The Roads Are Calling, or It's A Carnie Life: Prologue

I'm hoping to post parts of this story on a weekly basis, but life can be an interfering PITA as we all know.


I woke up this morning feeling slightly weird, my nipples were sore and I felt vaguely nauseous; as far as I know, I hadn't rubbed them or anything, but they were standing at attention and looking bigger than they had been perhaps a few days earlier. I spent a few minutes in the shower, then dressed; once I was presentable, I joined the rest of the crew for breakfast in the hotel dining room. We'll hit the road after we eat.

Oh, hi, I'm Larry Banfield, I turned 15 last October 27th, I'm 4'9" and about 85 pounds. I've seen several doctors over the last year and we still haven't figured out why I'm not growing. The doctor we spoke to two weeks ago thinks I might grow some more, but wouldn't be definite. He actually spent about 30 minutes talking to my parents that day, I don't think they understood one word in ten of what he said. I know I didn't.

Well, other than height and weight, I have brown eyes, shoulder length black hair, a pert nose and a wide mouth over a rounded chin. I can't count how many times I've had people at various fairs walk up to me and talk to me like I'm a girl. It's caused a few problems now and then.

We're heading down to the Levy County Fair near Williston, Florida. I'm part of a small group that has worked at various fairs across the US for many years. There's maybe half a dozen acts that we do, I walk the tightrope fifty feet above the ground, I've been doing it since I was six.

Since we're on the road for half or more of each year, I've been home schooled all of my life; I'm four credits shy of a high school diploma.

Mom, well, she's always had this way with cats of just about any description, she'll walk up near a new lion/ess, and maybe five minutes later, that cat will be rubbing its head all over her, then follow her off to the cage we have for them. At the moment, we only have one adult lioness, with three young kits; there was an older lion last year, but he crossed the Rainbow Bridge in mid-January.

We knew the old lion wasn't interested in frolicking with the lioness, all he wanted to do was laze around in his cage and eat.

We found out that someone from another company had a problem with a cage last September while we were at a fair, and they had to find somewhere fast for their lion to stay. Well, Jack Birchland, the owner of Birchland Carnivals, is our boss, and since darn near everyone there knew that we were one of only a few shows that used lions at all in our acts, we ended up with their male in the same cage as our female.

I guess it isn't too hard to figure out just what happened at that point, is it?

The other company managed to get their cage fixed over that weekend and took their lion with them once that fair had ended.

Yeah, so we have a few games, pretty much the usual sort of thing, bottle knockdowns, basketball toss, balloon games, you get the idea.

Peter Barrett runs the basketball game, Dad has the bottle knockdown booth, Jessie Thames runs the balloon pop game, Evan Black runs a ring toss booth, Billy Watts runs the air rifle shooting game, Val Brown runs a pie throwing booth and Johnnie Bates runs a coin toss booth.

Yep, Dad runs the bottle knockdown booth now, he's had problems with his left leg for the last few years and he can sit in the booth when it gets quiet. He's not alone, there's a seventeen year old boy, Robby Wimble, who does most of the running around for that booth.

We don't set up all the booths for every show, sometimes other companies will have a similar booth/game set up before we get there. If they have a problem with us having the same type of booth, it'll stay packed up; if they're fine with us having a similar game, it goes up.

So, I do the tightrope walking, mom does the lion taming, and Jack has two elephants that we picked up last December. The winter is a time for us to relax, and the zoo closest to our winter residences was going to kill the elephants as no one seemed interested in taking them.

Then Jack heard about the elephants, and he knows Brant Roberts has worked with elephants in the past, so Jack bought the pair. Brant has spent a good part of the winter in a barn on the other side of town training the elephants. He seems to think they'll be okay for the shows.

Jackson Pelt is a young guy, early twenties, who used to race BMX bikes off road; he does bike stunts for us, some of them look way cool!

We have three clowns, they're actually a family, Barry Easton is the father and his kids Mike and Linda have followed in their father's steps.

We have four quarter horses that have been trained to accept riders, and lots of kids love to ride around the paddock or watch the horses.

Then there's the Valbist family, Erik, the father, Maria, the mother, and their kids Kevin, Sherry and Tommy, they're our acrobats. Eric and Maria have been acrobats for close to thirty years now, and they both trained the kids once they knew they really wanted to do it.

Oh, we also have two jugglers, Pat Bevel and Jenny Barton, they just joined us this year; they're novices and it's cool to watch them practice.

Well, I had a nice solid breakfast today, three eggs, ham, bacon, two pancakes, toast, home fries, a muffin and a mug of coffee.

It's time to head over to the vehicles, we need to get moving if we want to reach the fairgrounds Thursday morning.

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