leaves his
change on the window. An’ say, whose goin’ to take chances givin’ it
up when he does come back? Not me, not me; I see me little bank-roll in
the Dime Savin’s lookin’ like a busted baloon on the end of the season.
Say, don’t make no mistake, ev’ry hand at the window is a hand ag’in’
you. I know what I’m talkin’ about. There ain’t a man in the country who
don’t think he’s doin’ a smart trick when he beats a circus man out of
money. They’ll all do you when they can. Mark my word. I’ve been passing
out hard tickets with this outfit for nine years an’ long before that
with a fly-by-night, an’ I knows the game--ev’ry hand that comes up to
that window will do you if it can. I’ve had too many Reubs hand me a
two-dollar bill an’ say it was a tenner.”

“What do you do then?” asked the Concert Manager.

“Do?” said the Ticket Man. “Do? Why, I’d just look Reuben in the eye an’
say Brush on, haysy, you ain’t got a ten; wait till you sell your wheat
an’ come back an’ then I’ll gamble with you.”

“It’s all right now, dead square an’ on the level, but youse know what
it was in the graftin’ days,” he continued, as he wiped the dust off
his patent leathers with a horse plume. “We turned the season them days
with a bunch of money that was all our own, and nobody kickin’. I was
out with a little graftin’ show that had more gamblin’ on one lot than a
county fair, an’, say, I wasn’t takin’ no chances with them grafters an’
tinhorns! I knowed the countries would buy their tickets before they went
at the games, an’ say, I wasn’t overlookin’ my bit.

“Me an’ the fixer stood pat. He travelled three days ahead, an’ had it
all squared with the Mayor of the burg and the police so the games could
go on an’ no kick. Well, he would get hold of a smart lookin’ constable,
take him aroun’ back of the courthouse and give him a talk. The constable
likes it bein’ taken into the confidence of a showman, an’ lets ev’rybody
see it, ’cause he’s proud.

“Well, the fixer sez, ‘You’re a smart lookin’ young man; you do me a turn
when the show comes, an’ if the Boss likes you, he may take you along for
Chief Detective!’

“Say, that hits the Reub so hard, that Chief Detective talk, and for
three days he’s seein’ visions of hisself flashin’ his tin all along
the line. Well, he reports to me, and I gives him instructions and a
ten-dollar bill, with promise of a five after the show if he does his
work. I posts him in front of the window, and has him fixed to butt in
when there’s any kick, an’ say, ‘No arguments; keep movin’, gentlemen!’

“An’ he does it good, and I throws the short change, an’ with the band a
goin’ in the tent and the crowd crazy to get at the games, I picks out a
little bag of coin before the tinhorns lands on the roll. An’ me helper,
who was a bit of a mechanic, he takes the sill of the window in the wagon
and tilts it with the slant to the inside. A guy comes along and throws
up a dollar bill, and says give me one. With one hand I throw down the
ticket, an’ with the other throw up two quarters, or a quarter two tens
and a five. They hit the glass, an’ say, with that slant some of it was
sure to come back, an’ Mr. Man is in too big a hurry for the Big Show
to notice, an’ the constable, who’s to get the five, keeps ’em movin’.
At night the constable says he wants to have a private conversation an’
takes me off.

“‘Look a here,’ sez he, ‘that agent ahead of the circus sez if I could do
the work I might be made chief detective.’

“Not a word, keep quiet, says I. You’ll spoil it.

“The constable don’t just get next, but it soun’s good. ‘See that man
over there?’ sez I. Constable looks aroun’ an’ sees the big boy that
allus stood by the gate an’ who wasn’t no more of an officer than me.

“Well, sez I, that man has been watchin’ you. He’s Mr. Pinkerton himself,
and as soon as he makes out his official report to Superintendent Byrnes
you gets the job. He thanks me an’ I give him the fivespot. He goes home
an’ tells ev’rybody for the names I spring was so good he didn’t see
through the con. But, of course, I’ve got to give the fixer a bit. An’
say, that’s the trouble with graftin’. You’ve got to fix too many people
to keep from gettin’ a holler. But none of it now. I stick to what I
says, that ev’ry hand that comes up to the window is a hand ag’in’ you,
and will do you if it can. You’re goin’ to get short change, all right,
but don’t do no old-fashioned graftin’. I tell you there’s only one way
to get it honest, an’ if the band is playin’ while you’re sellin’, it
will keep your line movin’ at the window, an’ it’s a poor evenin’ you
can’t pick up fifteen at least that was left and nobody hurt. Of course,
I calls them back--but I never could holler loud.”

The Ticket Man took out a solid gold watch, with a stop movement, and his
initials in diamonds on the back.

“Well, guess I better get at it,” and he left and went to the ticket
wagon, where on the inside he sat on a little stool with the tickets in
one hand and the change on the other side.

Then the hands began to come up and he was at work again.


The concert manager looked like a corn doctor who had dressed up to go
to the City Hall for his license. He always wore a long black coat, and
when a healthy ray of sunshine hit it square in the back it threw off a
glare like a locomotive reflector. He had a smooth face, wore his hair
long, and it was his proudest boast that once down in Texarkana he had
been asked if he was William Jennings Bryan. As the question was put by a
swarthy Democrat who wanted to buy “sumthin’,” he said he was, and they
both liquored up the rest of the afternoon, and no discoveries.

The Concert Manager had sifted the English language down to about nine
five-syllable words, and the rest of his talk was only ordinary. His
voice was his big hit. He could stand on the elevated stage between Ring
One and Ring Two, and no matter what was going on hit every ear drum
with his gag about “directly after the performance,” “you need not leave
your seats,” and that “the gentlemanly ushers would soon pass along
selling tickets.” His voice got him all of the announcing, and he had a
shape that always cast him for some big guy with fake whiskers when they
were doing anything spectacular for the entree.

He loved to address the multitude. Let the gang sit down on the ring
bank for a chat before the night show, and it was he to cut in with a
talk--something he knew all about and which had the rest of the boys
winging before he hit the end of the first chapter. He had more different
kinds of talk than any man in the outfit, and he always yearned to be
handing it out. In the winter he ran a hall show with a company that
would take a fall out of anything from “Hamlet” to a melodrama with three
big effects and a wholesale killing in each act. The gang was telling
hard luck stories when he came across the track, and he was ready with
one at the first cue.

“‘Say, boys,’ he said with one of those back platform gestures, ‘I’ll
tell you the star hard luck story--say, the best, and no appeal. Me, a
long time ago playing the little towns in Ohio with a merry-go-round.
Think of it, yes, but don’t laugh, for it was a good game in them days
and I was turnin’ coin. We put up on a lot for four days for a county
fair, an’ business is so good that I stops sleepin’ back of the tent an’
goes to the inn. Well, say, the barkeeper of that tavern was a pass fiend
for fair, an’ he keeps strikin’ me for free rides on the wooden horses. I
laughs him off, but he keeps at it. So one day I gets mad an’ throws him
hard. He looks at me over the black bottle an’ sez: ‘Say, you give a free
ride ev’ry time they gets the brass ring, don’t ye?’

“I says ‘yes,’ an’ he shuts up like a law abider, an’ that ends it. But
what do you suppose that glass rubber does? Say, he comes out to the
lot with his gang, an’ while he wasn’t lookin’ he pours a hole bottle
of gildin’ fluid into the ring slide, an’ say, everybody on the lot was
gettin’ gold rings an’ ridin’ free all night. It hit me so hard I had
to fold up and to the wagons an’ do the sneak without settlin’ me last
payment on the privilege to the fair folks.”

This seemed to please the ring bank crowd and the Concert Manager was
full of loose gab. Finally the talk drifted to animals, and then to
elephants, and up speaks the Concert Manager.

“I never comes through the animal tent and sees the elephant herd,” he
says, “but it has me rememberin’ sumthin’ that happens when I’m with the
John Robinson show doin’ the talkin’ from the ring an’ makin’ me extra
with a couple of blackface turns, a singin’ act an’ a knockabout after
the Big Show.

“Say, for real heart them elephants has got all humanity beat to a
standstill. Seems to me that the worst weakness that is in the breast of
man is the feelin’ that pulls him away from another man when they ought
to be stickin’ together. Say, it ain’t many a man that remembers a good
turn, and kind acts is forgotten as quick as money that’s owin’. But
them big boys with the trunks, say, they ain’t forgettin’ nothin’. Youse
can do a good turn for a man an’ he’ll throw you the next day, but the
elephant ain’t forgettin’ the one what has done him sumthin’ good, be he
man or beast.

“Well, in them days we was carryin’ six big fellows, an’ part of my game
was to let their backs out to the storekeepers for banners. I’d lay it
out with some drygoods dealer that was enterprisin’ enough to do some
real sensational advertisin’. Then we’d have the banners painted, swing
’em over the backs, an’ Mr. Mann has a good showin’ when we makes the
parade down the street. I was payin’ the trainer a little extry to see
that the banners got on, and, say, that boy for liquor was the original
reservoir. It seems that the money I’m givin’ him allus buys a drink. He
keeps it up right along an’ gits many a warnin’. There wasn’t a guy with
the outfit that could handle the beasts like he could, an’ the Boss was
allus afeerd sumthin’ would happen.

“And it did by and by. The trainer don’t pay attention to the warnin’,
and one matinee he queers the act. He gets his elephants all mixed up
in his ring, an’ there comes near bein’ a breakaway but for a lot of
spearin’. The Boss sees it all, an’ he gets the trainer out without any
talk. The boys gets the elephants back to their stable, but ev’ry one is
looking for trouble.

“Well, say, the Big Show is started an’ about halfway through when the
Boss Canvasman is ready to strike the animal tent an’ make for the cars.
The horses is put to the dens, an’ they is all soon on the road, with the
walkin’ stock followin’. Then the boys gets to the elephants an’ tries
to start ’em, but not a one will move. They gives them the spear, but
not a move. They gets to hollerin’ an’ more spearin’, but they might as
well tried to move mountains. The Boss come in, an’ he tries it, but no
go. They moves a lot of hay down the lot, thinkin’ it will make ’em look
for another feedin’, but no go. Then one of the trainers what had been
helpin’ the head trainer stan’s out an’ calls ’em by name. They flaps
their big ears, but not a move. It’s time for the section to be pullin’
out, an’ we all hands is up against it.

“Well, I sez to myself, here’s your chance to be smart an’ redeem it all
for Jed,--the trainer what was fired for drinkin’. I hustles over to the
tavern an’ finds Jed puttin’ away the juice like he was loadin’ a train.
I gives him a long talk an’ tells him about the elephants. He calls ’em
his darlings an’ wants to buy more drink. I begs him to come over an’
help us out, but he’s sore on the Boss an’ won’t make a move. After
awhile I gets him to thinkin’, an’ he sez he’ll do it. Jed was pretty
full an’ was staggerin’, but I gets him to the lot where ev’ry animal man
in the outfit is a spearin’ them beasts, while the Boss is cussin’, an’
the whole town roostin’ on the sidewalk an’ givin’ us the laugh. I gets
Jed in an’ right in front of the Boss.

“The Boss is still sore, and sez, ‘Take that loafer away.’

“‘Wait,’ sez I.

“Then afore there could be any argument Jed staggers out in front of the
herd, and, leaning heavy-like on the bale of hay, begins callin’:

“‘King,’ he yells.

“The biggest bull in the herd lifts his ear, then holds up his trunk an’
gives a shriek that scares the crowd white.

“‘Stop that spearin’!’ sez Jed, an’ every animal man gits out of the way.

“‘King!’ yells Jed again, an’ with that he walks over an’ touches the
elephant on the trunk. The big bull wheels around and starts away.

“‘Sam, Dick, Boss, Frank!’ keeps yellin’ Jed, an’ the whole herd is
turnin’ an’ takin’ the road to the depot.

“The crowd on the lot is cheerin’, an’ the animal men walk along by the
beasts, but there’s no more spearin’. Jed jes’ leans against the hay an’
keeps callin’. He finishes, an’ as the last elephant comes along he loops
down with his trunk, an’ pickin’ Jed up sits him on his trunk an’ walks
away proud like jes, as he does in Ring Three at the finish of the act.

“Say, the Boss is almost wild about it, an’ the whole town follows the
herd to the train. The Boss had Jed put in the sleeper, but Jed won’t
have it, and crawls out to sleep in the elephant car, where he was most
at home.

“Say, that’s what I call havin’ a heart. Them elephants knew that voice.
Jed had been leadin’ ’em up hill and down hill, from sea to sea, an’ they
wasn’t goin’ to have it any other way.”

“Well, did they take him back for good?” asked the Saw Dust Spreader.

“Take him back,” said the Concert Manager. “Well, I should say, an’ the
Boss gives him a gold watch with elephant engravin’ on it, with a fancy
band with some wordin’ about bein’ a faithful servant.

“An’, say, Jed was sober after that durin’ the season, but when we got
into quarters the tavern for Jed all the time.”

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Red Wagon Stories - or Tales Told Under the Tent" ***

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