Column: Will spring be here soon? I'm ready for the circusWORTHINGTON — I am not the Minnesotan I used to be. I remember well when someone would report, “It’s really cold,” and I would think, “Well, I’ve got a good coat, I’ve got a good cap,” and I would plunge into the cold feeling snug — or smug. (This was in a time when I also wore zipper overshoes and a wool scarf around my neck.)
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I am not the Minnesotan I used to be. I remember well when someone would report, “It’s really cold,” and I would think, “Well, I’ve got a good coat, I’ve got a good cap,” and I would plunge into the cold feeling snug — or smug. (This was in a time when I also wore zipper overshoes and a wool scarf around my neck.)
When a winter storm was forecast, I hoped this one would be the big one that would be remembered through ages. Big storms made big news and exciting front pages. Big snow drifts made great photos.
Even in a time when I was old enough most certainly to know better, I might see a patch of ice, run a couple of steps and go sliding. We had many winter jokes —
What does a snowman eat for breakfast? Frosted flakes.
When Minnesotans first took to heading south for the winter, I was truly puzzled. Why would people leave God’s country for three months in a desert? Why would anyone give up home and Nobles County for a motel room in Mississippi?
I never have gone south in a winter — and I still am not tempted — but I’ll tell you: my enthusiasm for winter has become so tiny you can scarcely see it. I have been ready for spring since Christmas Day. And this is a mild winter.
Among several things — I don’t how this started — I have been thinking of sunny days and circuses. It beats thinking about the ice on the driveway.
There still were many maps that didn’t even have Worthington’s name on them — 1873 — when Barnum & Bailey’s Circus, the biggest and the best, came to town. It was a time even before Ringling Brothers.
On the long railroad track between St. Paul and Omaha, there is only one place where the rails are near a lake shore. This is at Worthington. Lake Okabena. This is the chief explanation for Barnum & Bailey’s stop on the Minnesota frontier. The circus people led their creatures to the lake to drink and wallow. There were elephants in Lake Okabena before there were motor boats.
In the early 1930s there was a traveling tent show — I need help on this. I think the show was Alger Brothers, although I don’t find reference to such a show, even on the Internet. Alger Brothers set up their tent near Ninth Street, on an empty Rock Island Railroad plot north of Lake Okabena. They did melodramas — the villain proposed to the fair lady and she replied (in song), “No! No! A thousand times no. I’d rather die than say yes…”
The last big tent show to make an appearance at Worthington was the Carson & Barnes Circus. My — how long ago was that? Thirty years?
For a great long time there were Worthington residents who never forgot the day the greatest traveling show of them all came to town: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West — and — Pawney Bill’s Far East.
This was just after the turn of the 20th century. By that time, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West had toured nearly all of America and much of Europe. Queen Victoria went to see the spectacle.
Buffalo Bill did not parade. Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull were no longer with the show at Worthington. But, group by group, with horses and equipment, the performers did proceed down 10th Street and on to the Clary Street fairgrounds.
There was a troop of mounted American Indians. A troop of cowboys. There were “fearless Arabians on their Native Steeds” and Royal Irish Dragoons. Japanese soldiers.
The great legend himself, Buffalo Bill — William F. Cody — rode his horse down Worthington’s main street as the procession made its way to the show site.
People afterward talked of the horseback football game with Cowboys vs Indians. Wonder never ceased for the re-enactment of a frontier battle — 100 American Indians in an attack on a pioneer settlement.
Great and ongoing credit to the people of the Shrine Circus. Through recent years they have been unfailing in bringing their great shows to Worthington. It is the one chance kids have any longer to see a circus.
Oh, I hope this winter will be a short one.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.