Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Fish

Have you ever seen the movie Big Fish? Basically, it's this movie about a man who grew up listening to the grand stories of his father, only to grow up and believe himself foolish for ever believing him. Sometimes this is how I feel about my dad. I'm sure some of what he told me as a kid were exaggerations in an attempt to keep me from doing something I shouldn't be. And then there are stories like this one, that he stands by to this day...

Soon after graduating from college, my dad lived with five other roommates in a house. Every year the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus visit Champaign, Illinois. He said the circus performers always parked there "train" car between the railroad tracks and the power plant down the street from his house. One year, he got curious and decided to get a closer look at where these guys live. It was dark out, so he didn't notice the railroad tracks and quickly lost control of his Triumph Bonneville. He wasn't badly injured, but he was partially wedged under the fallen bike. Suddenly, he was lifted upright, along with is bike and then set right on his bike like a doll. He was confused and disoriented. As he looked around, he realized that the Strong Man from the circus show had righted him and his bike.

My dad thanked him and then the Strong Man invited him into their train car. Since that's what my dad was their to see, he said 'sure' and went in to meet the rest of the crew: the juggler, the clown, the acrobatic woman, etc. They hit it off and my dad quickly invited them over for dinner. They stayed up late into the night talking, but when he woke up the next morning they were all gone and there was a 4-foot, paper-mâché clown standing in the living room.

There was a note on the table thanking him for his hospitality and explaining the clown. They had previously been on tour in France and had taken this from the last venue they had been to. They said not to take off the necklace because there was a myth that if that pressed butterfly left the statue, it would come to life in the middle of the night.

I grew up with that clown sitting in the back corner of our TV room. Because it was there as long as I could remember, I never questioned it. Not until I was older, when my sister and I would get a little crazy in the house and knock it down, did the story of the necklace get told to us. Then when we told our friends about it, they would freak out and not go anywhere near it. Occasionally, we would knock the clown over and his head would get knocked off (my parents had to glue that thing back on hundreds of times) and the necklace followed behind. We would frantically try to get him back upright with his charm ON.

My dad later told me that one night after he had obtained the clown, his cat knocked over the clown in the middle of the night. The noise woke him up in his attic bedroom, but he didn't get out of bed to fix the clown. At that time, he had a terrarium with several lizards that he cared for. He said that night after the clown fell over, he dreamt about sword-fighting with these upright lizards that were larger than he. When he woke in the morning, all the lizards in the tank were dead.

After telling his roommates the story, they all admitted they'd had bad dreams as well. One dreamt he was dead, lying in his coffin during his wake. He watched as each of his friends and family members walked by his casket. Another dreamt about falling off a cliff to his death, and so on.

From then on, they made sure that charm remained around the neck of the clown.

What do you say? Fact or fiction?


Sara's Satire said...

#1 bwahahahaha.... hahaha.. hahahah.....hahahahahaha This story will keep me going all day! THANK YOU!
#2 Yes, I have seen big fish, I liked that movie...and if I remember correctly, the son spent his entire adult life doubting his father's stories only to find out in the end that they were all true.
#3 Your father was in college during a pretty ummmm..."hip" time, perhaps his memories were somewhat altered?
#4 I have learned that the wildest, craziest stories are usually true...sometimes things happen that are so insane - you just can't make that stuff up!
#5 maybe when he fell off the bike, he had a head injury??? but then where did the clown come from?.....So, I am going to go with FACT! Maybe some of it is embellished, but I think the whole of the story is based on fact...Also, I think that if you took the charm off the clown, nothing would was probably just a myth or a little prank (they were circus people)...and knowing they story...your dad's subconcious got the better of him - as for his roommates...maybe they did have bad dreams...maybe they were just pulling his leg. Kinda the way JR and I used to tell Brandon Brown that we saw ghosts! We did it because we knew he believed in them so strongly and it was fun to mess with him...maybe your dad's roommates did the same thing?

Alexa said...

I'm with you on #4 Sara....too involved to be false!

Pat Dillon said...

Having known Greg for over 35 years and remembering the clown when my husband, Bob, lived with Greg (though a couple of years following the visit with the circus people) I believe very word!