At the early age of 11, I’d developed and cultivated special skills that I believed would be invaluable should the need to run away with the circus ever arise. Here, my top 4 skills for running away with the circus:
It’s a basic start. Acrobatics are absolutely necessary for joining the circus. I didn’t have much training in gymnastics, but I could do cartwheels! Often practicing to do as many as possible in a row. There seems to be strange peaks in this ability. It’s very impressive as a child, even if only in your own mind. Then, in your teens and twenties, you can only break it out so often. Take heart, though! If you can maintain this skill, it suddenly becomes really impressive again in your forties (but harder to work into conversation).
I started with just one full-size hula-hoop. Learning first how to do it continuously around the waist. As my skills improved, I could do it indefinitely in place. Then I learned how to walk while keeping the hoop in motion. Next, I learned how to move the hoop up and down while still in motion. Then I introduced a second hoop, slightly smaller than the first. I could hula with one around my waist and one around my neck, or one on my arm and the other on my waist.
Walking a balance beam
Walking a tight rope is, of course, the epitome of circus skills. I didn’t have a tight rope, though. I had a balance beam. It was actually a 4x4 mounted three and a half feet off the ground. It was close enough in my book, though. I learned to mount it from the ground, and once on, I could walk end to end fearlessly. Eventually learning to dip my toes off the edges, then kicking, and turning. I eventually combined my hula-hoop skills with the balance beam. Never could bring myself to try a cartwheel, though.
I was confident in my previously mentioned set of skills, but I was also aware that a really impressive side act could definitely help. Topping the list of my most train-able pets were Lobo, Cybil, and Bruce. Lobo was a big dog by any standard, I can only imagine how impressive it must have been to see the two of us in action. Actually, I can only imagine it (I never actually had the pleasure of seeing the act from the outside), and what I imagined was this:
I would take him through my carefully arranged obstacle course. He would jump cleverly over obstacles, under and through others, he’d heel and fetch, all at my command! Having successfully completed the course, we’d bow to our audience as they cheered us on!
It wasn’t until years later, as I listened to my father chuckle and describe the scene, that I realized it had been something else entirely. As I recall now, he’d said that the dog must have been twice my size (all I remember is he was big and brown, perhaps a German Shepherd mix). I’d struggled to keep up with his run as he drug me by the leash behind him over my carefully placed log obstacles.
Some years later, I’d gotten Cybil. Half pekingnese, half poodle. Much more suitable for a slight ten year old (and the circus). I took great pleasure in giving her hair cuts and a little top knot tied with a bow. She had a natural talent for walking on the balance beam, and it wasn’t long before I’d talked my dad into building a little ladder so she could walk up to the beam. We had a solid act.
Her life was tragically short, though. My parents efforts to console me led to my next dog: Bruce. Also half pekingnese, half poodle (a close relative of Cybil). He was less talented on the beam, but trainable in that regard. That was the only way in which he was trainable, actually. If one sat still too long, he’d try to mark you as his territory. His real talent lied in how when I’d call to him, he’d run away. It was his favorite game. Not great circus material. But he learned to go up the little ladder and walk the beam, then jump into my arms as a finale.
So, there you have it! All the skills necessary for circus life (according to my inner 11 year old). It’s important to practice these skills daily. Best wishes!