I’m not sure if I’d ever been to a circus before. At around five or six years old, I probably hadn’t. I do remember the excitement when I found out the Cole Brothers Circus was coming to town. About once a year, this traveling three-ring extravaganza would visit my home town of Kewanee, Illinois. It was a big deal. When I found out, I made sure my mother knew about it. To the best of my memory it was not long after my father had passed away. At that time, my mother, Minnie, did not drive. And for some reason, on the day of the big show there was no one available to drive us the three miles south of town where the Cole Brothers had set up their tents.
Unfortunately, the afternoon that we were going to attend, it started to rain and it was a bit chilly. I thought my dream of making it to the circus was not going to happen. After checking with a few more people, and still not finding a ride, my mother told me to put on my boots and raincoat. We were walking to the circus. I recall one of my mom’s friends saying she was crazy, and perhaps she was just a little, but off we went.
I vaguely remember the circus. Clowns, elephants, acrobats, everything I had expected. No vivid pictures stick in my mind. However, there is one memory of that day I will never forget. I still remember, after the circus, sloshing through the mud alongside the highway on our way back home. I can still feel the warmth of my mother’s hand clutching my tiny fist which had become chilled by the rain.
I shared this story with my daughter, Tori Lou, when she was still in grade school. Now, to this day, when she is facing a difficult situation in which she could use a little help from dad, I tell her, “Don’t worry, Lou. . . I’ll walk you to the circus.” She knows what I mean.