The "Small Traveling Circus," has been the topic of many paintings and whistles over the years.
The source? I play with a very old memory.
When I was almost 5 we moved to rural Southern Indiana to a place with intense poverty pockets and deep Appalachian roots. My sisters and I were bused miles farther in the country to school in such district.
I mention this because the most interesting travelers passed our house on Saturday mornings, heading to town. The courthouse square was bustling with shoppers and old timers would bring fiddles, guitars, and banjos to accompany a singing style described at school as "hog calling." They were playing for spare change.
I remember marvels passing our house on Saturdays. Once an entire family clinging to a tractor, and about once a month a car rumbled past on its rims. Best of all, only passing occasionally in the summer, was a dilapidated wagon pulled by a mule. A dog stood on the mule's back and a chicken stood on the dog. Sometimes a cat. If we were lucky we might get another chance to wave at the bearded, emaciated old man driving this little circus as he headed home.
Rural welfare came late to Southern Indiana. Public assistance plus the building of a large reservoir, Beanblossom Lake, to flood out the residents of the poorest hollers, emptied the area these more colorful characters. As their cabins and land went under water, they were paid to move to Chicago and Indianapolis.