Already missing the joy and wonder

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

Eliot Wigginton of “Foxfire” fame put together a book title “I Wish I Could Give My Son a Wild Raccoon.”

Forget, that Mr. Wigginton. You can’t even give your son a peek at squeaky-clean, well-fed elephants doing tricks and synchronized dances anymore.

It’s been about a year since the Barnum & Bailey Circus gave way and took the elephants out of the ring. If Mr. P.T. Barnum could have asked the elephants, they probably would have preferred dancing in the center ring rather than dodging poachers’ bullets in the desert of Mali or the scrub forests in India.

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Now, after nearly a century and a half, the Greatest Show on Earth is closing its doors.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will fold its tent and bring to a close an era of entertainment like no other.

The reasons? Declining attendance and revenues. High profile battles with animal-rights activists. 

But what one veteran of the circus said, told the story – the real, sad, story.

“Kids just don’t care about the circus anymore,” the sad-faced man said. “They don’t get excited about the man on the flying trapeze or dancing elephants or even clowns.”

I guessed the man was a circus clown who had taken off the funny face that would have masked his sorrow at the closing of the Greatest Show on Earth.

Lost revenue and battles with PETA people are commonplace in today’s world. But what the retiring clown said brought to mind, the “wild raccoons” that brought magic and wonder to my childhood.

But now, society has trapped and removed those “wild raccoons” from the lives of our children.

Halloween has given way to fall festivals. Parents tell their children, No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. There’s no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny. If children are not reading the headlines in the Wall Street Journal before they enter first grade, they are behind.

To play a game, children must have a uniform, a coach and an umpire. They are electronically entertained by iPhones and high definition TV and a dozen other gadgets.

Of course, a circus is dull entertainment.

Sadly, little hearts will never stop in fear that the man on the high wire will teeter and fall or gasp when the high trapeze artists flips or laugh with delight when an elephant dances.

When the Barnum and Bailey Circus folds its tent,  those small traveling circuses will not be far behind.

Last spring, I sat watching a one-stop circus perform, not in a tent, but at Cattleman Park.

There were no elephants or high wire acts. Just a balancing act and a dog jumping hoops and pushing a doll carriage. But there was this one little boy who sat spellbound, with big wide eyes.

He held his breath during the balancing acts, clapped loudly for the pony and laughed excitedly at the funny, funny clown.

His dad, sat right next to him, sharing his joy at the magic and wonder of a simple circus and unaware that he was giving his son a wild raccoon.