Eating and drinking with Barbara and Shane last night, I mentioned that, when I was a kid living in Altus, Oklahoma, my mother once encouraged me to run away and join the circus.
At the time, having already given up ambitions of being a missionary to Africa (to see wild animals) or a veterinarian (to play with other people’s pets), I was determined to train animals for the circus. I was eight, maybe nine.
So when the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus came to Altus, my parents and I went—back in the days when circuses were still under a big tent top, smelling of straw, cotton candy, popcorn butter, and animal feces.
During the opening parade, as the afternoon’s performers gaily circled the rings, my mother pointed out a baby elephant, its trunk twirled around its mother’s tail.
“Go,” she said, nudging my shoulder. “Run jump on the back of that baby elephant.”
“Wha-?” I mumbled.
My dad was occupied with his 8-mm camera, shooting feathery pink-sequined trapeze artists in fishnet stockings.
“Hop on the baby elephant’s back,” my mother repeated. Seriously. “Do it. This is how careers are made.”
I didn’t, and my mother didn’t push the matter further, except vaguely to convey her low opinion of my gumption.
It’s not much of a story, I know. But my friends thought I should write it down. If I weren’t going to write my own bestselling memoir, I could at least offer it up as fodder for aspiring writers to use in their work. (Again, you see, the question of my gumption, or lack thereof.)
Anyway, here it is, then, written down.