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Before heading to Little Rock, we decided to stop overnight in Dallas and catch a baseball game with Tim (sax) and Rob (crew). It was the Mariners vs. the Rangers. Tim is from Seattle so of course he was backing the Mariners, and the rest of us were too if only to be contrary :P

This was my first-ever major league game! The stadium was huge and filled with all kinds of crazy foods.

Jameson and I had been to the gym earlier in the day and had eaten sparingly so that we could enjoy ourselves here. The first unhealthy and delicious thing we discovered: bacon on a stick!! Drizzled in a chipotle maple glaze. Oh my goodness.

Jameson also got a chicken-and-doughnut skewer with honey dip! How amazing is that!!!

(photo courtesy ESPN.com)

We found our seats and chowed down. The guys picked awesome seats a little to the left of home plate!

Unfortunately the Mariners did not have a great game that evening, though they made a solid effort. The Rangers' pitcher Yu was on fire. At some point around the 5th inning Tim came back from the concourse exclaiming that he'd seen former President G.W. Bush! And a few minutes later we saw him too, sitting in front row seats on the other side of home plate! I took a picture but had to zoom like crazy. Trust me, it was definitely "the W" and his wife Laura.

After the game we parted ways with promises to see each other again in Little Rock. Tim was staying in Dallas to catch another game, and Rob was driving through the night. Jameson and I walked back to the hotel and crashed. I had a great time!

The next day we drove about five hours to reach Little Rock. The drive was nice and uneventful. As we approached the downtown area we started looking for our next hotel, when Jameson suddenly had a feeling that he should check his "Find Friends" app to see where the train was. To our surprise, it was there! In the yard! Seven hours ahead of schedule! A quick text to Rebecca (wardrobe) confirmed that the train was there AND spotted! We sat there flabbergasted for a moment, then recovered from our shock and formed a new game plan. Go back to the train, unpack, hit the gym, groceries, and HOME. Wow! Jameson bit the cost of that night's hotel, but it was worth it for a night in our own beds :)

As I mentioned in last week's post, Little Rock is a new city for most of us. The last time a Ringling show played here was about eight years ago(!). We had been warned by a few people who'd been here at that time that Little Rock is not a very nice town. But I have to admit, my first impression was a good one. The train is next to a ballpark, and easily walkable to the main street that seems to be full of nice-looking shops. There's a beautiful new pedestrian bridge that crosses the river. The arena is easy walking distance from the building. Many buildings look fairly new, so I wonder if the economy is making a comeback here. Sure seems like it!

(photo courtesy landerscountry.com)

Even the Planet Fitness here was very nice, the best one I've been in since I started going. Everything was new, people were friendly...so far so good! Still, we only have four shows here so our time in this city is limited.

On Thursday we had a company-wide mandatory Safety Day! It was basically an OSHA class on how to be safe in the workplace. We spent five or so hours learning the symbols for different kinds of hazards, propper PPE usage, fire safety, and more.

Jameson and I borrowed vests from Applesauce (lighting). We were extra safe!!

(photo courtesy Chaz C.)

At the end of the day there were fire extinguisher relays!

Yay Safety Day! After the events of the day were over, Jameson, Lindsey (clown) and I went to the gym, then returned to the train. On Friday we opened with a larger crowd than expected, which was great.

On Saturday we only had two shows! It felt like a Sunday! I took some time to visit the animals between shows. There was no open house this week, so there'd be no reason for the animal areas to be "dolled up" for the public. Plus we only had four shows over our three days in Little Rock. Yet the animal area was set up just as though it were open to the public (minus the background music haha). The tigers had their full run...they even had a tree and grass play area enclosed in the round section!

As you can see the tigers were not out; it was around 3pm and like many of us, tigers like to nap during the hottest part of the afternoon :) The camels and horses were also chilling in their cool shaded tent (which I didn't take a picture of as I considered it "standard" or "boring", haha.) But while I was standing there, it occurred to me that many of the folks I speak with online and on my travels still don't realize that circus animals don't travel in train boxcars. The camel trailer was in the lot, so I took a photo.

This trailer was designed specifically for camels! Here's a close-up of the windows. As you can see there are many options...screens, bars, open window, or a sealed window for inclement weather.

Later on someone opened the trailer doors, probably to begin preparing it for load out. Here's a look at the inside.

Frankly I don't know a whole lot about large animal transport, but this trailer seems pretty awesome to me!
There was also a truck back nearby holding the tigers' toys, stools, pools, bedding, and other accessories:

And although there was not a public animal open house, all of this was right next to the arena and clearly visible to anyone walking or driving by.

Sunday was a one-show day, hooray! We did our show and load out got underway. Jameson and I drove out to Memphis, where we found a gym, then had a nice dinner before crashing at the hotel. Next stop, Lexington KY!

Other stuff:

This week we say "see you down the road" to Ryan Harris! Ryan was our assistant production manager. He's moving on to bigger and better things! He's a great guy and will be well-missed!

(photo courtesy Ryan H.)

This week we also got some very sad news: Kelley Hooks, a former animal handler on the Red Unit, passed away after battling poor health. I barely got to know Kelley before he left the circus in 2014. He had a pretty gruff exterior, but after hanging around him for a while he'd start to get to know you and open up. By the time he left, we were just getting to the point where we'd say hello to each other in passing, and if one of the horses were with him he'd tell me a little about that animal and it's personality.
Kelley was loved by people and animals alike. Thank you for welcoming me to the circus, Kelley. See you down the road.

The similarity is uncanny.

(photo courtesy Jonathan M.)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2016 07:01 am (UTC)
Hi, it's Howard Stafford from LinkedIn and I just very much enjoyed another chapter of your life with the circus. It was wonderful and I am so happy for the great life you are living. You also should think about being an author someday as I think this would make a great life story. Anyway always wishing you the very best. Have fun, be well,
Sep. 21st, 2016 01:26 am (UTC)
Hi Howard! Thanks so much :) I'm very grateful to have found this place to work. It's really wonderful.

I've thought of writing a book later on, after I've left this job, but we'll see!

Thank you for reading!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )