Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/123

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97
THE PRAIRIE FIRE

the wandering existence of the pioneer showman of the old wagon days. I refer to a chance meeting with one of the greatest men who helped to make the history of the United States, a splendid, picturesque giant of the pioneer type whose life was an unbroken romance. It may be asked, What has this kind of thing to do with circus life? I answer: Everything! Much of the success which I have achieved in this peculiar field of effort I owe to the contact with men of large capacity with whom I chanced to "fall in," as it were, while on the road. These meetings were as bread to my mind. They made the bright spots in my life, and, from the very beginning of my career, gave me the inspiration which helped me to see things in a larger way, to persevere in the face of all obstacles and to take advantage of every opportunity. Of the hundreds of experiences in this line, no other approached in romantic interest that which came to me very early in my southwestern tour.

I was then a young man and was traveling in Louisiana. I put up at a hotel in a rather small town, where hotels were as rare as other evidences of civilization. I had just gone to my room on the night succeeding my arrival