Three Ring Circus and Publishing News!

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World Circus Day falls in April. The concept of a circus appears to have begun in ancient Rome, in seated arenas where spectators viewed various types of sports and games. Traditional circuses of more modern times were often traveling shows that included performances with clowns, acrobats, and trained animals.

In my small town, a dilapidated circus caravan arrived each summer and set up tents in the ball fields near the local school. As a kid, a visit to the circus filled me with a mix of excitement and dread. I looked forward to the fruit-flavored snow cones Mom and Dad promised when the show ended. I always hoped that would be the year I could buy a too-expensive, feathered Kewpie doll from the vendors. The trapeze artists and tightrope walkers showed off amazing skills. But what if they fell? I wasn’t fearful of clowns, but the ones made up to look sad concerned me.

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The worst part was the poor animals. Sometimes we saw them, pacing in their small cages, between shows. The view across a field often included elephants with legs chained to metal stakes in the ground.

I clearly remember the summer when I was about eight years old. I sat under the hot circus tent with my family, listening to the applause from the crowd directed at little dogs riding tricycles. A trio of huge elephants then lumbered into the ring. The trainers put them through their paces to the sound of music, but one of the giants didn’t comply. A circus worker wielded a hooked pole. He jabbed at the elephant with the stick that seemed as though it could tear the animal’s papery ears. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run. Trainers finally led the elephants from the tent, and I was glad it was over.

Later that afternoon, a neighbor told us that circus workers had walked the elephants to the nearby creek for a drink. The animals escaped up the other side! A mix of fear and relief washed over me. The elephants were free! But what if they walked down our street and bumped into our house? I waited nervously, wondering what would happen. My parents assured me the circus workers would find the elephants. Was that what I wanted?

elephant bathing

In the evening, we learned the elephants had walked through my grandmother’s garden! She was away from the house, but neighbors spotted them. When Grandma returned, she found footprints and smashed vines in her garden as proof!

That same week, a little dog wandered the sidewalk of a house across the street. The family took it in as their own and discovered the animal was eager and willing to do a variety of tricks. They named her “Trixie” and always believed she was an escapee from that same circus.

Trixie

Thankfully, the use of animal acts for entertainment in circuses has now decreased, and that type of exploitation in many countries is now almost non-existent. In 2016, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival highlighted five major circus disciplines: acrobatics, aerial skills, equilibristics, object manipulation, and clowning. It also showcased the occupational culture of circus artists but didn’t involve exotic animals. That was a wonderful step in the right direction! In fact, numerous circuses that have been around for years are now closing. Other circuses have evolved or begun as animal-free entertainment.

I’m pleased to say that my children’s story, “Freedom,” based on that ‘great elephant escape,’ now appears online in Smarty Pants Magazine for Kids. My alter ego, Becca, is much braver than I remember being as a child. In the fictional ending of my tale, her feelings about the imprisoned animals empower her in a humorous fashion. Hope you will enjoy reading my story, which is linked above!                             ~Becky

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66 thoughts on “Three Ring Circus and Publishing News!

  1. Your memories are probably similar to probably a lot of us when it comes to watching animals at the circus. I remember having to try and explain what protestors were to my young son when I took him. Congratulations on your story appearing in the online magazine.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I remember that excitement and dread and felt the same about the animals. The last circus with animals I knew of was in Spain. The second half of the show was all people – very skilled doing dangerous things in a somewhat tired way for a tiny audience. The first half was all animals. We didn’t watch that part and joined at the interval. It was very hot and stank in the tent! Am so glad animals aren’t used in this way for entertainment. The story of the story of the escape is thrilling!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. In the primary grades, we used to be bused each year to the Shrine Circus. It was supposed to be a great treat. I never liked it. I hated climbing the bleachers and was always afraid that the lion tamer would be attacked. Wasn’t fun.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Congratulations on the publication! I felt the same way you did as a kid. We went to the Barnum & Bailey circus and I always felt bad for the animals. I didn’t understand the humor & spectacle of the “unusual” humans. I did like the cotton candy. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How wonderful. I feel as you do about the horrible mistreatment of animals. It makes me sick. Animal rights activists have put a stop to horse and buggy rides in Chicago. I spend half my life demonstrating for animal rights. Against horrific rodeos and all the rest.
    Congratulations on your work being published. A wonderful memory and post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on your story publication! And I’m also glad that elephants aren’t used for entertainment anymore. I know they can’t all live in the wild…they’re going extinct there….but that doesn’t mean they should be trained to do unnatural things. Especially when the training methods are punitive and cruel!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great story! There’s an air of Southern Gothic to your memory. Trixie, the possible circus-escapee dog, really caps it off. And– so weird some of the stuff that was presented to children – particularly smart, sensitive kids – as “entertainment.” 😐 (I didn’t like the circus, clowns, fireworks, dodgeball, The Three Stooges….)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations, Becky, on your story being published! And I totally hear you about how heartbreaking it is when animals are treated cruelly — in the circus, or elsewhere. Glad that circuses are now generally more humane.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Congratulations! And what a wonderful story! I popped over to have a look. Love the transformation at the end:) I really am enjoying circuses that don’t involve animal acts. I don’t even miss the animals in a circus. Thanks so much for this–and cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We were just watching a programme last night about Blackpool- the famous English seaside resort with Blackpool Tower just as famous as the Eiffel Tower it imitated. There was old black and white film of the circus elephants parading down the promenade holding the tail of the elephant in front; then they went in the sea for a swim; they were having fun at that moment I guess, but we would be very surprised these days to see elephants on the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Marvellous article – I recall being taken to a circus in Zambia as a child and seeing some lions and clowns. I felt sorry for the clowns and a little afraid – and was worried about the lions, who didn’t look very happy. Overall, I didn’t like the smell or the show. But I enjoyed the candy floss… funny what you remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My husband and I have always loved elephants which can be seen by all the elephants paintings and sculptures that are scattered around our house. I have never attended this type of circus. I grew up in a small, isolated mining town in Northern Manitoba. The only way in was by ore train or plane. Books were essential in the cold, dark winter months. I am enjoying following your blog and learning about how you write children’s stories. It is a fascinating subject and you do it well. Glad that we connected.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Congratulations – how exciting!!!!

    I remember my parents took me to the circus once when I was younger, but something really upset either me or my brother so we ended up leaving (I have no idea what it was). I don’t think I’ve actually haven’t been to a circus since then! I am glad that they’re doing away with the cruel treatment of animals in them. Circuses should be about the acrobatics and the like, not unnecessary cruelty.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for writing about this, Becky, I’ve worked in the humane field for a very long time, and tend to think everyone knows about the horrific cruelty heaped on circus animals, most of all elephants. But I know there are plenty of eyes yet to be opened. When I was around 5, my parents took my brother and me to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Madison Square Garden in NYC. I felt the clowns were some kind of horrible sham and disliked them, but the animals … I knew that was wrong the second they entered the ring. And I never wanted to go again. Kids know.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for this post! I love how you talked about the history of the circus and then transitioned to personal accounts! Who doesn’t love the circus!

    I still have vivid memories as a 9 year old of being in the audience and watching the tigers roar, the elephants stand up on two legs and the guys in motorcycles driving upside in a spherical cage! Magical!

    The last time I went to the circus it was in October and it featured only acrobats. I missed the animals, but it is good to know that the circus I went to didn’t have animals being abused for amusement.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

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