“Life was quiet and simple then, and a circus or carnival coming to town were really big events. Daddy always took off from work, and they would take us to the afternoon performance of the circus, which was always held in a huge tent. Bama would always go too. We would go to bed early when the circus was coming so that we could get up around four in the morning to go down to the Y&MV Railroad Depot to watch them unload. It was so exciting seeing the animals being unloaded, and then we would ride out to see the laborers, or roustabouts as they were called, putting up the huge tent. About eleven o’clock there would be a parade in downtown Greenwood with all of the horses and pretty girls and the calliope, which played music, and the clowns and cowboys. School would be let out for circus day.
“There was a cotton field right down the street from us, and one time Mama made each of us a long cotton sack out of fabric and let us go with Rawa and Buddy and their friend John Howard Freeman to pick cotton for Mr. Hardin, who had planted it. I was too small to do much picking, but I did find a baby watermelon, and that made my day worthwhile. It was about the size of an orange and, of course, not fit to eat. At the end of the day, Mr. Hardin, who was the father of Olympic track star Slats Hardin, weighed the cotton and paid us for it just like he did with the Negro pickers.“Poor white families also made money picking cotton. It was hard work, and you would see fields of the white cotton with hundreds of pickers pulling their sacks over their shoulders and filling them with cotton. They would sing and talk and laugh while they picked.”She loved a spectacle.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Sara would anticipate the arrival of the circus trains (or, later, the trucks) as eagerly at 40 as she did at 4. When the huge colorful posters went up downtown, announcing the imminent arrival of Ringling Brothers or somesuch, she would pull us over to soak in every detail, and by circus day it was as if the Queen of England and her court were headed for the Delta. Sara would bustle into our bedroom in the predawn dark, urging us in and out of the bathroom and into our clothes. I can still feel the dew around my Keds as we stood in a field out near Greenwood High School, sun barely over the horizon, the stink of animal dung hanging thick in the air, watching those elephants marching away from the tent center with ropes attached to their collars. It was an amazing sight to see that canvas rising from the dirt, the Big Top taking shape right in front of our sleepy eyes. Sara would scoot around with her flip-top steno pad, cornering a roustabout or ringmaster for a quick interview. Then it was back home to wait for the real show, and we never left without geegaws and souvenirs, which always thrilled her more than us.