Tales from the road: The Circus Saga
The circus had never hired a girl to perform the job of Horse Groom before, and rocking up that first day I was about to find out why. Perhaps my dress pants and white tee shirt were not the BEST choice when presented with raking and hauling manure, grooming angry camels and washing mac trucks.
Dragging metal fencing all over a grassy oval for enclosures, banging star piquets into the rock solid ground, bashing steel pegs with heavy mallets and unravelling enormous annexs to build shelters.
Lugging huge bales of itchy hay, unravelling lengths of hose to fill hundreds of litres of water troughs (at a trickle due to pitiful water pressure) and staying away from the feet of hungry horses.
Sleeping in a bed no wider then me, showering in a cubicle no rounder then me. Eating in a ‘cook house’ with at least 10 hungry men…with room for about 5. Walking about 600 meters in the middle of the night on damp grass to a port-a-loo which was never ever close to camp.
…and this was just the interview!
Day to day there was tack to clean, horses to bath (super fun in the middle of winter), trucks to clean, enclosures to maintain and much much more.
Every night there was LOADS of grooming, animal costums to put on, performance timings to adhear to, arrogant human performers to coddle and hungry animals to be put to bed snug in their rugs.
Up and 530am. Down at 1130pm. $150 per week.
But I would never ever ever change even one little thing!
Those days on the road were the best of my life. Travelling in a truck with bright orange seating in the back and a giant clown on the roof brings out the best in people. Cars honking, people waving, cars stopping to let us pass and children chasing us down the street. Seeing some of Australia’s best kept secrets in remote places. Setting up for a show in the morning and moving on again to a new, exciting place that same night. Never staying in one place for more then a week.
Favourate places you ask? Well, Bairnsdale HAS to get a mention. Do I remember the town? No. but they had this amazing pub called Zia’s, who in turn had an amzing shot called a Zia’s Zappa. Mmmm. Also the owners were amazing, let us sit in there talking and drinking until long after the pub closed. They made us food and even drove us back to the circus site in the early hours of the morning.
Adelaide, where we stayed for over a month, performed 2 shows each and every day..and I celebrated my 18th birthday!!
Robinvale, where we played 1 whole show before moving on that same day. Swan Hill, the next town, who welcomed bleary eyed circus acts with open arms.
Albury, where we had to sit on the side of the road for hours waiting for trucks laden with sawdust to arrive because the oval was completely flooded. Did the sawdust work? Well, yes. For long? No. It sopped up the stagnant water long enough for us to get the trucks in and equipment set up. Then the water seeped through causing smalled rivers to flow through camp. Trudging back and forth to my animal enclosures was a little like navigating the amazon…without the anacondas and David Hassellhoff.
Lakes entrance, where the 4 camels decided to get out over night to visit the nearby camels who lived in an amusment park up the highway. Now I’m about 5’4″ and, at the time, 50kgs soaking wet. But nevertheless there is me wrangling 4 hairy camels down the middle of the main road into Lakes Entrance with cars backed up each way. Finally the camels are back in their pens and I breath a sigh of reliefe. I head back to my room to shower and start the day properly when I get my 2nd knock on my door of the very early day. Yeah, they were out again.
Border Town, because it was so damn beautiful and the 1st town into South Australia
Craigieburn, because it was my very last town. Sniff.
I loved the people I met. The girls that loooooved the circus boys, the kids who didnt stop smiling from start to finish, the smell of popcorn and fairy floss and screaming “Who wants a ride?” while working the merry-go-round during intermission.
I loved that first night in a new town when the work was done and the tough job of finding the nearest pub was priority. I loved judging a town by the standard of their laundromat. I loved the terrible terrible directions we were given for each leg which always got someone lost. I loved packing up. I loved setting up again. I loved watching the ‘great wall of bums’ as the boys rolled the big top away!!
I loved being 17 and completely free. I loved my animals and my friends. I loved being offered everything under the sun to stay when I decided it was time to move on.
Travelling with Circus Royal was by far the greatst way to travel. The only way to travel.
Like I said, the best days of my life.