National Geographic : 1972 Mar
convert who ran away from home at the age of 15 to join a touring tent show. Now he and his wife Betty, a former acro batic dancer, own their own three-ring circus. ("Or it owns us," Betty said wryly.) Hoxie sat in our motor home, keeping an eye on the bustling circus lot, and spoke rapidly of his career. He was a large man with a ruddy, beaming face-the kind of face Santa Claus might have without his beard. A life of ups and downs, as he grew from eager young stake driver to graying circus owner, had made him a sagacious mixture of tough ness and gentleness. "I guess I've made a few quarters in my time," Hoxie told me. He said he had owned a medicine show, a dog-and-pony show, and then a small one-ring circus. Once he had a tent show made up of country singers and musicians. "Had a lot of fun for a while with those hillbillies under canvas," Hoxie re called. "Friend of mine once called and said he had another young singer for me. I said no thanks-I'd had enough of hillbillies." Hoxie winced at the memory. "Turned out the singer's name was Elvis Presley." That decision had cost him a lot of quarters. No One Forgets a Purple Truck Hoxie gestured toward the trucks, all painted purple and all nearly loaded for the early-morning start. "They call this a Sun day-school circus," he said. "Nobody ever sees an X-rated show in my tent." The purple had been selected by Betty Tucker. "It's my favorite color," she told me. But it has a practical side, too. "Once in a while a driver gets lost, and you have to go looking for him. Nobody ever remembers seeing a red truck or a green one. But they never forget a purple truck passing by." The purple trucks follow purple cardboard arrows, placed the night before. We, too, followed them to find another home each day. When we reached Perry, Florida, I encoun tered Italo Fornasari in one of his rare re laxed moments, and we sat under a pine tree and talked. Italo is a small man of 46 with a wispy halo of thinning hair. Out of costume he looks much more like a college professor than a hilarious clown. In the center ring he wrenches shrieks of laughter from the audi ence when he somersaults on the trampoline and sends his baggy trousers flying skyward. Italo represents the fourth generation of an Italian circus family (pages 412-13), and he was trying to tell me why he endures the 416 P SHE GOES! A frenzied army of men and beasts each day erects the 230-foot-long big top in less than three hours. Young "towners" local boys who receive free passes for their efforts-help seasoned canvasmen spread and lace together the huge sections of the main tent (right), which will then be attached to rings on the poles. Strong as a tractor and more maneuverable, Myrtle (above) and others in the eight-elephant herd pull the rigging that hoists the heavy canvas.