The summer after her junior year, Mom met a man who led her on an exciting, if frightening, adventure. His name was Vince Skankly. He was the knife-thrower in a small regional circus called Blitzstein Brothers.
The Blitzstein Brothers had a three-day stand in Okmulgee, the county seat of Okfuskee County, which was just a few miles away from Mom's hometown of Okemah. A circus in a neighboring burg was a rare treat indeed and Mom, accompanied by her friend, Lois, attended each of the troupe's four performances.
It was after the Saturday matinee that she met Vince. He was standing near the performer's entrance to the lone Blitzstein Brothers tent, smoking a Lucky Strike. Darkly handsome and quite a bit older than Mom, he had a worldly quality about him. He seemed cut of different cloth than any male she'd ever encountered in Okemah.
They chatted a few minutes and just before she left, he asked her to meet him following that evening's performance at the coffee shop in the town square, just a few blocks away. Mom, surprising even herself, agreed.
Over several cups of joe, Vince regaled Mom with tales of the places he'd been, the things he'd seen. Blitzstein Brothers covered four states in their touring...Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri...so Vince had been as far as Kansas City and St. Louis, towns Mom had only dreamed of seeing. He had been married once, briefly, and had even spent some time in Mexico with a traveling carnival.
Mom was enraptured, swept away by this man. As they stepped outside the cafe, Vince revealed that his assistant, Zora, was leaving him after the next day's matinee. Taking Mom in his arms and kissing her, he implored Mom to come with him on the road and be his partner. Mom agreed. They decided she would meet him the following weekend in Tulsa, where the Blitzstein Brothers were next booked.
To make her escape, Mom told her parents that she and Lois were taking the bus to Tulsa for an overnight shopping excursion, that they would be staying with Lois's aunt, Cathy, there and would return on Saturday evening. This would give her a head start, 24 hours during which she would not be missed.
Vince met her at the bus station and took her to the room he'd booked, for the duration of the circus's two-week stay in Tulsa, at a downtown boarding house. He carried with him, while on the road, a fold-up cork board which he used to keep his throwing skills finely honed and he wanted to get in a little rehearsal time with Mom before that evening's performance.
As Mom stood with her back to the cork, facing this man she hardly knew as he took aim with his knife, her knees began to shake. Before she had time to protest, however, the first blade whizzed through the air towards her. It stuck in the cork firmly, just above her head. A second followed shortly thereafter, firmly imbedding itself in the cork board just an inch or two away from her left shoulder. When finally she felt the cold steel of the third blade at her right shoulder, she knew she'd made a horrible mistake. She screamed at Vince to stop and stepped quickly away from the cork board. The cut on her shoulder was a small one but it bled profusely and Mom was trembling.
Mom immediately called Lois at her aunt's number; Lois and Cathy came right over and retrieved Mom, taking her back to Cathy's efficiency apartment to tend the wound. Mom's parents were never the wiser, as she and Lois returned to Okemah that Saturday evening as promised. Two weeks of long sleeves ensured that the knife wound was not discovered. Mom never had contact with Vince again.
Read next article.
Return to BRETTnews.