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The thought of the Carnival coming to Miller, South Dakota, my hometown, occupied my thoughts for a week before the big colorful trucks rolled into town. Main street was blocked off, and the workers assembled the ferris wheel and other thrill rides along with tents sheltering games of chance. They hired some local boys to help, but I was a skinny kid and didn't look like I could handle the physical requirements of the difficult job -- even though I knew I could. A stage was erected at the start of the Midway for a free show which drew a good number of the townsfolk.
Opening day my friends "Flab" Hall, Dean Robinson," Red" Wilson and I discovered a shooting gallery that challenged the shooter to remove all the black from a bull's eye with three shots from a 22-caliber rifle. It was an impossible feat as the sights on the gun were bent and the bull's eye too big. At twenty-five cents a try we foolishly kept shooting in hopes of winning the genuine German Luger pistol displayed as a prize for obliterating the bull's eye. A lesson learned outside of school.
The feature act at the stage show was a man who cracked a bullwhip and threw knives. My friends and I were at the front of the stage when he started snapping that whip and came closer and closer to a volunteer's face until he popped a cigarette right out of the fellow's mouth.
He had our attention as he was clanging his knives together getting ready for the next part of the show. Then he looked right at us boys and told us not to try this at home. The knife thrower, who spoke with a Southern accent, went on to say they had performed in Nebraska and a young boy who had watched the show had gone home, stood his sister against the basement door and threw an ice pick through her heart. I thought about my sister Kathy and had to hold back the tears. The man then put his lady assistant on a revolving wheel and threw knives at her, coming so close that the crowd gasped in concern for her safety. What a show!
I found out years later that the wheels used in the knife throwing act had spring-loaded knives hidden in the wheel, controlled by the knife thrower, and he palmed the actual knives and only acted like he threw them. The lady on the wheel was in no danger at all. I'll bet the story about the boy and his sister in Nebraska wasn't true either! Another lesson learned outside of school.
© 2006 Maurice Karst
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