MUD SHOWS: A Circus Season by Fred Powledge

MUD SHOWS: A Circus Season

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Hoxie Brothers is one of those nickel-and-dime traveling road shows playing the boondocks of central Florida and central New Jersey. Powledge made the long haul with them during the '74 season up and down the East Coast, soaking up the cotton-candy and cheap-booze atmosphere, becoming infected with the show-must-go-on bravura of the Big Top. Everyone from Hoxie (""I've had three heart attacks and a nervous breakdown in the last three years"") to Myrtle the elephant has a job to do. Gilda Christiani, member of the most renowned of circus families. calmly exercises her baby leopard; Superchicken, the sailmaker, stitches the canvas; Linda Chandler, a middle-class girl who left home to join up, prepares to become the Electric Girl in the sideshow. The workmen--mostly winos and ""mission bums""--put up the props and lead out the animals. They all agree that ""this is the best of the tent shows"" even though there are no toilet facilities, the food is always bad and a rigid caste system segregates performers from workmen from bosses. Even though Hoxie Brothers has no bona fide freaks, Hoxie knows and Powledge learns that ""the circus thrives on the weak,"" the strays, the misfits and the oddballs who join up, stay for a while, then mysteriously ""blow the show"" and are never heard from again. It's all romantic as hell despite the grime, the piss-poor wages, the trucks that break down and the sore feet of the baby elephants--probably because the circus, the last nonplastic entertainment in America, is really a survival from the last century as it lumbers along through 178 towns, villages, cities and hamlets. For the duration the Big Top is a large, disputatious family and as Powledge says to Hoxie, ""You do take care of some of God's children, don't you?

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich