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Lynn Hummel column: Join the carnival and run away?

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

I drove by the county fairgrounds on Sunday night and saw all the carnival rides and equipment disassembled and loaded on the big semis, ready to rumble down the road to their next big celebration.

I imagine that every time the carnival leaves town it is an opportunity for somebody who wants to get away to join the carnival and run away. We won't explore today why somebody would want to run away — there could be many reasons — we will explore the excitement of making that dramatic decision.

The first thing to realize is that the carnival is not the circus. The carnival is a poor second cousin to the circus. No glamour, just heavy equipment. No pretty trapeze girls, no tightrope walkers, no acrobats, no jugglers, no sword swallowers, no girls being shot out of cannons, no elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys, trick ponies, trained dogs, no master of ceremonies in the center ring and no circus band.

So, the first issue to consider is whether you, the runaway, crave excitement under the big top or whether you just want to get out of town. If you need the circus thrills, don't join the carnival, just hold your horses until the next circus shows up.

But if you decide to run with the carnival, be prepared to tell them you're a mechanic who can fix trucks, tractors, airplanes, space vehicles in all varieties of heavy equipment.

Show them you are a lumberjack who cuts the tops off tall trees, you erected television towers that touched the sky and you washed the outside windows of the top floors of skyscrapers.

Tell them you're willing to climb your way up to the top bucket of the Ferris wheel to reattach the safety bar that has to be secured before the wheel can make one more turn. The carnival has no jobs for mechanics who have the need to keep both feet firmly on the ground at all times.

The Ferris wheel, by the way, was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris for the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago. The world's biggest Ferris wheel is the 550 foot tall High Roller in Las Vegas.

But you need to ask some questions yourself before you sign on. For example, where is the next stop? You wouldn't want to run away and find yourself working 20 miles from home on the next weekend. Somebody from home is sure to see you. Check the full schedule.

And find out where the carnival headquarters is. That's probably where you'll spend your next winter oiling and tightening bolts on the tilt-a-whirl.

In addition to running away from debts, love gone bad or a dead-end job, the romance of the circus or carnival is the gypsy appeal of the carefree life on the open road — freedom from the old tie-down, boredom and the life of 9 to 5.

Sitting around the campfire at night, playing mandolins and harmonicas and singing vagabond and folk songs. Then somebody will say — loud enough for all the runaways to hear — "I wonder how much fun they had at the prison today?" Then everybody roars and they all sing "Don't Fence Me In." Ho ho ho, who wouldn't go?

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