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A virtual slave

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Gertn, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    I am not African or even black yet I have been a slave. Sold for $10 and forced to work horrendous hours on back-breaking tasks and being treated worse than the owner’s dogs.


    I survived without a father, who was killed on the same day I was born, My mother, realizing she just could not cope with a new born son and still care for her 1 year old daughter, tried to give me away but even that was not easy. We were in the middle of a war, food was short, clothing almost impossible to come by and life constantly threatened with guns and bombs. We managed to live through years of this but then come an opportunity my mother thought would be good for me.


    I was a small built boy in his early teens, and I have to admit I was weak and often sick. My mother had been told that I stood a better chance of surviving if I lived in the country, away from the noises, smells and pollution of the city. An organization was seeking workers for the farms. Farmers were seen as the saviors, growing food that would keep us alive just a bit longer. Farmers were also hard working and underpaid for their efforts, so labor was a problem. Farmers could not afford wages for many.


    Young boys, like myself, were sought after since farmers had seen the possibility of young boys working for less and still able to do some of the heavy chores. It was not a bad idea but there were, as in my case, people with bad intentions.


    For $10 I was sent to work on a farm in the middle of nowhere. The nearest neighbor was 25 miles away. I was met at the station by my new foster parents, who were to become my owners, keepers and slave drivers. They seemed like ordinary people on first meeting but arrival at the farm and the farmhouse soon showed me they were far from ordinary.


    They had a son themselves, just a year or two older than me, who was going to teach me all I needed to know about farming. All I needed to know was very little, I was to dig when and where I was told to, I was to lift what I was told to, I was to obey this family no matter what they said. In return I was provided with a wire frame bed placed against the wall outside the farmhouse. For some protection against the weather and the insects I was given blankets made from old potato sacks. If the weather looked as though it was going to be bad more potato sacks were hung from the roof of the verandah to keep the bed dry, it didn’t matter if I got wet it seemed.


    I was given food, no choices, and either I ate it or starved. I also had to eat alone on my wire framed bed. I was not allowed in the house. They all knew my name but I was always simply addressed as ‘Boy’.


    My main tasks were to clean out the animal enclosures and either spread the manure on neighboring fields or gardens or bury it in holes I was forced to dig. The farmer’s son almost always supervised me and almost always found fault with whatever I did.


    I had one friend on that farm, a black cocker spaniel dog named Sally. She was my friend because I sometimes gave her scraps of food, which I did when I didn’t like something and did not want to be punished for not eating it. She was also my friend because on cold nights we would keep each other warm on my bed. She was indeed my friend because she would bark whenever a strange creature tried to creep under my bed. Mostly it would be rats but now and then a hungry fox would wander near and on occasions a carpet snake would slither into the bushes close by. I was afraid of them all but somehow Sally made me feel a little safer.


    My first job in the morning was to feed all the animals and only then was I allowed to shower under the hose in the garden. I would then be handed my plate or bowl of food and told to go eat on my bed and bring the empty dish back in 20 minutes when I had finished eating. I am sure, if I was allowed in the house, that I would also have to wash the dishes. Maybe I was just not seen as clean enough for that task.

    After my breakfast I would be sent to bring in the cows for milking, so you can already imagine that my day started at 5.30 so that I could be free at 6.30 to bring in the cows. While the cows were being milked by the farmer and his wife, I would be cleaning the horse stables, the pig’s sty and the goat enclosure. Once this was all over I would be expected to spread or bury the crap from my cleaning jobs.


    I had one other job, which I sometimes shared with Sally. I had to walk the fields and empty the rabbit traps. After emptying them I had to reset them for the next day or following night. Most rabbits were caught at night in either traps with jaws or in snares on their rabbit paths. I had an old sack on my back for carrying the rabbits and this sometimes jumped, as I never had the heart to kill those rabbits that were not yet quite dead. I realize on looking back that that was cruel of me not to end their suffering quickly.


    On one such run to collect rabbits, I saw a snake in the grass and set Sally onto it. Sally would just bark and snakes would glide away never to be seen again. This time it was different. Sally barked and the snake just raised its head and hissed. Sally leapt forward as if to attack, hoping this would scare the snake. Sadly, as Sally leapt forward, she landed on a recently reset rabbit trap. Her cries were pitiful and my cries filled with pain. I carried Sally all the way back to the farm and was greeted with an endless barrage of insults and curses. Sally’s accident was seen as being completely my fault. I was sent to bed immediately, even after begging to stay with Sally. Soon after I got to my bed, the son came and literally dragged me to the garden.


    “This is all your fault, Boy, so see the results of your silliness,” he shouted at me.


    There in the garden was Sally laying as if in a faint on the ground and the farmer standing over her with a gun in his hand. I could see straight away what was going to happen and I screamed long and loud begging them not to do this. I tried to run to Sally but the son held me back and twisted my head so that I was forced to watch as the farmer shot Sally in the head. I was then thrown to the ground weeping and begging the farmer to shoot me too. They left me long enough to stop crying so loudly and then the farmer’s son handed me a shovel and told me to dig Sally’s grave. I cried and begged and tried everything to get out of this one horrible job but no amount of pleading would help. I was lifted by my arms, by the farmer and his son, and taken to a spot behind the goat pen. I was shown where to dig and told not to even come back to the farmhouse until Sally was buried. I hated the job but I also wanted in my heart to bury my friend with as much dignity as a crying teenager can muster. I knew a few prayers and said them all. I was going to steal some flowers from the nearby fields to place on the grave but, thinking I had been too long, the farmer came and ordered me back to my bed. I thought of waiting till they were all asleep and then running away. As if he had read my thoughts, the farmer tied me to the bed and on one of my ankles placed a leather belt which he fastened with a padlock. I cried myself to sleep and hoped a snake would come by and kill me now that Sally was no longer there to protect me.


    The next day, having eaten nothing for a long time, I was taken to a field of corn where I was expected to lift bales of hay onto a truck. I was given a pitchfork and shown what I had to do. It was not easy for me. I dropped several bales before finally getting one on to the truck. The problem was that as the truck became loaded the bales had to be lifted higher and higher. I was straining and I felt a pain in my stomach. A few more bales and the pain came more often. After one heavy bale seemed too much for me, I collapsed and the pain was now continuous. The farmer thought I was just being lazy or weaker than usual and dragged me to my feet. As he did so the pain shot through my whole body and I screamed aloud. Another worker, the one who had been driving the truck, asked to check on me. I was almost thrown at his feet. He bent down and after asking me a few questions he lowered my shorts and pressed my groin. I winced and drew a sharp breath.


    “I think he may have a rupture,” the worker told the farmer, “he needs to get to a doctor or better still the hospital.”


    “There is no doctor near here and the hospital is over 60 miles away,” the farmer said. “ we have no small car and this truck has to stay here to be loaded today. So how do we get him to hospital?”


    “I have a motor bike on the back of the truck, which I use for emergencies. I could take him on that,“ the worker said.


    “How will he ride on a motor bike if he has a rupture? He will probably fall off and kill himself, “ said the farmer. “Save us all a lot of trouble if he did,” the farmer added cruelly.


    “ I will get on my bike and you strap him to my back , with my bike I can get him to the hospital in less than an hour. Can you hold on that long young fellow?” the kind worker asked me. I nodded a weak agreement to something I had no faith in and frankly, dreaded. But anything was worth suffering if it got me away from my foster family, even for a while.


    How I survived that ride, strapped to the back of the very strong bike rider, I do not know. I remember shooting pains throughout the whole ride and sometimes I seemed to be falling asleep but then a bump in the road would jolt me back into pain and consciousness again. I was awake enough to know that we had reached the hospital and to see a trolley being pushed towards me. Then I passed out completely.



    When I awoke, I was in a hospital bed and a nurse standing over me said something, I could only see her lips moving, and in a short time a doctor appeared.


    “You are a very lucky young boy,” he said, “ you had a very inflamed appendix. I am surprised it did not burst on that bike ride you endured.”


    I was dizzy, sore and totally confused. What was to happen now? I was not able to think straight immediately. The next day I felt much better, no more pains in the tummy, no more appendix and, best of all, no more foster family, at least for a while.


    It was five days later when I was allowed to get up and walk around with help. I asked if my foster parents had been to check on me and was told that no one had been or even called the hospital. I was grateful in one way that my foster parents had left me alone but at the same time wondered about my future. I dreaded the thought of going back to my little hell hole. Here I was in a strange place, in a strange hospital, with no clothes apart from those I arrived at the hospital in, no money and no idea of how to contact anyone. I was never given the phone number of my foster home but then, of course, I was never allowed to use the phone. I wondered if the agency that arranged my enslavement had been informed of my fate or if my own mother even knew what was happening to me.


    One thing I was certain of, I would rather be dead than go back to my foster home. A young man in the next bed to me, a guy in his twenties, had also had his appendix removed and we got to chatting. He was from a farming family also. When he heard my story, he was amazed and suggested I speak to the police. I was afraid of policemen, I had been witness to some strange things in my past and just thought that the police only dealt with bad people and in bad ways. I wanted to run away but even that simple step needed money, fares for a bus or train at least to get me away from here. The guy in the next bed was named, Geoff, he had one suggestion. I could go back with him to his farm and maybe when I was completely fit something else could be arranged. It seemed to me as though I had no choice. Geoff seemed to be a nice guy and at that time I had no reason to be concerned about his interest in my welfare. I was to learn a valuable lesson later.


    Geoff was ready to go home and on the day I just dressed and went with him. His family had come to collect him. They were surprised but agreed to take me with them. No one at the hospital seemed to notice or even care that I was also leaving.


    We arrived at Geoff’s home. It was a big farm with mainly cattle and horses. I loved horses and always wanted to ride one but on the farm I had left, once they learned I loved horses, they limited my contact to horse manure. I was never allowed to touch the horses, though I often did when no one was around. Geoff introduced me to Blue, his own special horse and I was allowed to sit on the horse but not ride it, yet.


    That night both Geoff and I were eager to sleep early, we were still recovering from our surgery. There was no other choice so I had to share Geoff’s bed. Once in bed, I realized what had prompted Geoff’s interest in me. I was too afraid to object strongly to his suggestions, after all I was now in a completely new and strange place. Where, if I ran, would I run to? I gave in to Geoff’s advances and without much effect on me hopefully satisfied his strange desire. I was in another trap and slave I might be but sex slave I had no intention of being.


    The next morning, I hinted at blackmail. I wanted money for a train ticket to the city or I would have to let it slip that Geoff had wanted me to stay for reasons of his own, which I am sure his family was not aware of. I got my wish, a ticket to the city, some pocket money and a lift to the station. I was free once again but free to do what, to go where? They were questions without answers.


    On arrival in the city I wandered around looking for some clue as to where I would live and what I would do. I suddenly became aware of what being totally alone meant. I knew no one and had no way of contacting anyone. Once again, the thought of going to the police entered my head but was immediately dismissed, fear again. I was to learn much later in life that the police were not just there to catch bad people but to help good ones.


    As I wandered the city I saw a poster for a circus that was in town. I had no plans but just wanted to see the animals. My previous experience with animals had been merely to clean up their shit but in spite of this I always loved the creatures, especially the horses. I arrived at the circus grounds in the middle the afternoon. They were preparing for the evening show. As I strolled around a clown, with costume on but no makeup yet, approached me and asked what I was doing. We chatted for a while and he asked if I had thought of joining the circus. I had not but now the idea was in my head I thought it was a wonderful idea. The clown’s real name was Geoff, yes, the same name and the same spelling. It took me only a short while to realize that this Geoff had similar ideas to the other one about me. I was desperate and realized that if played along it might help. I did not flirt but I did not discourage Geoff from flirting with me. Eventually my trickery paid off. Geoff took me to the circus manager and after some wrangling got me a job as a tent hand. I would help strike and fold tents, help raise them at new venues and also get to take the horses for watering when needed. It was the last thing that had me sold.


    I had a place to sleep, in a tent with other circus workers, not the performers, who all had their own caravans. I would be fed three times a day and at night I would either be too tired or pretend to be in order to stay away from Geoff the clown.


    I was free but still a slave yet in a nice way because the tent workers in a circus were commonly referred to as the tent slaves. Slave I still was but a happy one. The future would take care of itself but I knew my future would be with horses. I had to wait a while before that dream really did come true.


    I never saw my mother or my foster parents ever again. In a circus you are all family and my family was a good one now. At 16 years of age I was finally free, I belonged, I was happy and they called me George, my real name, I was no longer just Boy.


    One of the circus performers, Tony Shahun and the clown, Geoff, were to play different roles in my future. At that time I was not aware of what Fate had in store for me but these two men were the servants of Fate and would lead my life down very different paths.
     
  2. Oluomoadebayo

    Oluomoadebayo Moderator Staff Member

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    Is their any continuation to this story because I don't want it to end just now. Also I'm a dog person and if you can bring another dog to the story will be really nice of you.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2015
  3. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    Don't worry about the story, I will not end it now.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 2, 2015
  4. Oluomoadebayo

    Oluomoadebayo Moderator Staff Member

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    Ok I'm looking forward to it.....
     
  5. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    Having endured my term as a slave to foster parents, who to this day have no idea where I am or whether I even lived after being taken to hospital, I found myself as a tent slave with a circus. Once the tents were raised we tent slaves had other duties to perform until the season at any particular spot was over. I was still helping to clean up after the animals but this was quite different. The animals were all so beautiful especially the 12 grey Arab geldings and the one magnificent Arab stallion. Tony, the head animal trainer spoke to them in Arabic, I spoke to them in English and I swear they understood every word. As well as cleaning the stables I was also asked to take one horse at a time, along with other workers leading other horses, to the water troughs. They loved this walk and most of the time you had no need to lead them. My favourite was the stallion Pasha and I always got to him first. He would walk behind me without me even holding the halter. I was told this was dangerous because, if suddenly scared, Pasha might bolt. After this I kept a loose hold on the halter and Pasha seemed to understand. Of course, no one was allowed to ride Pasha, no one except Tony. Tony and Pasha had a dressage act in the show and they behaved as if joined together physically. Tony never ever used the whip, even though he carried one for show. He spoke to Pasha in gentle tones and using his heels now and then, Tony had Pasha trained to perfection.


    I loved the horses and I loved Tony for his treatment of them. I watched some of his training sessions and never saw him once hit a horse with a whip. He would crack the whip often but this was more for the audience than for any horse training.


    There was another horse riding act using large draft horses, horses with wide backs. The act was a bareback riding act called the Saint Leos, named after the lead rider Leo Sinclair. They were astounding and it took a few shows before I released that the tricky finish was always missed first time round, just to get audience applause when they succeeded on the second try, clever showmanship. It was this group that would first laugh at me and then bless my life, but more of that later.


    I was always bumping into Geoff the clown and he never seemed upset with me. After all he had got me my job with the circus and I had not given him what I knew he wanted. I sometimes thought I should at least have given him the same mild pleasure I had given the other Geoff, but that just wasn’t me.


    One other performer I truly loved was April Raynes, I am quite certain this was not the Italian lady’s real name. She was the dog trainer and I loved her most of all because in her act she had two black cocker spaniels, just like my friend Sally from the past. She did all the usual dog tricks, jumping over hurdles, through hoops and around obstacles but April herself was a contortionist and her finale was to wiggle and writhe with her body, bend it into unbelievable shapes but all the time with two small chihuahuas constantly finding footholds ( should that be paw holds) on her ever changing body shapes. In the end, April was balanced on her hands with both feet over her shoulders and one chihuahua perched perfectly on each foot. Even the dogs bowed when the applause rang out. There was one other dog in the circus, who only had to ride on an elephant’s back in the Grand Parade. He was very special. It seems he used to be in April’s act until one of the circus trucks ran over his front leg and broke it, the leg had to be amputated. Tugs, for that was his name, was a beautiful brindle boxer dog and he loved still being part of this wonderful circus.


    I learned so much about elephants too, that they are easily trained, have really good memories but are easily frightened by small things. I liked the big cow elephant named Alice, same name as my real mother who one day I hoped I might find, quite for what reasons I did not at that time know.


    After the final performance of a longer season in one town or city, it was traditional for the tents to stay up overnight and all the packing and preparing to move on was left until the next day. That night it was also tradition that everyone, performers, tent slaves, cleaners, ushers and ticket office staff all joined together for a party. There was ways lots of music and dancing and although some alcohol was ordered there were never any drunks, it was an unwritten rule that you never get drunk around animals. This was for the safety of people and animals alike. On one such occasion Geoff, the clown, did not get drunk but he was definitely not well, maybe just over-tired. He asked me to help him back to his caravan. I took him to his bed and helped him undress and settle comfortably down to sleep. He fell asleep almost immediately. I was concerned about him so I stayed to look after him for a while. Soon I was dozing on the side seat and was almost asleep myself. The bed in Geoff’s caravan was a big one, so I crept alongside him, lay down and slept myself. During the night I woke to find Geoff’s arm across my body and he was holding me close. He realised I was awake and whispered, “Are you OK?”


    “Yes, thank you,” I replied.


    “Thank you for staying and looking after me,” Geoff said.


    “I did not do much, just stayed a while and then fell asleep myself, some carer huh?” I said.


    “You cared and that is enough, I thank you for that,” he kissed the back of my neck.


    It felt good, I felt good. It was the first time in my life that anyone had really showed any kind of affection towards me. I felt at that moment that I was loved.


    “George, please turn and face me I want to talk to you,” Geoff asked. I turned. “I am sure you know I am gay but I will never ask you to do anything you do not want to. I would like to be your friend, I will help you all I can and expect nothing in return, well maybe I would love your friendship in return, that’s all, OK?”


    I do not know why I did it but it felt right, I kissed Geoff on the cheek. That was my reply. After that we just hugged and fell asleep. I felt warm, safe and comfortable in this man’s arms. My sense of belonging grew stronger and from that day on, Geoff and I were absolutely close friends. I would often sleep with him in his comfortable bed, much more comfortable than my mattress in the tent slaves sleeping trailer. He would always cuddle me and it soon became a habit of his to kiss me goodnight — on the cheek. I liked it.


    During the breaks between cities, if there were more than a few days to spare, some people would go on holidays, some performers would use the time to polish routines or learn new ones but there was always work to be done caring for the animals. I had nowhere else to go so I always stayed and looked after my horses, I referred to them now as my horses, and also occasionally wash an elephant. Geoff also always stayed, it seemed he had nowhere else to go either. He told me that once they learned that he was gay his family would have nothing to do with him. Such a pity, because when you got to know him he was a really nice guy, They say that clowns are often sad in real life and in Geoff’s case his was quite true. During these breaks I always slept with Geoff and tent slaves often teased me about being gay also. I didn’t care, I knew I was not and that was all that mattered. Some evenings during these breaks we would organise workers to be left on duty, with animals there always had to be someone on duty, and the rest would go off to see a movie, go dancing or whatever else they wanted to do for fun. One evening Geoff took me to see a movie. It was a love story, a love affair between two men. I watched and I think I understood how Geoff felt. During one scene, a sad one, I heard Geoff sniffle and I held his hand. That night when we went back to sleep, Geoff did not cuddle me, I cuddled him and my reaction suggested that I might be like one of the guys in the movie, gay but afraid of it. I was physically excited as I held Geoff and reflected on the movie. Geoff touched my growing reaction and just said, “Oh, my boy is growing up.” It was inevitable that I eventually succumbed to the charms of this man and we made love, sort of. It was a beginning for me, I knew nothing of love and relied heavily on what I had seen in the movie. One thing I know for sure, I love to be kissed on the mouth and I love to kiss back. Geoff was a kind, patient and clever teacher, He never forced me into anything but we had a friendship that had now blossomed into something more. I thought I would be scared of this revelation that I was gay, I thought I might even be ashamed of it but I was not. When I got teased by tent hands after this I just admitted that I was in love with a clown. Soon, their teasing stopped and the partnership between Geoff and I was acknowledged and accepted. I learned very soon afterwards that there were two other gay romances among the tent slaves.


    One other major change in my life occurred during a break between performances. I had just finished watering the horses and as I passed by the main canvas, marquee, I saw the Saint Leos rehearsing a new routine. I watched for a while and then Leo, the leader, saw me and asked me to watch the horses while the team took a short break. I stood in the centre ring for the first time and I felt so good. I was supposed to just hold the horses but I could not resist the temptation. I picked up the short riding crop and waved it, the horses started to trot slowly around the ring. I felt a sense of power that was quite unjustified. I had seen this act many times and knew it always started with the youngest rider jumping from the ground on to the back of the lead horse. It did not seem a hard thing to do but clearly balancing on the back of the horse was the real trick. I thought maybe I could just jump on the horse and sit there, not try to balance on my feet. I took a short sprint and aimed to land on the back of the leading horse. I missed and landed heavily outside the ring. I tried again. This time I landed on the horses back and immediately slid over and fell off the other side. As I got up I heard a roar of laughter and applause. It was the Saint Leos. Leo picked me up off the floor and I expected to be sacked then and there. Leo smiled as he helped dust me off.


    “One of the hardest things about bare back riding is overcoming the initial fear. You have none, why is that, have you grown up with horses?” Leo was treating me so kindly after I had broken a rule never to interfere with performing animals. I shook my head and remained silent.


    Tower, the name given to the shortest rider, spoke. “You were always wanting a fifth rider for a new routine, maybe he is the one,” Tower laughed mockingly as he said this.


    Leo looked at Tower and then at me. “ How would you like to see if I can train you? I know of your reputation among the circus family for loving the animals, maybe that love can be put to good use,”


    I was totally confused. I was a tent hand, how could I become performer?


    Leo asked the team to enter the ring and set the horses in motion, then he asked each of them to simply jump on the lead horse and sit. After they had done this, he asked me to try but first he had arranged a harness to suspend me from the tent top in case I fell again. I was excited, not nervous at all about the jump but terrified of failing in front of Tower, who had laughed at me. I sprinted, I jumped and I was astride the lead horse and bouncing happily on my bum as the team applauded. Without being asked I imitated the Leos dismount procedure and landed successfully back on the ground. Tower came up to me and shook my hand.


    “I was wrong, I thought you were being foolish. You have a natural talent.” He shook me by the hand.


    “I think Tower is right,” said Leo,” but before we can think of training you we have to speak to the circus manager and Tony Shahun about moving you from tent slave to trainee performer. The manager will have to decide on pay and Tony has to approve of all performers working with animals, since he is head animal trainer.”


    I was told to report to Leo in two hours, after they had finished their practice. I walked from the marquee with much more pride than was fitting, I mean I had been promised a possible training not given an award for best rider. I ran straight to Geoff’s caravan. I knocked and rushed in as soon as he opened the door and flew into his arms and cried. He thought I was hurt, he thought I had received some bad news but he waited patiently as he held me and when I was able to I told him the story of what had happened in the centre ring. He smiled and kissed me.


    “If Leo wants you Leo will get you, he is very much respected in this circus. The manager may feel put out because he will have to employ another tent slave but Tony, knowing how much you love his horses, will certainly agree.” Geoff hugged me and I was so happy that there was someone in my life with whom I could share my happiness, someone who cared about me. I was a very lucky young man. Young man I felt I was because I had just turned 16. Yes, it was now official, I had lied about my age saying I was already 16 in order to join the circus but now I was legally employed — as a trainee performer. It meant so much to me but it was even more important that I had someone in my life who believed in me, someone who loved me and someone I could rely on. These were all new experiences for me and I felt totally blessed. Also for the first time in my life, that I can remember, I was no longer a slave.


    Geoff had made me realise what I was and Leo, with Tony’s blessing, was about to teach me what I could be. Tony, married to his beautiful wife and partner in the ring, Inge, had called me to his caravan and talked to me very seriously.


    “ There are no secrets in the circus so let me ask you straight away is your relationship with Geoff of your choosing? Are you with him of our own free will and not just because you are lonely or feel alone in the world?”


    I explained to Tony how I had been afraid of being gay, I even told him about the man in the hospital and what I had done, but I assured him that my feelings for Geoff had grown over time and they were genuine. In fact I even said in real words that I loved my clown. Tony said that he would be looking at my progress with the Leos and also looking out for me as a person. You are very young and if you ever feel the need to talk to someone about your problems, feel free to come to me. I thanked him but told him that I had Geoff. Tony smiled and shook my hand.


    “If you love Geoff as much as you love my horses, then he is a lucky man.” Tony opened the door and told me to get to training. For me that was weight training, jogging and anything else that Leo and Geoff thought would build my body. I was still just a little too small but I was developing nicely.


    I had a future to look forward to that was filled with promise and most definitely filled with love.


    The future also held some tragedies that I would have to learn to face in life. The tragedies concerned one performer, two tent slaves, two horse grooms, an elephant and a dog.


    Tragedies whilst concerning individuals had a devastating effect on every person in the circus and I am quite certain some of the animals were affected too. Animals have senses that many people do not recognise or acknowledge, they have a sense of belonging and also a sense of loss. Some of the best lessons in my life have come from animals. I hope they continue to be my mentors.
    TBC
     
  6. Pejuamadi

    Pejuamadi Active Member Staff Member

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    This is really deep stuff! Interesting.
     
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  7. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    I'm flattered!
     
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  8. freboi10

    freboi10 Member

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    This board is getting more interesting day by day. Keep the good work going OP.
     
  9. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    I had been a trainee performer for just two weeks but everything was happening so fast. There had been so many changes to my life.


    First I had a long talk with the circus manager, who informed me of my pay, somewhat better than a tent hand and he said it would be even better once I appeared in the act in the center ring. He also informed me that as a performer I was entitled to live in a caravan and no longer share a trailer with the tent slaves. He said, since I was already living with Geoff the clown, that there was no need to make further caravan arrangements unless I wanted to. I did not want to, I was perfectly happy living with a clown, my clown.


    Then I had a long talk with Tony Shahun, head animal trainer. He told me that as a performer with animals I was responsible for taking care of those animals. I no longer had to clean stables or bury manure but I was to spend more time with the horses, cleaning them, grooming them, getting to know them and letting them get to know me. I had already been doing this and Tony knew it. He asked if he could give me a test. Of course I agreed.


    “When you enter the stables with the Arabs in, which horse is first?” he asked me.


    “That’s easy, Mr Shahun, Sheik,” I replied.


    “Correct, and by the way, in the ring I am Shahun with Pasha, outside everyone just calls me Tony. OK, can you name all the horses in order from Sheik?” I could and I did.


    “I also know that the twins are not really twins, rare with horses, but Romulus and Remus are so much alike. The difference is Remus has a grey flash under his right eye. He is also the naughty one,” I said.


    “What do you mean, naughty one?” Tony asked me.


    “He sometimes pretends he has forgotten a routine in rehearsal but once you scold him he remembers everything perfectly.”


    “Quite right, “Tony said,” do you know why he does that?”


    “Oh yes, he wants extra attention, he is vain.”


    “I was right, you really do have a knack for relating to animals. One of the regular grooms told me that the horses you use in the Leos act are never restless when you groom them, not like the other horses are with those grooms, why is that?” Tony questioned me.


    “It is because I talk to them, I keep their minds occupied with my chat and they do not notice if I rub their rump too hard or tickle their belly while grooming, they just keep listening to my voice,” I explained.


    “What do you talk to them about?” Tony was almost laughing at me.


    “About the show. I train all day and night I learn by watching the show, especially the horse routines. I notice if a horse is slow, makes a slip or moves too soon and I remind them of those mistakes. I try to tell them how to stay in synch with the other horses. Of course, I do not really know if they understand but I do know they listen,” I said.


    “I am quite sure they understand a lot of what you say. You already have a reputation for talking to the animals, just as I talk to Pasha in the ring. George, I want you to take on an extra job, for me personally. I would like you to be in the ring when I train Pasha, I would also like you to take on the role of head groom and see if you can teach the two regular grooms to connect with the horses the way you do. As head groom you would receive extra pay and for helping me with Pasha, I would pay you bonuses, from my personal account. What do you say?”


    “ I would love to do that but I would have to check with Leo, after all he is technically my boss,” I said.


    “Yes, he is but you will find he is a good boss and knows what is best for you and for the horses. He will want those grooms to learn from you. So, is it a deal?”


    “Yes, Sir, sorry, yes Tony and thank you, thank you very much,” I was as excited as hell and couldn't wait to get back and tell Geoff.


    As I was nearing my caravan I saw a man painting on our door. I went closer and saw that he had outlined my name on the door. Where it once read Geoff, Clown it now was going to read Geoff, Clown and Geo, Rider. I was so proud and at the same time quite humbled to be so recognised.


    I should explain about my name Geo. The Saint Leos were a four member riding team, two men, Leo and Theo and two ladies, Deo and Cleo. It was just a natural move to shorten my name to Geo. I was officially a part of the Riding Saint Leos but my sole duty as a performer was just to lead the horses into the ring. But that was enough to earn me the right to wear the same costume as the others and to have a light make=up. I already felt like a performer.


    When I asked Leo about getting into the act, he told me that once I had been given a routine, I had to do it 100 times, without fault, before I would be allowed to show off in the centre ring. I thought that was so hard but when I talked to Geoff he said it was normal and he suggested I talk to April, the dog trainer and Felipe, the catcher in the trapeze act.


    April confirmed that her dogs had to show a faultless routine 100 times before she entered them into the main ring. Felipe, said that not only did they have to perform perfectly 100 times but before being acknowledged by name as a part of the act, they had to perform 50 more times without fault in front of an audience. Audience reaction was a major part of the trapeze act and it could sometimes be very distracting. I was satisfied that I was being groomed as a professional and I was happy.


    Felipe was part of the Flying Dragons, so named because they entered the big top disguised as a long Chinese Dragon. Once in the ring they would all appear from under the dragon body dressed in their red tights. Felipe was the biggest and strongest of the troupe and was the designated catcher. The remaining three trapeze artists were Rosa, Felipe’s wife, Manuel, Felipe’s brother and Carmen, Felipe’s sister. Being family they had a great trust in each other, a most valuable trait for trapeze artists. They were the best high flying act I had ever seen, but then they were also the only ones I had ever seen. Next to the horses and the dog acts they were my favorites.


    Another great act was the Charlie Chaplin tightrope act. It was actually a girl but she dressed and walked like Charlie Chaplin and had a great comedy routine on the tight wire. She had a number of ‘near misses’ in the act but I soon learned they were all planned. She was good, she was funny, she was a favorite with the kids. During one performance one of her near misses went wrong and she fell. Now the tight rope is not that far from the ground but far enough to make a heavy fall serious. Greta, Charlie Chaplin in the ring, landed badly and the act had to be cut short. Greta was carried from the ring and clowns sent in to lighten the mood for the audience while they set up the next act. Greta had broken her ankle and it was a bad break, the jagged bone was jutting out from the flesh. She was in a lot of pain and the circus emergency vehicle took her quickly to the local hospital. We learned later that night that they were going to have to put a metal splint in the leg in order for Greta to be able to walk again. It would be a long time before Charlie Chaplin would appear in the ring again.


    The next morning was a pack up day as we were moving onto a new town. Only a hundred miles away so the travelling would be short but the work in striking and raising tents again was as laborious as ever. During the striking, taking down, of the tents the canvas can be quite heavy and you have to be careful not to be underneath, especially when the center canvas is lowered. On that occasion one tent slave tripped and was caught underneath when the center canvas fell. The canvas was heavy enough but the metal ring to which it was attached, complete with iron pulleys was what hit the tent hand on the head and caused a serious gash above his right temple. He was knocked unconscious and another emergency run to the hospital was needed. This tent hand worked alongside his brother so when it was determined that the injured tent slave couldn't continue, his brother left also to take care of his sibling. The tent slaves were two men short and in the circus world that was a disaster. Tent slaves worked in teams and every team member was important. The manager scoured the local employment agencies and fortunately found two strong men who were willing to join the circus. As it so happened, they were brothers too. You can be so lucky sometimes.


    All went well with the packing up of tents and animals and costumes and props and performers, although performers just secured things in their caravans ready to move on. We always had to move in convoy, the parade of the circus coming to town was a major piece of publicity.


    We arrived at the next town and immediately the whole circus family was brought together. The program had to be discussed and each act asked who was ready to add a routine in order to compensate for the time lost in the program with the injury of Charlie Chaplin. Tent slaves had to be assigned to teach the two newcomers all about tent procedures and fill them in about duties regarding animals when the shows were on. In other words they had to be informed about their shit shoveling routines. It was also a time for collection of money. Some would be sent to Greta and some to the injured tent slave. Their hospital bills would be paid by the circus, covered in part by insurance, but they would need some extra cash to deal with day to day expenses for a while. There was never any problems at these meetings, I had been to three now and realized that this really was family and all problems were shared and solved together. It gave everyone great confidence in the family unit, an essential in a world where things could so easily go wrong.


    It has often been said that surprises and shocks come in threes. It may be old wives tales, superstition or what have you but it happened to us. The third tragedy was not an injured performer or an injured worker, it was not an injured animal but an animal was most certainly the cause of our third major disaster.


    Coco, a cow elephant of almost 40 years was on heat. They get crazy at this time and have to be watched carefully. Coco had been chained at the ankle as usual and was busy doing her sway back and forth when, for some unexplained reason, the chain slipped. Whether it had not been tightened properly, whether the lock had not been properly fastened or whether the constant swaying of the elephant had caused the chain to loosen we will never know. One thing was certain, the chain was off and so was Coco. When they feel like it elephants can run pretty fast and it would be a fool who stood in their way. They also like to run, when they run, in a straight line. They are not keen, like other animals, to twist and turn. Coco started off at a trot and quickly reached elephant gallop mode. Straight ahead she went, knocking over the ticket office stand as she went through the main entrance and on to the road. She ran straight across the road not stopping for cars or anything else and, thankfully not hitting any cars. Without pausing she went into the bakery shop and out the back entrance. Now Coco was much bigger than the doors so as she went through she made the doors larger, breaking the frames, loosening bricks and collecting a good covering of flour as she raced through the bakery. Through another door, now enlarged, and into the courtyard behind the shop. The courtyard was used as a parking lot for the row of shops there and was enclosed by a high chain link fence. Now chain link is not strong enough to stop an elephant charging but it is sharp when broken. As soon as Coco hit the fence it snapped and sharp wire ends dug into Coco. Her skin was tough and she would not feel it but she happened to stand on a broken wire which pricked her foot. Elephant’s feet are very tender and as soon as she felt the pain, although not too severe, she stopped to lift her foot as if to examine it. That was all that was needed for the elephant handler to grab the chain around Coco’s neck and pitch the elephant hook behind her ear. She responded quickly to this since the elephant hook is only used in dire circumstances. Then Tony arrived and between him and Tiny, the very big built elephant handler, they soothed poor Coco and led her back to her plot and to two chains on her ankle. She settled down when fed snacks of leaves and bananas and all was well. Now all they had to do was assess the cost involved in repairing one very messy bakery shop. One good thing was that some of the cakes had not been spoiled but were covered with flour. No one objected to blowing flour off the cakes before eating them. The bakery shop owner was amazing, a man who should have been so angry but who instead laughed and begged for seats at the circus for him and his kids. He did not have to beg very hard.


    The show went on, the publicity on radio and TV, showing the damaged bakery, was great and even the baker saw some good coming from this event. An announcement to apologise for the absence of the tightrope act was almost ignored as Coco was paraded in to be introduced to the public. Coco was a sweet elephant and having run her frustrations off, she now performed brilliantly enjoying the limelight as a super star at least that is the way it seemed. The audience of course loved the rogue elephant who was now so tame.


    The show was a big success, as always, and after the show Geoff and I sat with April and her favorite dog, Sandy. Sandy was not in the show. Sandy was a rough haired collie, a Lassie dog, with grey and brown hair and a bright blue eye, the other eye was brown. April had got her as a pup and fell in love immediately. She decided she would not train Sandy for the ring but just love her as a pet and personal friend. Sandy responded to every word and every move that April made. It was as if they were joined at the brain. April told us that the hardest thing about her job was that she had to leave Sandy alone when she was in the ring performing. She also had to shut Sandy in the caravan for Sandy loved to run into the big top when she heard April’s voice. I suggested that for the time being as I was always watching the shows that Sandy could sit with me on a lead and watch her favorite lady perform. It was a nice idea April said but not possible. Circus rules said no outside animals were allowed in the big top. A barking dog could easily spook one of the animals especially the elephants. And as far as the circus was concerned Sandy was an outside animal. I loved Sandy and tried when I was free to take her for a walk, she loved that but was always excited when we turned for home, and she really adored April. We all did, she was the gentlest, kindest lady in the whole circus and she was bombarded on her birthday with fruit and flowers that could fill a whole van.


    I was having a wonderful time, jogging every morning to strengthen my calves and thighs, lifting weights to strengthen my back and forever jumping over obstacles to improve my sense of distance and height, important for bare back riders. At the same time I was having great success with the two regular grooms. They were reluctant at first but now always talked to the horses as they were being groomed. At first their chat was like the chat they might have with a girlfriend.


    “Oh you are so lovely today. You know you have gorgeous eyes. Your hips are so smooth. I think you are the most beautiful horse I have ever seen.”


    They were silly remarks but they worked. Eventually they started just to tell the horses about things that were happening in the groom’s lives and the horses seemed to be genuinely listening. I also gave them the same test Tony had given me and they very soon knew each horse by name, knew the individual traits of each horse and were soon as much in love with these beautiful Arab geldings as I was. I never let them groom Pasha, he was my special project apart from the four big, white draft horses that were part of the Saint Leos, an act I was close to joining as I had now completed 65 runs of a routine without fault.


    The future looked bright, I would be a performer and with the extra pay, including special bonuses from Tony, I would be rich, well rich for a boy who was once a slave.


    Once more the thought of finding my real Mum and telling her of my life changes buzzed through my head.

    TBC
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2015
  10. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    ---------------------------
    “Ladeeeees and Gentlemen, Leo, Theo, Deo, Cleo and Geo - The Riding Saint Leos.”


    The ringmaster’s announcement finished and the herald of music from the circus band, perched above the Performers entrance, signaled my first entry into the center ring as a qualified performer. Oh my, what an exciting moment that was. We walked to the centre of the ring and bowed to each side of the audience. We then removed our glittering white capes, handed them to the grooms, who had led in the horses, and stood there in our white, sequined tights and leotards ready for the first trick. The four big, wide-backed draft horses trotted around the ring waiting for each of us to do a simple mount and dismount. Up onto the horses back, landing on our feet, balancing after a little improvised wobble and then fall to sitting position and slide off on to the ground. We all did this, except Theo. He mounted just as we did but his dismount was a somersault straight off the horses back. I was learning this and one day that would be me too but for now I was happy to be in the act, in the ring, in the circus.


    There were a few comedy routines in the act and as the smallest member I was always the target of these, sort of the group clown. I loved it, Geoff loved it and we continued to love each other more and more.


    With four horses needed to be led in we had to use a couple of tent slaves, dressed as grooms in their black and yellow suits, to help the two regular grooms. They had been chosen because they said they had grown up with horses and knew how to stand on the right side and how to lead horses without pulling or pushing them greatly. Horses respond to the gentle touch. It was a circus rule, should be a rule in life generally, never to raise your voice angrily either at horses or people when you are near the horses. Horses understand threatening voices and anger to them definitely seems threatening.


    One day, thankfully after our performance, one of the horses decided to stop on the way back to their stable.Probably wanted to stop and pee or shit, who knows. The tent slave, acting as groom, started to pull on the bridle and shout at the horse. The other tent slave told him to stop and went back to help handle the reluctant horse. Just then the horse who was being pulled shook its head violently and accidentally hit the groom’s head. The groom lost his temper and punched the horse on the nose. The horse reared back before settling forward again. The second groom asked the first one to exchange horses and let him handle the seemingly disobedient charge. The first groom’s response was to hit out in anger at the other groom.


    Tony Shahun, our amazing animal trainer, just happened to be coming from the stable with his horse Pasha and he saw this attempted punch between grooms. He handed his horse to his wife Inge, who was in the next act with him, and strode towards the grooms.


    “You two will lead these horses quietly, very quietly back to the stable and then you will both return to your trailer. I will expect to find you there when this show is over.” He went back to Pasha and Inge and they continued on to the big top.


    After the show, Tony arrived at the tent slave’s trailer and found the two substitute grooms waiting. They had clearly overcome their anger towards each other and were now bosom buddies, both aware that they were in serious trouble.


    Tony, as always, gentlemanly and calm, handed the two boys an envelope each.


    “In there is the equivalent of one month’s pay. Take it and leave the circus now, right now. I have already booked a room at the Barclay Hotel, just around the corner, where you may stay overnight and then make your own plans tomorrow. The room is paid for, whether you stay there or not is up to you. I hope all goes well for you. I am sure you know why you are being fired. Goodnight.”

    The two tent slaves packed and departed. They knew there was no point in appealing to the circus manager, his support of Tony and his rules about animals was as strong as Tony himself felt about people working with animals. Of course, the next day the search would be on for two more tent slaves.


    We had been taking our bows in the ring when all of this happened but as soon as we heard, we went straight to the stables to check on the horses, to calm them and to treat them again to the sound of kind voices. They were fine and whatever had spooked Conker, the reluctant one, had clearly gone from his mind and he was as loving as ever. I nuzzled him goodnight and we all went off to change and prepare for the Grand Final Parade. We had stunning red and blue outfits for the Parades and I have to confess, not at all humbly, that I looked so handsome.


    I had been working very hard on my body-building and I was now quite well toned. I was in the words of Geoff, my clown, as handsome and as strong as a young Superman. I asked if I could be Super boy, since Geoff was my Superman. Having someone in life to depend on and who also depends on you is a great feeling. I spoke to Geoff about my feelings towards my natural birth mother. Geoff said we should think about doing some research and then going back to what was my home town in the two month winter break that was coming up.


    The circus always rested for two months, actually six and a half weeks, during winter. This gave time for people to rest and relax, animals to have a holiday too, performers to develop new tricks, circus equipment to have a thorough overhaul and families to come visit.


    Very often performers, who were away from their families for months, could not go home if they had new tricks to learn, old tricks to re-polish and refine or if they animals that needed constant attention. The circus always provided decent accommodation in first class caravans for families who wanted to visit and stay a while. It was a marvelous service. I, of course had no one who wanted to visit and Geoff had no reason to think his parents, who objected to him being gay, would want to visit him. He was very surprised to receive a letter from his younger brother who wanted to visit.


    Gerald, Geoff’s younger brother arrived alone in a simply wonderful new sedan. He hugged Geoff and said he had often wanted to write to him but was never sure what to say.


    “Geoffrey, “he began, I had not even thought about Geoff’s full name before, “ Dad is pretty sick right now, his own making, he is drinking far too much and Mum has a full-time job just trying to look after him. I told them I was going on a three week vacation with my girlfriend, Pegs. Pegs has been told to keep out of sight for a while so my lie is not discovered. I wanted to come and see you and tell you that I have gay friends at work and I am not, like Mum and Dad, against you in any way. I love you, Geoffrey, and I am quite aware that you and Geo here seem to be quite happy. “


    “Thank you, Ger, “Geoff said, using Gerald’s pet name,” that means a lot to me. Ger, do you need help financially, I mean does Mum need help with money? I can send some if you wish.”


    “If ever I need money you can be sure you will be the first one I turn to, after all Number One clown in a circus must pay terribly well, “ We all laughed at this misconception.


    Geoff told Gerald of our plans for the break and Gerald immediately suggested that he take us where we wanted to go in his new car. He said it was to help run the car in but we all knew it was just an excuse to be with his brother for a while.


    Gerald took us to a library where we all searched internet files and found some clues as to where I had come from. I was truly surprised at just how much information is available about almost every living person. Birth and death records, bank records, credit records and records of any misdeeds that had resulted in police or court actions.


    My birth record was found and my place of birth was listed as Lambeth, London, England and my mother was recorded as Alice Winifred Gordon. A check on that name, there was more than one, soon identified my mother by her place of brith also, the same as mine. There was no father listed on my birth certificate that had me wondering.


    Clearly, the next step was to fly to London and continue my search there but Gerald said that would be so expensive and might not reveal anything of value.


    “After all,” he said,” with all these records have you seen much evidence of ‘current address?”


    It was true, we had not seen this. Geoff then suggested we write to someone in London and ask them to research for us. Then Gerald jumped in and said he knew the perfect person for this task. His girlfriend, Pegs, had a brother who was in London for two years on a course for Detectives, He was studying at the well-known home of detectives in London, Scotland Yard. A phone call to Pegs was followed by a call to the number she gave for her brother, followed by a letter with as much detail as possible and then the long wait for a reply.


    It was 3 weeks before we had any news at all and it was not all good. My mother had been found but she was in a hospital for long term patients. It seems she had attempted suicide on two occasions and was now under observation and recovering from complications airing from one drug overdose and one self-mutilation attempt.


    I was very distraught on hearing this and knew my next stop had to be London. There was little time left of our winter break and i had already missed several practices with the Leos. I was, however, determined to go and Geoff would not let me go alone. We assured everyone that we would return in time for the start of the new circus season and Gerald took us to the airport where we boarded a plane to London, to my mother and to what surprises and shocks that journey would lead us to.


    My mother was beautiful, in spite of being sick but she did not know me at all. It was a painful few hours whist I tried to refresh enough memories to convince her that I was her son. Once she accepted this she just could not seem to stop crying and apologizing. I tried my best to soothe her, to convince her that in the end I had come out on top, I was fine and none of this would have been possible had she not made the sacrifice in the first place. I could not be angry with her, I could not place any blame on her, and she knew nothing of my horrible life on the farm. I sat and looked at her and said with absolutely true feeling in my heart, “Mum, I love you for giving me life and for all you did that brought me this life, in which I am truly happy.”


    We spent four days at the hospital with my mother and Geoff eventually asked if she would consider coming with us to live in the circus as a circus mother. My mother smiled and thanked him but said she did not see herself there but she would love to be kept up to date with news and photos, lots of photos, of her handsome son.


    We located an old friend of my mothers who promised to take care of her and we arranged to send money to help with living costs and hospital fees if needed. It was the only solution we could think of and the best one as it turned out. My mother got better, we wrote to each other every week and I phoned her as often as I could. She grew stronger and I could tell from her voice that she had found, once again, the real sustenance of life — true happiness.



    It had been a hard decision to leave and go back to work but we had no choice. It was easy for Geoff as a solo act but I had a lot of practice to catch up with. Leo was very understanding and kept my routines to a minimum for the start. He said I would catch up in my own time. I worked hard and soon was able to do all that was required of me. Leo turned to me one day and said he was so pleased I had joined their act, he said I behaved like a true professional. I could think of no higher compliment.


    My dear friend, April, had some big news for me too. It seems that lightning had struck in the same place twice, as it were. Another dog had been involved in an accident and had lost its front left leg. It was another boxer dog. April, with her loving care had nursed the dog through its convalescence and had also encouraged it to be near elephants without barking or moving too quickly. It had learned very well and April had the intention of putting this dog together with Tugs on the elephant back for the parades. She asked if I, with my uncanny ability to communicate with animals, would help her finish the training. I was delighted and within weeks we had a pair of boxers, dressed as mahouts, waving a painted wooden stick from their legless sleeve riding on the same elephant. This became a kid’s favorites and more photos were begged for after the shows of the two doggy elephant trainers than any other photo, even the greatly admired and very sexy looking trapeze foursome.


    It was a great new season and Geoff had an idea for a stooge clown to support some ideas he had for his act. I have always been a serious kind of person and I thought I could never be a clown. Geoff said that a stooge was often serious and he asked me to try. I loved it and it was quite hard to remain serious, I always wanted to laugh at Geoff. He told me to stay serious as that this was real acting and he thought I would be a natural. The stooge part also required me to enter in the first place singing and I loved that too. I had a good voice, many had told me so, and I was just a little peeved that I got to sing only a few lines before Geoff the clown came on and upset everything, to the audiences’ utter delight. Geoff asked for more pay for me as an addition to his act and he got it. This was good since I was now sending regular payments to my Mum, or at least to the friend who was caring for her.


    Letters from my Mum were always cheerful and I was so happy to know she was getting better. Photos of her were amazing and I loved her more as she fought to get her own life back on track. She always said how proud she was of me and how much she had wished I had avoided all the bad times before getting the good.


    Four months after my visit to London, my Mum said she wanted to see me in my act. I was so excited by this and sent her the money for airfares. The flights were booked and I was so looking forward to her visit. I had arranged for a small caravan to be made available so that she could live with the circus and be near me every day. There was no return date set for her. I hoped she would end up staying with Geoff and me for good.


    It was a bit stressful waiting for the day when she would arrive, like all things you are waiting for they seem to take forever to eventuate. The day arrived and Tony, the animal’s trainer, had arranged for a car to pick up my Mum at the airport. Her arrival would conflict with show times and I was not going to miss any more shows.


    I was trying so hard not to keep looking at the seat that had been reserved for her but I could not help it. I was doing part of my clown act with Geoff and from all calculations she should have been there by now but she wasn’t. The whole company had agreed to let the Leos go on late so Mum would be there to see her boy as a rider. The announcement was made, the fanfare began and we marched in. We bowed to all sides of the audience and as I took off my cape I shot one more glance at the empty seat. Why had she not arrived? The last check I made said the plane would be on time. There was no more looking at the seat, I had to concentrate on my act. The audience deserved a good act, an act they had paid for.


    The act finished and I went to center ring with the other riders and took our bows. We turned as usual to all four sides and standing by the ring was this vision of loveliness, clapping and crying, crying and clapping at the same time. She blew me a kiss but that was not enough for me. I broke with tradition and went forward to kiss a member of the audience. As I embraced my Mum the whole tent load of people erupted into wild applause and catcalling.


    I took my Mum by the hand and led her off through the performer’s entrance. The audience were satisfied and all their questions answered when the ringmaster bellowed out,


    “Ladeees and Gentleman, you have just witnessed the reunion of a mother with her long lost son. Hip Hip.”


    The Hoorays were deafening.


    What could life possibly hold for me now? Was I not the luckiest man ever to escape from slavery?



    But luck has a way of running out, something I was to learn with much physical and emotional pain.

    TBC only if people are interested in the story.
     
  11. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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  12. Oluomoadebayo

    Oluomoadebayo Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm very much interested in the story, it's a deep and thoughtful story. Please continue @Gertn
     
  13. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    Everything was going so well, Geoff and I were happier than ever since I started acting as his stooge. Geoff and I had also adopted our pet, the recently injured boxer dog, ho was still in the show as an elephant rider. Since I was now Geo we decided that the dog could now be renamed George. We even had his name put on the caravan, George, Guard Dog. That was a laugh because George wouldn't hurt a fly, unless he happened to catch one in his drooling jaws.


    I had mastered a few more routines for the riding act and I was thrilled to be getting applause for my solo routines. One of the new routines involved me sprinting towards the trotting horse and jumping up to land in between Deo and Cleo, the two girls, who had sprinted on to the horse’s back earlier. It was not that difficult but did require perfect timing if I was not to knock one of the girls off instead of landing properly dead center. On one occasion, an evening performance that had followed on from a very busy matinee, I may have been over tired, I may have been mistaken in my judgment of the horse’s speed and distance, I may just have e had a stroke of bad luck. Whatever the reason, I knew as soon as I took off from my sprint that I was not going to land properly and was heading straight for the shoulder of Deo. I twisted my body slightly to avoid the collision and landed on my back just outside the ring, having passed behind the trotting horse. I was a little stunned but felt quite able to get up and get back in the ring. It was as I rose I felt the warmth at my side and looking down saw that I was bleeding from my hip, or so it seemed. Quickly I covered the blood spot, remembering to protect the audience from bad experiences, and walked as bravely as I could from the tent.


    Outside the waiting performers, saw me, saw the blood spot and immediately sent for the circus doctor, always on hand. When my costume was removed it was clear that I had a puncture just above my right groin. I must have landed on a tent peg or ring securing peg and it had pierced my flesh. The doctor, after examining me, said there were no broken bones but that injury needed stitches and an examination to determine what internal injury there might be.


    I had pierced not only my outer flesh but also my intestines and I was told that my riding days were over for at least three months. I was devastated but there was nothing I could do. I would just have to travel with the circus as Geoff’s partner, no performing and, of course, no payment. Insurance for circus performers is hard to come by and when you do get it, it covers medical expenses only not loss of salary. It was going to be a long and very boring three months.


    Then Geoff came up with another idea. He said I would have to accept that even after three months rest and recuperation I would still need months of practice again to catch up. He also told me that he was no longer happy with his clowning routines and wanted a change. This shocked me until Geoff explained that he wanted to be a stage comic with me as his stooge. He said with the recent revival of Burlesque all over the world, comics were always in demand. He also said that if a company employed two gay comics, they would have no worries about these two messing with the semi-naked beauties that were not just a part of but a major attraction in Burlesque.


    We talked about it for hours and finally, when the lovely April, agreed to let us take George with us, we informed the circus manager that this would be our last season.


    It was truly heartbreaking to leave our circus family and many a tear was shed. I am certain that even the strong stallion, Pasha, teared over as I said my goodbyes to the horses. Because of my injury, the circus family had made the traditional collection to help with loss of wages and I was handed a very nice packet of money to help me on my way. Geoff owned his own caravan so we tootled off in that in search of a caravan park and then to the Royal Theatre, where they were preparing for a season of Burlesque.


    When we arrived at the theatre, there was a rehearsal in progress for the next season, in just two weeks, of Antony and Cleopatra. We watched just a little before being summoned to the office to meet the theatre’s resident stage manager. We informed him of our desire to be comics in the Burlesque and he agreed to arrange a meeting the next day with the Burlesque Director. We just had to wait and see. The resident stage manager then asked me if I had had any serious acting training. Geoff laughed and said I was the best serious acting stooge he had ever worked with. Let us be honest, I was the only serious acting stooge he had ever worked with. The stage manager said they had had problems with a young actor playing a slave to Cleopatra and they had sacked him only that morning. He told me there were only a few lines to learn and with a black wig and body make up I would make a good looking black slave. I was hesitant but Geoff once again stepped in and asked if maybe I could just read the lines as a kind of audition.


    It was done, I read the lines, simple enough and the play’s director, who had been introduced to us, liked what I did. Either that or he was desperate. Anyway, I was offered the job. Geoff said as long as I did not lift anything heavy or run I should be fine. The slave never had to lift anything heavier than a large fan with which he kept Cleopatra cool and though he had to grovel now and then at Cleopatra’s feet he never had to run. I took the job and said I would rather dye my hair than wear a wig, wigs have a habit of slipping or even falling off at the wrong time.


    The Director immediately thought this was such a good idea and one from which they could milk some valuable publicity. I would go to local hairdressers and have half my head of hair dyed black, pictures would be taken for publicity and then the remaining half of my hair dyed. This was fine by me as the theatre would pay the hairdresser. The picture appeared in the following day’s papers with the heading “An actor dyes for his art.” Very corny but a good idea and apparently it sold tickets.


    I rested well in the evenings and during the days I attended most rehearsals. I was not needed every day, my part was quite small, but I wanted to know as much about the play as possible. Watching actors on stage was amazing and I was entranced by the actors’ transformations from ordinary people into Egyptian Queen, Roman Soldiers, slaves and foreign ambassadors. Even the voices seemed to change quite dramatically and people who spoke gently offstage boomed when in character. It was most fascinating. I tried to imitate other slaves and add a slight accent to my speech, even though my lines were not that important. I loved this acting. I am sure I improved as Geoff’s stooge because of this experience. By the way, we got the job in Burlesque and rehearsals for that would start almost as soon as Antony and Cleopatra opened. I would be rehearsing during the day and performing at night on stage. Geoff was my savior and did all the work in our caravan, looked after George, did all the shopping and cooking and left me to preserve my strength for my performance on stage. I was a slave once more and from the Director’s comments I have reason to believe I was a good one.


    Geoff wrote all the material for our comedy act and since he knew me so well, there was never any doubt that I could accomplish all the tasks he wrote for me. During our rehearsals for the Burlesque I was watching from the wings and inadvertently sang along to one of the musical numbers. The Director overheard me and strode onto the stage after having called the rehearsal to stop. I knew I was in trouble, I wondered if I would be thrown out of the show or just forbidden to be anywhere near the stage except when my act was on.


    “Can you do that on stage?” he asked. “Let’s try, climb up on to the top step and start to sing as the first girl appears and sing out because you will be a long way back on the stage.” Without even waiting for my replies, he left the stage and waited for me to carry out his commands. I climbed to the top of the semi-circular stairway and turned to face the auditorium. The music started and I sang out just as requested. It was a big surprise to the director, to the girls, to Geoff and most of all to me - I sounded good. At the end of the number the cast of lovely girls all clapped and the Director bellowed from the auditorium, “OK, it’s in, see wardrobe about a costume, I want you dressed as a Vagabond or Slave, someone poor who sees these beautiful girls as out of reach.” No problems, I thought, they are definitely out of reach for me. Geoff was so proud of me and I was so lucky to have his support at a time when I was supposed to be resting but was working harder than ever, well not harder but longer hours. By the way, the song I had to sing was “Waiting For a Girl Like you” and, thankfully, I got dressed as a vagabond and not a slave again. Geoff said I was the most handsome vagabond he had ever seen but I would not take that remark too seriously, I think he could be biased.


    My days, or rather nights, as a slave came to an end and I received my first check as a professional actor. The pay was quite small, in keeping with my part in the play, so I never cashed the check and just had it framed as a souvenir of my beginnings as an actor.


    In the Burlesque I was torn between my singing part and my comedy act. I loved being part of Geoff’s act and working alongside him but I was definitely being drawn towards a singing career too. Geoff realizing this eventually wrote some snippets for the act in which I could sing a few bars before getting cream or custard or a whole pie in the face. Typical slapstick burlesque comedy but the people loved it. It was old material but Geoff had a wonderful sense of timing, a sense he taught me, and the audiences were almost begging for what they knew was to come but Geoff kept them dangling just long enough to tease and then please everyone. Clowning may look fun and look easy but believe me clowns work damned hard.


    Once we established our rehearsal schedule for the Burlesque I started to look around for a singing teacher for my spare time. Geoff wanted me to rest more but I thought an hour a day singing would not be too tiring. I found a great lady who taught voice, both spoken and singing voice. She listened to me and then said I had a good voice but needed to study techniques, especially breathing. She taught me a lot in the six weeks I had with her. Even I could see the difference her teaching had made to my voice. I was a sort of baritone/tenor but now I was much more comfortable with the tenor voice. I was sorry that I had to end my lessons but Geoff and I had decided that after the Burlesque we would move on.


    During all of this involvement with theatre and at the same time trying to recuperate, my mother had been an absolute blessing. She stayed at a really nice guest house close to the caravan park and she would come over daily to see what she could do to help. She got on so well with Geoff and George loved her visits. She always stayed in the caravan park with George whenever Geoff and I were busy rehearsing, which was often. The day after the burlesque closed we began to pack things ready for a trip further north, to a bigger city. Mum came over to help us pack but also to tell us that she would not be going with us.


    “I love being with you but travelling is not for me. I really like it here and I have made some good friends at the guest house. I would like to stay and spend my evenings with them listening to music, playing cards, watching TV or just chatting. I am not so young Georgie Boy I need to relax, which by the way so do you. Please don’t be angry, let me stay.”


    My memories from many years ago flooded back as I remembered always being called Georgie Boy. I could not refuse my mother anything so when she asked me to allow her to stay, I could not help myself. I hugged her so tightly and told her she need never fear that I could be angry with her. We told her we would arrange for the rent to be paid directly from our bank and also I would send money to her every month for her own spending. I promised she would always be taken care of and would always know how to get in touch with us should she need to at any time.


    It was not easy to be separated from this wonderful lady again but we could see how it was necessary for her to find her own happiness. The packing was finished and the next morning we set off. The owners of the guest house had agreed and so had Geoff and I that George, the Guard Dog, would now be just that and would stay to guard my mother. She was delighted and even George, standing on his three legs, smiled a dribble smile and wagged his stump of a tail.


    As we drove past the Theatre Royal we decided to stop and thank the resident stage manager for all his help and introductions that had designed our lives in the past few months. He was really pleased to see us he said because he had a favor to ask. The local Operatic Society were putting on a Gilbert and Sullivan season and they still needed a tenor for the chorus and if Geo accepted he was fairly certain he could find work for Geoff as an assistant stage manager, he was willing to show Geoff the ropes, as it were. He realized that one of us wouldn't stay to work without the other. He was right in that respect. Geoff, a magnificent man by any one’s standards, said it was a very good idea. He said it would give them a chance to make sure that my Mum settled in well at the guest house and also meant we could spend a little more time with George and I could go back to singing lessons. It was all too perfect, it was just wonderful timing, it was just the excuse Geoff and I needed to rush back to reclaim our spot at the caravan park and to call my Mum and give her the good news.


    The next day I got the score for “Trial by Jury” a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera. It was the first time I had been asked to learn from a score and it was not easy for someone who had no background in reading music. That is where my lovely singing teacher came in handy and with her as my guide I learned the music very quickly. She once told me that I had perfect pitch, which was a great compliment from such an experienced singing coach.


    One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was control. I just wanted to sing out loud but the Musical Director explained to me the drawbacks of having a single voice stand out from the chorus. Only Principals were allowed to be dominant on stage. I learned my lesson well because I understood the reasoning. I have often been distracted by a single voice when I should be listening to the whole group. My coach taught me well and the Musical Director was pleased with my progress. Geoff was coming home and using phrases like ‘wings’ ‘flies’ ‘upstage’ and ‘off right’ and explaining them all to me which was a great help. There was a lot to learn about staging, stage techniques and stage vocabulary. It was for me a new education and I loved all of it. Geoff, with his experience orchestrating clown routines, turned out to be a very efficient assistant stage manager.


    Geoff and I learned that the circus, our circus, was going to be in another town only an hour’s drive away. We had a day off and we hired a car, then Geoff and I took My Mum and George for a drive to meet our old friends. It was like a family reunion and tears were shed once again as we arrived, but this time tears of joy. Nothing spectacular had happened in the circus since we left. Life was going on as usual except for Deo, she was pregnant. The act had been adapted for three people but for the time being Deo still appeared in the ring as a ringmaster for the act. She was not big enough yet to pull out completely but she was not allowed to jump as she once used to. The father of her baby was Manuel, the very handsome trapeze artist with the beautiful body. The circus family had already planned a big wedding for them. I wished I could have been there.


    It was such a happy reunion and one we were all sad to see end. We did not stay to see the circus, after all George would not have been allowed in now he was no longer in an act but we also wanted to get back home before it was too late. We had early rehearsals the next day.


    The next day would see Geoff and me in new roles, singer and assistant stage manager. It was the beginning of a new life for the clown and the slave.

    TBC
     
  14. Oluomoadebayo

    Oluomoadebayo Moderator Staff Member

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    Your update is always GBAM! The story worth the wait, thanks for the entertainment .
     
  15. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement. I will do my best to keep the story moving.
     
  16. trammet

    trammet Active Member

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    Can't believe i read everything from scratch. Good job OP.
     
  17. Oluomoadebayo

    Oluomoadebayo Moderator Staff Member

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    This page is getting cold @Gertn
     
  18. freboi10

    freboi10 Member

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    Any update for us soon @Gertn
     
  19. Rain

    Rain Active Member

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    Update please!
     
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  20. Gertn

    Gertn Active Member

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    I will update at the right time. Thanks for the patient.
     
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