I saw Tony as just another new kid in town, sketching caricatures of the passing parade. He fell behind when the team elephants were spooked by a firecracker and upended the lion cage, and several of his sketches flew into the wet breeze.
I gathered up a handful as he ran ahead, trying to see what was happening while avoiding the freed lions. A mighty pachyderm, Elsie, calmed one of the lions by pressing it up against the exterior wall of the local Vauxhall dealership until it blacked out, and Tony turned just in time to see and sketch it. I caught up with him with his slightly soggy renderings, and we both ran to the fairgrounds at the northeast edge of town.
We hurried our introductions and snuck into the clown car, thinking we could get in the show for free. But when the clowns all piled in, we were squeezed further back than expected, close to a trap door – and when they emerged in the Big Top, Tony was gone.
I found his sketch with Elsie and the lion, but never saw him again.
I stuck with the circus, and was with Elsie until she passed away, proud and happily pampered, nine years ago.
I’m glad Tony made a career of art, because his drawing showed so much promise.