When I was in fifth or sixth grade at Reese Elementary in Lubbock, Texas, students were informed that an Oddities of Nature Show would be stopping by the following day. This would’ve been around 1964. Kids wanting to view the exhibit were told to bring a quarter. I suppose school administrators believed it’d be educational for the children. Undoubtedly, some teachers agreed to things because the show, if you can call it that, was free for them to attend.
We were at recess when the old bus rolled to a stop in a cloud of dust. It had writing painted on both sides like a traveling circus. One large sign stated that a two-headed-goat was onboard. We’d been previously told this by our teacher, and that being the main reason some kids wanted to attend. I was somewhat excited to see a two-headed-snake.
I don’t remember all of the static displays, only a few select ones stick in my mind like sore thumbs. Several classes formed a long line and entered the front of the converted school bus, exiting from the rear. I recall double-headed-snakes, toads, and strange mutated bugs in glass jars. They were floating around in some type of clear liquid, undoubtedly alcohol or embalming fluid. It was a bizarre sight.
None of the animals or insects were still breathing. I had my fill within a couple of minutes and quickly left. Even at that age, I viewed this event more as a carnival side show than anything else, and still do.
After our session was up the vehicle slowly left in another cloud of dust. Having a gravel-parking-lot at the school building, every vehicle coming and going created this pollution. Believing the show was creepy, I was happy to see it gone.
That event left scars on my mind for some time. I wouldn’t remember details if it hadn’t. Some kids claimed that the animals and reptiles had been made to look strange. The two-headed-goat was stuffed by a taxidermist, and a few boys mentioned it as having both heads sewn together.
I never studied the animal up close, yet believe it was authentic. One thing was for sure, those animals and reptiles weren’t normal.
The other day I was in the pool trying to stay cool. It was 118 degrees outside. Mr. Lizard was intently watching me and “Bob” like he always does. This tiny reptile, about the size of my wife’s pinky, takes up residence under one of the decorative pots. Every so often, he’d raise his body to get a better look. I suppose me and Bob were strange sights to him.
Bob is the name Joleen and I gave our blue and white chlorine dispenser. The device is always bobbing up and down and seemingly follows us around the water. When Bob drifts too close to where the decorative pot sits, Mr. Lizard scurries over to investigate.
If only I could take the little guy to Rotary Beach and Bridgewater Channel on a crowded holiday weekend. At times, it’s a festive carnival atmosphere down there, and I’m not talking two-headed-goats and snakes. This show far exceeds the one I saw as a kid on a bus 58 years ago.
Mr. Lizard would definitely get his beady eyes full, having much more things to tell his scaly buddies than mundane stuff about me, Bob, and Joleen.