Thursday, January 19, 2017


ladies and gentlemen
boys and girls of all ages....
Presenting the "golden shovel" at a Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus
Your blogger is in the red hat-details below
    The sun was not up yet when my mother woke my brother and me and told us to get dressed because they had a surprise for us. Groggily we obliged and got into the car. After a short drive, dad pulled into a field near a rail road track where a line of train cars had stopped. From a block or two away we could hear and see commotion in the dawning gray light.
     Elephants were being led down a ramp from one of the cars as dozens of people scurried about. In the next hour we watched as poles were set, tents were erected, cages, equipment, rigging, and other paraphernalia were put in place. The circus had come to town. It was in fact the Greatest Show on Earth, as signage on the train, tents and outbuilding indicated.
     It was the early 50's and the beginning of my love affair with the Circus. As lad I saw the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey extravaganza a few times. One year I got to talk with the World's Tallest Man, another time I got spritzed by a clown. I held by breath as the men and women on the flying trapeze flew somersaults above our heads. I worried about the man with the chair in the Lion cage, thought the women on horses or elephants were the essence of beauty, laughed at the antics of the clowns as my head spun trying to take in all three rings full of color, dazzle and spectacle. We did not get our first television for a few years yet. It was a different world.
     Fast forward, decades. As a correspondent for a syndicated television magazine we found ourselves on the train with a Ringling Brothers traveling show. They put us up close to the clown cars. Despite the antics, gags and laughs we still had time to see behind the grease paint and glitz. Circus life was hard, constantly on the go, living either on a train or in a recreational vehicle, caring for the gear, animals, making repairs, putting up or taking down, trapped in a kind of traveling tube, day after day. It was a job, unique, but still work.
member of the Flying Farfans acrobatic team
photo courtesy of
    Later the Big Top began to give way to arenas and stadiums and week long stays. One year, as I anchored at an NBC affiliate, I made arrangements to take my eldest daughter "back stage" to Clown Alley to be made up in costume so she could march in the Clown Parade.  It was not until we there and ready to be costumed that she told me she was terrified of clowns. She'd never let on, until we were in a chair, ready for the paint. As I recall it was one of the Flying Farfans who offered to sit with Kristin as I joined the parade. I quickly learned my job was to walk behind the elephants and keep the path clean. You might be surprised how active the lower digestive track of an elephant can be in the short circuit around three rings. 
     The picture at the top finds me in the red hat being presented my keepsake Golden Shovel, for services rendered. I still have that shovel and have used it for years. Strong, durable and for the long haul. I am sorry The Greatest Show on Earth itself could not have been more durable, but for almost 150 years it not only offered the adolescent dream of running off with the circus, it presented spectacular, live entertainment without peer. Hollywood, Cirque du Soleil, virtual reality, television, games and big time sports have changed the world, rendering the Greatest Show on Earth a bit of an anachronism, but there is nothing like a 3 Ring Circus.

sunset on dignity
    Without comment on policy or politics, the departure of President Obama comes with a loss of dignity and class.  The Obama family has graced our national stage with a sophistication that we will miss. The administration is the first in modern history without a hint of scandal. They have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. They did so in the face of rude and racist commentary and a bitter political environment. Remember how tough it was when it began with the pledge by a jack ass that the republican's primary job was to guarantee a failure of the administration? Despite what one may think of his politics, Obama served  as a man of character and gravitas. Get ready for a change.
     Speaking of a circus! It remains hard to believe that a man who began his political rise by accusing President Obama of not being born in the US and who himself is a sexual predator, serial liar, tax cheat and a narcissist could get anyone to vote for him. How people could suspend the truth about the vulgarian to think he is capable of leading this nation is frightening. Well, stand back, the swamp is coming to the White House.  

     See you down the trail.


  1. It's beyond belief what's happening to this country. Thinking back on past American heroes that thru sacrifice and determination, propelled us forward, to think we are now on the preficice of potential leaps backward is really hard to take. I read a bit, listen a bit and then bury my head in the sand for relief. Come up and repeat the process... it's really all I know to do.

    1. A lot of folks share your misery. Resistance and constant monitoring of this bozo administration is required.

  2. I got up and watched the circus set up, my dad loved the Circus. Took my kids to the Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey circus at Boston Garden a few times...nice to know it have a home for the next 4 years in Washington.

    1. This White House is where all of the clowns will reside.

  3. Is that when you learned to shovel the s***? :^D

  4. It's also beyond me how anyone could vote for Trump. But tomorrow he will be my president. I won't pray for him to fail because if he fails our country fails. But I'll be holding my breath for the next four years.

    1. It will take doing to tolerate the vulgarian and his team.

  5. If this country survives the next 4 years it will be due to what prior administrations did right. Your circus memories are delightful.

  6. Memories and positive diversions will help us survive the next 4 years. A good bit of activism and participation may also be required.

  7. This is from my friend Bob Foster--a great radio broadcaster-
    In 1980, Fred Heckman put me in touch with the Indiana Bell Telephone Pioneers. The IBTP would connect 20 or 30 headsets to an audio amplifier. One headset had a microphone attached to it. Blind people wore the headsets while I described the Ringling Brothers –Barnum and Bailey Circus at Market Square Arena. It challenged my descriptive abilities.

    In 1984, I repeated the performance with a smaller circus that passed through Shreveport, LA. After that performance I received hand drawn pictures from vision impaired children who listened to my description.
    Each child drew what they “saw” based on what I said.

    In late 1985, as I began doing PBP sports on a regular basis , I coined the phrase, “via electronics, my description and your imagination.” That phrase came from the circus experiences proving I could paint a word picture for a listener.