Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/26

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In those first days of my novitiate I found the people almost as interesting as the elephants—which is saying much from the point of view of a boy. The crudity of society at that period is vividly illustrated by an incident which occurred soon after we had crossed over into Illinois. We were showing at the little town of Oquawka and "put up" at the only tavern there. The dining-room of this hostelry was papered with circus bills. Our first meal introduced me to a scene so outlandish that I shall never forget it. Shortly after we had seated ourselves at the rough board table, the kitchen door was pushed open by a tall, lank young countryman of a fierce and forbidding countenance. He wore a broad-brimmed hat, heavy cowhide boots—in the tops of which were buried the ends of his trouser legs—and a red flannel shirt. From his belt protruded a huge bowie knife. In his hand he carried a sixteen-quart pan heaped with steaming potatoes. As he strode across the room he shouted: "Who in hell wants pertaters?"


The novelty of all these curious and wonderful sights wore away after awhile, and then began my circus life in all its stern reality. The