Trained Rhino

My mom told me a story about going to the circus when she was a kid.

She was very excited, because one of the acts was a Trained Rhino!

Apparently the only thing you can train a rhino to do, is come out of their cage on command, trot around the circus ring, and go back into the cage.

My mom is disappointed in the “trained rhino” to this very day.

I talked to her about the trained rhino. She said that circus had another feature, “the biggest horse in the world”, which was also disappointing. Apparently that horse wasn’t much bigger than Mike, my grandfather’s last workhorse.

My “going to the circus” story has a better ending. When I was about 8, during a cold, rainy, late 1960s summer, my mom took us to the circus. We actually did the side-show, which means my tight-wad dad was out of town. The side show was a decent, yet kind of cliche, magician, with a lovely assistant. The magician pulled a bouquet of flowers out of thin air, pulled a string of razor blades out of his mouth, and a pigeon appeared out of saute pan full of something I can’t remember. Good stuff, when you’re 8.

For the finale, his lovely assistant climbed into a reclining box. The magician pushed various swords, scimitars and other edged weapons into convenient slots in the box. There was absolutely no way the magician’s assistant wasn’t impaled by some medieval weapon!

Here’s where the act exceeded expectations. For an extra 25 or 50 cents, you could go up some stairs to the stage and look into the reclining box. I don’t know why my mom let me talk her out of those 50 cents. She, too, was a little… economical… about frivolous things, and besides, what if the poor woman in the box really was bleeding out? I might have been scarred for life!

I paid the quarters and waited in line. I filed past the reclining box. The box had a clear, plexiglass cover so I could see how the trick was done.

The assistant wasn’t cut or injured, she was just contorted around all the swords. It turns out that being able to flex and bend is cooler than actually getting sliced into a horrible death.

Lucky for me my dad was out of town that day, and my mother had the freedom to give me some pocket change. I still love stage magic, close-in magic and sleight of hand, although I’ve never wanted to do it myself.