The circus money, Part 1

October 1, 2013

Beth knew she had a good solid country family. She married Josh fifteen years ago this summer. She was just out of high school when they married. Josh started helping on the farm more and more as he got bigger, and going to school less and less. It wasn’t that he went to school all the time and then quit, it was more like it just kind of played out. Beth always wanted to attend the business college, and Josh was in favor of it too. She went the first semester, made good grades, and loved it, until it just didn’t work anymore. She accepted it and knew she had learned some good basics; and after all, a lot of people said she was a good seamstress, so she wasn’t without skills.
The years went steadily struggling by, mostly the same, not bad or good, just on and on. Beth did sew sporadically for the public, and did a lot of typing once for a young lawyer.
They lived on what had been Josh’s folks’ farm. Josh’s sister ran off to get married twenty three years ago, and hadn’t been heard from since. Josh’s older brother Walter was devastated when he was drafted, because he wanted to stay on the farm. Eighteen years later he is now career army. He knows about another world out there, and talks about it some when he is home, but not a lot. Josh doesn’t know, but Beth wonders about it. Walter doesn’t want to explain that in the army there is always food, clothing, blankets, beds, and someone to tell you where to live. Then all he has to do is live, and pray we don’t get into a war.
After Josh’s parents were gone, he and Beth inherited the farm. They inherited the equipment, cattle, and debt - lots of debt. Josh’s father Samuel had always worried that he would die in debt, and he did. The big lender knew Josh had never borrowed, but didn’t worry, because Josh was real solid and real thrifty. It was only eighty acres, but it was real close to town, which caused him to think it wouldn’t be much of repossession anyway. The equipment was worn out, and the cows were old, but it would be okay. Josh and Beth moved into the bigger house, and were going to paint and put in new linoleum someday when they had a good year.
Sometimes after Josh prayed at the supper table, Beth would eat slowly and look at her children. I mean really look at them. The oldest, Pat, was tall and thin at thirteen, like Josh, but didn’t have his dark Indian features. Instead, she had her mother’s fine dark blonde hair and pale blue eyes that occasionally turned light green. She was quiet and bashful, like Josh. Then there was Sue, ten years old. She looked and was built like her mother. She would probably be five feet six inches tall, one hundred twenty pounds, but colored dark, like Josh. She had those dark, totally unreadable eyes. Like her mother, she was soft-spoken, but talked a lot; which is unusual, since most soft-spoken people don’t talk a lot. Finally, there was Tommy. “Little Tommy”, built just like his mother, but looked just like his daddy. Tommy was somewhat of a dreamer, and you never knew what he was thinking. They were good kids, got along in school, and of course went to church three times a week. Beth didn’t grow up in church, but took it up after marrying Josh. She was a whole hog or nothing type of person, and the church was definitely the whole hog.
Droughts like the one in the early 50’s always come and go, and may be short or long, but are always bad. Weeks turn into months, and then to years, seven long years. The real bad thing is, no one but the Lord knows how long they will last, and after so many years, you might even begin to think He’s not real sure either. Crops are bad, cattle are poor, prices and water are low. This was the fifth year, and several people had quit and moved on, leaving available farms that no one wanted to work.
Josh was quiet and worried. He didn’t know, but Beth knew there just wasn’t enough diversion or exciting plans for the children. School, church and chores kept them busy, but they needed something to look forward to besides a week of V.B.S. every summer. With their old pickup and a little money, a vacation was just something they heard the rich kids talk about.
Beth heard about a circus coming to the town in a few months, and had an idea. After supper, she took an empty oatmeal box, and put a few coins in it. She then explained that they were saving up to go to the circus.
Oh My! All the excited talk she heard while putting the savings up in the cabinet made her heart happy. They all gave Beth circus money, usually coins when they could. The kids cleaned flower beds and storm cellars for a few elderly ladies in town. They painted one older fellow’s porch. It was all circus money, and the excitement grew. Pat wanted to see the lady trick riders. Sue wanted to see the flying trapeze and eat cotton candy. Little Tommy wanted to ride the carousel and see a tiger. Josh even joined in, and said once, when he was plowing a neighbor’s field by the railroad track, he got a fleeting look at a camel riding the circus train, and wanted to walk up and really look at one. Beth enjoyed it all, and just wanted everyone to have a good time.

Stan Johnson lives and works in Nolan County. Comments about this column can be emailed to editor@sweetwaterreporter.com.

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