by Kelley Bell
Pretty, Blonde and
A girl of only seventeen.
I ran off to join the show. It was an adventure, and I fell for a
motor drome thrill show rider who looked like a gorgeous Jesus.
The old timers all called me a forty miler. (a local who gets
forty miles down the road, and then runs home crying.)
Not this kid.
I passed through the gauntlets of fetchin light bulb grease and
left handed wrenches.
I searched for the key to the midway.
IzI Lizearned Tizo Spizeak Cizarny.
(I learned to speak carney)
I worked the Bally stage of The Hall and Christ Ten in one
Sideshow as Houdini's great granddaughter, "the snake charming
Once, a big fight broke out in the area behind the bally stage.
All the performers jumped into the frey. There were twenty or
thirty locals duking it out with the men from the show.
What a scene! The knife thrower and sword swallower, and all the
other guys in their sequined show outfits fighting like true
Someone shouted "Hey Rube!!!" (The signal for all to come to their
The fight got bigger and bigger.
I was watching from above, tied to a cross on the bally stage with
a ten foot python named Oscar, wrapped around my neck.
Then, the owner of the show, a little old man in a white suit and
hat, came up on the stage, took the snake, yelled at the top of
his lungs, and threw poor Oscar into the crowd!
It was like oil and water! The crowd parted as if Moses himself
had commanded it.
End of fight.
Mr. Hall then instructed me in the art of caring for our
hero...Oscar the python. He suffered a black eye and a cut lip.
I pampered and nurtured him back to health over the course of
I became the snake girl, the gorilla girl, the girl who gets cut
into pieces, and I even stood for the drunken knife
I became friends with the side show people, and learned a lot
about life from my able bodied pals.
I was tricked into driving the fat man to Texas, and my poor car
never quite recovered from the strain.
I learned the customs and the cons, and the loyalty of the clan.
We lived like kings when the sun would shine, and we pooled our
change for bologna and bread in the rain and cold.
I wintered in Gib-Town (Gibsonton Florida...carney town USA)
I apprenticed under a showpainter named Butch of Wanderin Art. I
learned from Johnny Meah, and Bill Browning and The Wizard.
I started hop scotchin the shows as Sunshine Art...Showpainter.
I have a thousand stories of those years, and I cherish them all.
I'm a writer now. Living the life of a townie, up north.
So, to all of you who I met along the way....
I remember you fondly, and I still feel the calling of the sawdust
in my veins.
Fell free to drop in and visit, old friends. I would love to hear