The confounded elephants just glory in the mud, and the minute they get in the ring they all lay down and roll in the mud and water, so when they are ready to do their act they look like walking mud pies. The freaks are awful to handle, the giant being the only one that can wade through and look pleasant, and the fat woman would make you weary, she has to be carried back and forth to the platform by half a force of hands. Pa has had shawl straps and coffin handles fastened to her clothes, so there will be something to grab hold of to move her around. I don't think that another year we will have any fat woman, 'cause pa says it costs more to get this 500-pound female from one place to another than all the rest of the show. He thinks that people who visit the show don't care much about a fat woman anyway, but just guy her and ask her what kind of breakfast food she lives on. He thinks if we had three reasonably fat women that weighed about 200 pounds apiece, it would give better satisfaction and they would be easier to handle; but when she heard what pa said and felt that she was going to be shook next year she began to cry, and it was like turning on water in a bathtub. Pa had to pet her and then the bearded woman got jealous.
At Jefferson City there came a cold wave and everything was froze stiff, and you could skate in the rings, and the management decided to get to St. Louis and send the show to winter quarters, and organize for next season. So we have had a time closing up for the season, and sending the animals to the barns on our farm up north, and discharging and paying off the performers and bidding everybody good-by. We have bought presents for everybody, and it has been a picnic.
Pa had a big heart, with roses all around it, made of a horse collar, covered with flowers, which came from the freaks, and the performers remembered him with presents, and pa gave everybody something, and everybody got together in the main tent and made speeches.
The manager thanked everybody and promised that next year we would have the greatest show on earth. He said the management had decided that what we lacked this year was a wild west show, as the people everywhere seemed to dote on busting broncos, and roping cattle, and chasing buffaloes and seeing Indians and rough riders chase up and down the arena. He felt that in justice to our rough-riding president, it was proper to have a wild west show that would make things hum next year. He said he took pleasure in informing the people of the show that pa had been commissioned to go out west at once and secure the Indians and cowboys, horses that buck and bounce off the riders, cattle that would stand it to be lassoed and thrown down for the amusement of the public, buffaloes that would bellow and act like old times on the plains, stage coaches and robbers, and he promised that next year they would have no cause to be ashamed of the show. He said pa was authorized to spare no expense to round up a wild west show second to none. The performers and hands cheered the manager, and then they yelled for pa for a speech.
Pa got up on the tub that the elephants stand on, and said that it was true what the manager said about a wild west show, and that he was proud of the confidence reposed in him. He should be glad to take an expedition and go out into the far west and beard the wild west Indian in his tepee and engage Indians by the hundred to come with us next year. He would pierce the wilderness of the west in search of the wildest red men and would hunt the cowboy in his lair and secure those who could make the most trouble for cattle and horses and shoot up an audience if necessary to keep the peace, and he would buy buffaloes enough so every performer could ride one if he wanted to. He said while we had this year had some attempts at a wild west department in our show, it was only a tame imitation of what we would have next year, and he wanted them all to pray for him, that he might come out of the wild far west without being killed. He said he should take Hennery along with him as a mascot, and if the worst came he could trade me to an Indian tribe for ponies, or leave me as a hostage with some tribe until he returned the Indians at the close of next season. Pa closed his remarks by hoping that nothing had occurred during the past season that would cause anybody to have it in for him, 'cause he had tried to be impartial in his cussedness, and while he felt that he had been considered an interloper in the profession at first, he had found that everybody looked upon him later in the season as the main guy in the show, and that all had felt at liberty to give it to him in the neck on every proper occasion and he felt that he had taken his medicine like a thoroughbred.
They gave three cheers for pa, and then they brought in the blankets and tossed everybody up until they lost everything out of their pockets and yelled that they had enough, and they wound up by tossing pa up in the blanket until he could see stars. They were going to give the fat woman a hoist, when the boss canvasman gave the signal to take down the tents, and all was in a hubbub for about 15 minutes.
When everything was down and everybody went to the train, after joining hands around the middle ring and singing "Old Lang Sine," pa and I and the managers went to a hotel to organize our expedition to the far west in search of talent for a wild west show that shall be the greatest ever put under canvas. After all had gone away, and only pa and I and the managers were left, it seemed, as we thought over the incidents of the past season, as though there had been an earthquake and the whole show had been blotted out of existence.
Pa choked up and was going to cry, and I got my throat full of something so I could not speak, and the managers began to wipe their eyes, and pa saved the day by saying: "Oh, what's the use, let's order up some highballs," and when they came, with a red lemonade for me, pa said: "Well, here's to the people that crowd around the ticket wagon and fight to get the first ticket when the window is open, and go away after the show and say it is the greatest show ever."
"Hey Rube!" said the manager, and we drank standing, and pa went out and bought tickets for Cheyenne, and some beads, to give to the Indians we shall visit in the west.