Tent | Omak, WA | 2017

Circus sideshows have nearly disappeared. But 55 years ago, a tent filled with oddities — “You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!” — sprouted at least once a year in our small southern town. On one occasion, a hulking canopy housed the (supposedly) mummified corpse of exotic dancer Marie O’Day. She’d been murdered and her body tossed into — and preserved by — the Great Salt Lake in Utah. The barker claimed her hair and fingernails still grew and required frequent clipping. Freaky, for sure. But what fascinated me most was the intricacy of the tent’s rigging — a web of poles, ropes and struts high above our heads. How did this complex structure materialize that very morning on a weedy lot at the edge of town? My 10-year-old imagination figured this monumental feat could be explained in only one way: Magic.