The Flying Trapeze

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Andi’s Journal

March 1887

I remember going to the circus one time in my life, when I was nine years old. Melinda insists I also went when I was four, but I don’t remember anything about that visit. But then I saw a poster in town the other day. The circus is coming back to Fresno. I asked Riley if he would take me, and his eyebrows shot up. “Why?”

“What do you mean, why?” I countered. “A circus is lions, and tigers, and acrobats, and bicyclists, and jugglers, and an animal menagerie and–”

“Hold on,” Riley interrupted me. “I know what a circus is, but why do you want to go? It’s only a couple of months before the baby will be born and I think the circus would be too much excitement for an expectant mother.” He looked uneasy.

When the circus train comes to town.

I admit, his words stopped me in my tracks. Why would Riley be nervous about going to the circus? Then it hit me. “Have you ever been to the circus, Riley?” I asked.

He reddened and didn’t answer. Was that a yes or a no? I asked him again. Instead of answering, he asked me a question. “It appears you have been to a circus before. I reckon I missed that when I was living on the Circle C as a boy. Was it sometime after I left?”

I nodded. “I was nine, and it was the most exciting thing I ever did! I loved the bareback rider, Miss Minnie Mae, the best. She jumped her horses through a ring of fire!” I felt my heart begin to race. I would give almost anything to see something like that again.

“Justin liked the bicyclists best, and the little kids riding on their parents’ shoulders while they peddled faster and faster around the ring was pretty impressive, but still . . . the horses and Miss Minnie Mae were all I looked forward to the entire time.”

Justin’s favorite act

“What about your sister? Did she like the horse trick riding too?”

One of the young trapeze artists.

I laughed, making Riley grin. “Are you kidding? She was in love with the trapeze artists. After the big top show, Melinda danced around the house singing, “He floats through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze.”

And suddenly, I was there once again, watching the trapeze artists, giggling when the older boy winked at Melinda and she blushed. When Melinda sang the entire ballad for me one day, I gawked at her. “Would you really run away with a young man on the flying trapeze? Just because he winked at you?”

“Of course not, silly,” Melinda told me frostily. “But it’s awfully romantic to imagine it, don’t you think?”

Not really. For one thing, the boy wore something called a “leotard.” Which to me looked like an especially tight set of long johns with a short, silly outfit barely covering it. Ewww! Even now, at nearly nineteen, I wrinkle my nose thinking about it. “Now you’ve done it,” I griped to Riley. “You got me thinking about that song and I can’t get it out of my head.”

Here is the song Andi can’t stop thinking about. It’s called “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” It’s a fun ballad written in the 1870s about a young gentleman who takes his lady friend to the circus. She sees the man on the flying trapeze and falls head over heels in love. In turn, the trapeze artist “steals” away the gentleman’s lady friend and marries her. Together they perform trapeze acts. One day, the gentleman is horrified to learn that his lady friend has turned into a trapeze artist and is wearing those immodest tights. The song is sung perfectly by Burl Ives. Take a listen! The audio file is right here on Andi’s blog. No need to go on the Internet to hear it.

It took some doing, but I finally pulled out from Riley why he didn’t especially want to go to the circus. “Yes, I’ve been to the circus,” he finally admitted. It came through the town near Fort Laramie. “I did not enjoy it at all.” He cleared his throat and paused.

“Why not?” My eyebrows shot up. Who would not like the circus?

Riley looked sheepish. “Because of . . .” he took a deep breath, clearly not wanting to share. “. . . the clowns.”

I gasped. I had been terrified of clowns when I was small, so Melinda told me. I started to get over it the day I went to the circus. I was invited behind the scenes by a new friend, Henry, the concessions boy (and a runaway). When I saw that the strange-looking white clowns were ordinary men underneath all that makeup, I relaxed. Poor Riley! I dared not laugh or even smile at this hidden, fearful secret. I understood. “Me too,” I said softly.

Riley’s head snapped up. “What do you mean?” His eyebrows wrinkled in puzzlement. “You don’t like the clowns either?”

I shook my head. “Not really. I got used to them and learned not to shake and cry when I saw one coming my way, but I never really liked them. I’d rather watch the lion tamer get eaten by a ferocious lion or tiger than watch a clown juggling flaming torches. It’s like . . . you can’t really, well, trust them behind all that makeup.”

19th century circus clowns

Riley was nodding eagerly by now. His expression cleared, as if he’d found someone who understood what must seem like a very childish fear. “Well, that’s swell, my princess. Since you and I are in agreement about what we don’t like about the circus, I’m more inclined to take you. We can watch everything and simply close our eyes when the clowns come by.”

“Oh, Riley!” I clapped my hands. “That’s a jim-dandy idea.” I felt like a little girl again. The circus would be fun. One last holiday before the baby comes!

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

13 thoughts on “The Flying Trapeze

  1. The circus sounds like fun! This post makes me think of The Greatest Showman. And I agree. Whose idea was it to paint makeup on men and dress them in costumes so people would think they look silly? Clowns are more scary than funny!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. LOL! Clowns are freaky! You made me think of the time I went into a haunted house, and there was a clown at the back. I went past the clown and was like, “Phew! I’m not so happy there was a clown in there but I am happy I got through!” Then, I felt something behind me and whirled around. The clown just tapped me on the back! It had followed me out! That was when I almost punched the clown in the face. While I was turning, my fist was rising to punch whatever was behind me, so if I didn’t see that it was just a clown…. he would have had a bad hair day! It makes me laugh thinking about it now, but then it scared the living daylights out of me! (Not that I had many; it was night.) It also reminds me of the Greatest Showman! That is an awesome movie; the songs are stupendous! Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hahaha! Lol that is hilarious! I wonder how many times that clown has been punched (accidentally) before. I can’t believe you almost punched him tho! (Tbh, I would have done the same thing). Altho I have to politely disagree about the greatest showman. I really don’t like that movie or its songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lol. Totally reminds me of Greatest Showman.
    I agree with Andi and Riley, clowns have become much scarier than they should.
    Not a fan of scary clowns, but normal clowns are a lot of fun!☺️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a fun post. I don’t remember being scared of clowns. They were either funny or sad-looking, not scary, when I saw them.They did flips and cartwheels and made everyone laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. LOL. These comments are making me laugh!

    Lizzy- I totally understand that you don’t like the greatest showman! Everybody has different likes and dislikes. Also, good question! I wonder how many times that clown has been punched too now!

    Colleenlreece- Your lucky that you weren’t scared of clowns! Gosh, they give me the shivers. Then again, that’s only circus clowns. The rodeo clowns are just plain hilarious! (When they are not going around the arena terrorizing people!) Lol.

    Like

    1. I didn’t always hate the greatest showman. It was only after my sis would play the soundtrack 5 times a day for a couple of months that I got sick of it. Ty for understanding! It must be a dangerous job being a clown lol (rodeo or otherwise). I hope it pays well…

      Like

  6. That song was so funny and I love Burl Ives’s voice. Listening to it made me think of The Greatest Showman, specifically the “Rewrite the Stars” part (as I see others have, also). 🙂

    Like

  7. -Dragonlex 22 Yes the songs are stupendous!
    -Lizzy I like the greatest showman but the clowns are creepy!
    That was an awesome post! I’m glad that Riley decided to take Andi!

    Liked by 1 person

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