'The Blue Rhino and the Red Rose'
Not that I tell many people, but at the age of ninteen, while I was busy drifting around up the north coast, I worked in a circus for three months.
Now it wasn't any ordinary circus. The circus was run by a chap called Ralph - who liked to call himself Raphaelo whenever some pretty young ladies were around. In Ralph's circus were all manner of dangerous animals - lions, tigers, Tasmanian Devils - and even rabid dogs.
But the most dangerous animal was the Blue Rhino.
This particular Blue Rhino was so dangerous that it was said that he'd once killed a king rat with nothing but his stare (my personal feeling was that the rhino had probably breathed on the rat - and the rat had died of asphyixiation).
Rhino breath aside, the unusual thing about Blue Rhinos is that they have very delicate feet and skin. So, just like horse, they have to be 'shoed' (only once a month), and scrubbed down with special rhino baby shampoo twice a week.
Cleaning a rhino down, let alone shoeing one, is no easy task. In the olden days the only way to get the job done was with a tranquilizer gun. But with rhinos having skin as thick as your arm, this was easier said than done.
That was till Jim came along.
Now Jim, I am led to believe, just wandered into the circus one night, just wandered in out of the darkness and sat down by the fire without so much as a -by-your-leave.
Jim, who was about eight years old, didn't say much, but old Ralph took him under his arm, and adopted him like a son.
It wasn't long before the circus folk noticed that Jim had a certain way with animals. When Jim would approach a lion or a tiger or some such he'd start humming weird tunes under his breath. And what do you know? You could see the animal relax straight away, almost as if it had been hypnotised.
But the Blue Rhino needed more.
I don't know who first discovered it (I think it was Jim), but the smell of roses, especially red roses, had an wonderous calming effect on the Blue Rhino.
And so on washing day, and especially shoeing day, Ralph would arrange for a dozen of the best red roses available to be sent to the circus. Solemnly he'd hand them to Jim. Jim would take them in his own quiet way, stick them out in front of him like a weapon and enter the Rhino's cage.
Immediately the Rhino would go quiet, cease it's grunting and pawing of the straw, and bow it's head, sniffing delicately at the rose perfume with it's gigantic nostrils.
And behind Jim, tiptoeing ever-so-gently in their muddy boots, would come the strong circus hands whose job it was to scrub down the Rhino before he became aware of their human smell.....
I stayed with the circus till February that year, when Ralph decided they were going to head inland to the back of Bourke.
We parted company at some lonely crossroads just north of Gilgandra, myself standing very still, watching the circus wagons rumbling into the west, spewing red drought dust clouds behind them until they were nothing but tiny specs on the horizon.
A few hours later a double decker cattle truck came rumbling down the dirt road and I hitched a ride down to Sydney. The truckie let me off outside Kensington Uni, where, later that day, I signed up for the first Intra Neural Cavity Research course.
Several years later I heard that the boy Jim had dissappeared one night up in the northern territory, just as quietly as he'd appeared. Rumour had it that he was eaten by a giant crocidile - but Jim was an animal whisperer, and I don't believe that for a moment.
The story doesn't end there though.
Three weeks to the day that Jim left, the Blue Rhino just lay down on its bed of straw, and, with a faint intake of breath as if it were smelling the perfume of roses, it just died.
The circus struggled on for a few more years, but Ralph, denied the company of both his boy Jim and the Blue Rhino, gradually lost interest in travelling. The circus shrank and dwindled, the old hands began to leave, and one day the three remaining loyal circus employees arose from their beds to discover that Ralph himself had vanished.
In 1987, on my very last visit to Gilgandra Town, the local doctor told me an unlikely story about Ralph. He claimed that Ralph had moved to Banjang Provence in Northern Indonesian with the idea of starting up another circus. There he'd married a one-legged Dutch girl he met on an internet dating service. Rumour has it that, though Ralph was eighty-seven years old, he sired a boy child.
I also heard he called the boy "Jim'. But I don't know.
You can't believe everything you hear, can you?
Happy mother's day! :D
Apologies for the rush story. It's a first draft, written in situ. And the spelling! Thankyou very much to everyone who wrote and told me the blog was down!
And I will get back on that last post. Thanks to everyone who were kind enough to guess. :)
see you in a couple of years - er I mean hours.