A New Era

The vehicle I used to pull this entourage was a Ford one-ton truck with a 400 horse-power engine, underpowered for what I was doing. My years on the road provided many lessons in efficiency, self-reliance and flexibility. In addition to the horse trailer with the living quarters in the front, all the accouterments for performing in remote locations on the circus were loaded inside. The horse and mule rode in the back, and I had a ton of hay on the roof. A VW bus with all my painting gear was hooked on the back. This rig was clearly overloaded. I became ultra-cautious because of this and adopted the pattern of going slow everywhere I went.

The trip had barely begun and at a fuel stop, after filling up and heading out, I heard the metallic “cling” of metal breaking again, and the rig ceased all forward momentum. Fortunately, I was still in the parking lot. After crawling underneath to see what had happened, I had no choice. I had to fix it. The torque needed to get this mass moving had broken the weak link in the drive train, the yoke on the output shaft of the transmission. I learned the year before to carry a spare yoke with me. But this time I discovered the U-joint had also broken.  After unhooking the VW bus, I went in search of the part needed. Upon return, I laid on my back and used nimble fingers and the right wrenches. I succeeded with replacing the broken pieces with new ones.

Soon I resumed the trip. The experience made me ultra-sensitive about applying too much torque, now that I knew where the weak link in the drive-train existed. Each state gradually moved beneath my wheels revealing warmer weather.

While crossing the Appalachian Mountains, now void of foliage, everything frozen in the rig began to thaw. With each mile, my attention began to focus on the goals I hoped to accomplish upon arrival in Florida.

While motoring down the highway, I reviewed the experiences of the previous winter. The first stop last year was the Sarasota fairgrounds where the International Circus Festival and Parade took place. That event imitated the Grammy or Emmy award spectacles of other entertainment genres. At this festival, circus performers came from all over to compete in one of five performances judged by a panel of peers. The festival culminated with a black-tie awards presentation banquet with plenty of announcements, trophies, complimentary speeches and applause. A street parade filled the final day.

The best benefit of the circus festival last year was the opportunity to have a conversation with John Herriott, whom I had known about for years. I had visited him at his home north of town in the past to watch him train Liberty Horse Acts. At the festival, I asked him for some help. He agreed.

John understood and appreciated that I could only fit lengthy training sessions between opportunities for making money as an artist. I would work with him prior to the festival. After that I had a three-month opportunity to decorate RVs that winter. As each mile went past, my enthusiasm for what lay ahead mixed with the grief of the recent heartbreak.

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