AFTER THE WAR

Ed OíRear and The Circus, 1873.

My grandfather, Judge E. C. OíRear had an older brother, Leslie, who was also a lawyer and at the time of his death in 1900 was his partyís nominee for U.S. Congress from Marshall, Missouri. The following story is from a biography of Leslie written by Judge OíRear some years ago for Leslieís daughter:

"May I add, he was the ablest, most accomplished man of the name I have known. The excellent scholar, the able lawyer, the exemplary citizen, and one of the finest gentlemen of my acquaintance.

The foregoing chronology is bare enough, too bare, to portray this man as he truly was, and as I knew him. At the expense of being tedious, I must add more.

Leslie was always a perfect gentleman. He was the soul of honor. He was urbane, dignified always. His tastes were true, his companions chosen of a like class. He was meticulously careful in his dress. When I was a dirty little boy, he oppressed me with his high notions and good clothes, and superior conduct. I felt a sort of reproach in it all. An in consequence I held him then in some awe.

Though he partook of the pride and ambition of his mother, he was an OíRear. He would grunt -- a sort of speech familiar to the ears of our womenfolk especially: I said grunt -- not growl. In my young days he was a strict disciplinarian -- perhaps a hang over from his school teacher experience. I suffered from his disciplinary authority. While I acknowledged my motherís authority as one of unquestionable right, his I regarded as vicarious, and unjustified by the mere fact of his superior age and dignified manners. I wanted to be let alone. I found his authority heavy -- so was his hand. And he had the bad habit of sporting a walking cane. As he wasnít lame I could see no sense of it. It was too handy. His heavy eye-brows looked too thunderous to me, until my own had grown to be even heavier. Yet, in my boyish heart I admired him tremendously -- and was proud of him -- and not a little afraid of him -- and thought him a grand fellow. As he was.

Besides being handsome, he was a gallant young man, whose courtly attentions the belles of the day seemed to appreciate. It made him greatly popular with them. I could then see no sense in that either. And he was well liked by men, and respected beyond his age.

Let me add, lest a wrong interpretation of the foregoing may be had, he was really kindly. I just seem to me, a boy, that he was gruff. But, you must know, that was a family mannerism, merely. "Itís the Calk in him." They too, had the way (and have it yet) of looking severe (in the opinion of youngsters), and spoke with a deep bass voice that disguised really kingly hearts. When you knew them.

This true anecdote may better depict to you the conditions I have noted above.

When I was about nine or ten, and we had moved to Mt. Sterling from the village of Camago, a circus came to town, Now, it was not that glorified aggregation of wonders and tinsel that goes about on special railroad trains, with concentrated executive precision that unloads at night with a swish, and away to the appointed grounds. This was an old-time caravan outfit that traveled through the country on its own power, horse-drawn, arriving when it could from its last stand, probably fifteen or twenty miles away -- about the distance it could cover by morning after the previous nightís showing. Barn sides, bill boards and windows of vacant buildings had for weeks dazzled our eyes with highly colored poster advertisements of the coming events, and we youngsters especially were thrilled in anticipation. The beautiful ladies dangling from dizzy high trapeze, equestriennes riding standing on beribboned beautiful chargers, fluffy and curly and all that (women in dishabille were not the fashion in public in those days); the august ringmaster with his long whip, silk hat and high boots; the funny clowns and their trick donkeys; and the fearful wild animals -- the lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants, and so on, and the quizzical little monkeys new to us (I had never before seen a circus.) Well, you can imagine our impatient eagerness to see it all. I had diplomatically, as I thought, and timorously in fact, broached the subject of a loan of twenty-five cents or so, in order to qualify as a spectator. Les said nothing. My approaches were numerous, I may say rather persistent. He as persistently said nothing. The family exchequer otherwise was out of the question, I knew.

When the great day arrived, it did arrive through tardily, for me and other young hopefuls of my age, I was up by daylight and we youthfully trudged out afoot to meet the circus, as it was known to be traveling in on the Winchester Pike that morning. Of course we were barefoot -- it was worm weather. Some mile or so out of town, we came upon the caravan where it had halted for breakfast, and to prepare the horses and their riders in the sparkling finery for the grand parade. Of course, the elephant, camels and the like were traveling afoot. But our appetite for wonders was not to be appeased by such. The mysterious enclosed cagers and wagons, from which was emitted occasional roars, growls and squeaks excited our curiosity no end. We formed an escort into town, you may be sure. We felt bound not to lose an incident of the marvelous event. Arriving at the "grounds", the clattering of unloading tents, seat planks, and all was wonderfully confusing in its orderliness. The nonchalance of the keepers of the wild beasts filled us with awesome respect and admiration. I, with others, was cruelly imposed by the hardened roustabouts to carry water for the elephants, with an implied promise of free admission, which of course was repudiated at the door. I had deleted breakfast, for fear of missing something in the delay. Besides, my appetite was solely for the impending event. Watering the elephants took up till well after dinner, as the noon meal was then called. It was the afternoon performance when our claim for admission as assistants to the elephant tenders was bruskly repudiated by the authority in the long red coat at the door. Negotiations with the head of the house had failed. Our bargaining with the heartless underling had failed. Everything had failed, and we seemed doomed never to witness the splendors of the grand event. When I got home that evening, tired, hungry, grimy with dust, and perhaps not a little lack of tonsorial attention, with a sinking heart, I made a final appeal to the head of the exchequer for that all necessary twenty-five cents. Nothing said. Nothing doing. But I was commanded to black his boots for him. It had been spoken of in the home that he was to escort Miss Anna Bell Glover , one of the belles of the town, to the circus that night. He had donned his best -- and his best were really the best -- all but the boots. They had to be shined -- we called it blacked. Well, as I had the precedent of declinings before me, I declined to black the boots. He frowned at me. You know how that could look. But I stood my ground -- at convenient distance for a quick get away. I tried bargaining. His dignity would not admit of that. Finally Mother told me to go on and black the boots for him, that she was sure he would let me go to the circus. But that was Motherís partial thinking, I felt, not his assurance. I wanted a contract. (The budding lawyer, you may think.) But I couldnít wholly ignore Motherís request. I had an inspiration. I went to work manfully and shined one boot to a state of perfection, if I do say it. Then I inaugurated what had not been heard of before, by name at least -- I pulled a sit-down strike: I refused to black the other one unless and until the quarter should be forthcoming. His authority being thus ignored, he started toward me with none too pacific purpose, as I thought. So I decided to take flight. That, though, would only save me a tanning. What I wanted and needed was to see the circus. He might in extremity decide to black the other boot himself, I thought. So, I grabbed one boot and fled. Being fleet of foot, I know I could outrun him, especially as he was shod in houseslippers only. And there was a convenient fence nearby, over which I could scuttle over as nimbly as a squirrel (tested in many a practice). I vaulted the fence and coursed through the adjacent pasture, he following, but being outdistanced. I got to the Hinkston Creek. At that point it was about ten or twelve feet wide and about twelve inches deep. I forded it with a splash (also frequently practiced theretofore). I knew he would not follow and soil his clothes -- at least, I thought he wouldnít -- so I halted on the thither side and reopened negotiations for the twenty-five cents, offering to complete the blacking job. He as by then furiously provoked. Also helpless, he made as if to cross on some stones that stood at intervals of a few feet a little above the water, which was a flank movement I had not anticipated. But a good general is known by his ability to improvise new means in an emergency, so I gathered some rocks demonstrating by throwing one in the stream with force, splashing some dirty water and threatened if he dared to cross, I would douse him good. He prudently withdrew. Though I was left in possession of the field, with the boot (I came near to writing "booty"). He called on Mother for reenforcement. The result of my negotiation with that fair intermediary was I was assured he would give me the ticket. So, there was an armistice, I finished the job of blacking the boots. I will say, it was a job well done, too. I did not intend the defendant could meet my demand for pay on the ground of partial failure of the consideration. He said nothing, but finished dressing wand went to his appointment -- I believe you now call it a date. I hurried on down to the entrance to be on hand to collect. You have never been a boy, at his prospect of seeing his first circus, not perhaps felt the thrill and wonderment of the lighted tents, the flaming torches that lit up the entrance ways, and heard the band (I had never heard a band before) dispensing music only as, I imagined, the harped angels could do, and lacked a quarter, just one quarter -- of all the money minted, simply one little quarter between you and the realization of ecstasy. After ever so long, as those fleeting moments seemed to me, I espied him and his charming lady in the throng, approaching the ticket wagon.

It was now or never. So I decided now. I sidled up to him as he called for two tickets -- not two and a half -- I plucked his coat tail, thinking maybe he hadnít seen me. Well-dressed gentlemen in those days, and on high social occasions wore the hats; and carried a gold headed cane (I have that cane now, presented to him by his adoring cousin, the adorable Fannie OíRear). He looked down at me with is most awesome frown. It looked awful to me. Miss Anna Belle hadnít seen me. Probably wouldnít have known me anyway. But I held my hold on the coat tail. I felt his pride was greater than his anger at me, and he would not risk a "scene". Nor even risk the ladyís noticing or hearing my as yet unspoken challenge. With one hand I held on, and held out the other, palm up. With a look that boded me no future good, he fished the quarter from his vest pocket and handed it over to me.

I saw the circus.

Never an early riser, yet for the following week I was up, and out, and gone, before the head of the house awoke. I was never chastised for it at all. And now I am sure that he had intended handing me the quarter at the last moment -- he had it all handy -- but meant to discipline me in another way than by flogging."