Illustration (continued)
I really was not sure what a circus was. I had seen movies and carnivals but not a circus. I remember my Uncle Bud saying to me that the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus is coming to Moundsville, West Virginia, of all places. The Marshall County Fairgrounds at the bottom of the hill was the largest flat space in the Ohio Valley. Wow! It was going to fill up the entire fairground. Three days later every building downtown was covered in three story tall circus posters. One day, smoked brick buildings, and the next, covered in primary colors. I remember a three story giraffe pasted to the side of the Kroger Store and a clown that covered the side of the bank that the kids in the school across the street got to look at all day. All of the store windows were covered with them. I was being driven out of my mind and I shared my mental state with anyone who would listen. I wanted some answers as to why it was making me feel this way. My excitement changed me into an annoying kid out of his mind who would not shut up about the circus. Finally, my mother told me that the circus was not coming the next day. I assumed that she was telling me this to calm me down enough to live with until morning. I went to bed early and maybe fell asleep. The route from the railroad depot to the fairgrounds came down my street. That night I laid in my bed and heard the secret sounds of the circus when it wasn’t a circus – the whistle of the approaching trains, wagons, animals and people talking in foreign languages. I was disappointed that I had fallen asleep and probably missed something. I jumped out of bed, pulled on my pants, didn’t slam the screen door and ran to the corner to watch the sun come up on the fairgrounds at the bottom of the hill. I sat there in the middle of the street in the dark. The dawn unfolded all of it for me, like showing the movie opening on the curtain of the Strand Theater. After an eternity, I began to see forms. Slowly a huge, very black cinder field exposed itself to me. The morning radio news told the whole story. The Greatest Show on Earth, crippled with strikes, without notice had indeed gone home and maybe out of business. I had to rescue myself. I needed to keep this excitement going. It went beyond playing circus – I began perfecting my trapeze act so that I could leave my dreary town and live in a traveling city of color and excitement. I researched the Book of Knowledge and found three black and white photos. The small town library had one small book about the circus with about a dozen pictures. Other pictures occasionally came from magazines. I practiced my act and began to draw that fantasy in order to bring it to life. I drew and drew and drew. I was allotted one 8x10 five cent tablet a day but the drawing continued on the smooth basement floor or sidewalks, brown paper grocery bags, or anything receptive to the marks of a stolen piece of school chalk or number two pencil. I got into real trouble when I discovered the wonderful texture of the paper found in the fly pages of books that I never thought anyone read. I took my drawing undercover as it was beginning to draw too MUCH attention and the attention interfered with my drawing time and inspiration. I continue to enjoy being rescued by drawing and my own sympathetic magic.