Second paragraph of Bleak House, Charles Dickens
A carnival is rising and slowly coming to focus as tired men working all night walk around like ghosts with feet of clay.
A carny reaches from one arm to another as the Century Wheel is still a half moon during set-up Monday morning in Waycross, Ga., at the Okefenokee Fair.
The mist curls the rigging, so thick it is more like miasma. Clanks and yells came out of the fog from unknown directions. Pot belly pig squeal. Donkey bray. Rooster call. All from the muddy air on the edge of the great Okefenokee Swamp.
I thought of those men on the Century Wheel, the wheel named after a segment of time but its origins so much older. The dew made the grassy field muddy and workmen feet were slippery on the wheel.
Carny lore is rich with stories of the old timers setting up wheels and then walking the top, singing as it spun.
The first time I heard the story the carny said he was drunk when he did it because, “I balances better when I’m drunk.”
A recent study once again showed the elements of the human body are also found in water and clay. The Bible and the Qur’an both have creation stories about clay and the mist.
When the sun burned off the fog, the fairgrounds lit up as if from behind a curtain, an alive, magical town. Carnies setting up the last of the rides. Practicing magic and circus acts. Stocking games and food wagons.
I’ve worked carnivals in nine states now in a full carnival season and this is the most mystical opening.
Sunday it will blow away, leaving temporary footprints and tire tracks in the muddy, grassy field. Leaving memories in the minds of those who were here and those too will blow away. Not gone, somewhere else, maybe recorded and nestled in a Higgs-Boson.
I’ve now worked in traveling carnivals in California, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia. I’ve hitchhiked more than 12,000 miles between jumps. Visited Mexican carnies in their hometown. My year working in traveling carnivals won’t end until February so I’m seeking a new jump.