guest blogger: lillian la france

Posted: September 18, 2021 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

They called me the “Girl Who Flirts with Death.” I never saw it that way. All I wanted was somethin’ different. Grown’ up in Kansas as I did, different were hard to come by. Farms, winds, wheat, and prairies were my life. By the time I left my teenage years I were as restless as a bull sniffin’ around a cow in heat. I weren’t about to get married and have a litter of lil’ ones like every other farmgirl in the county. That was a quick road to hell, if you pardon my language. I saw what that done to Mama, bless her heart. By the time she turned 40 she was wore out from scrapin’ by on the farm and tendin’ to 9 kids. Ain’t no shame in that, but it weren’t for me. When I were 22 I left home and joined the first travelin’ carnival that would hire me.

They didn’t know what to do with me, so they gave me low jobs like muckin’ out the pens. It really weren’t no different from what I done back home, except now I got some money. Weren’t much, but it were mine. Best of all I got to see the country. It was so excitin’ when I’d ask where we were stoppin’ next and they’d tell me Omaha or Davenport or my favorite, Joliet. Joliet sounded so exotic and romantic. I reckon that’s because it reminded me of Romeo and Juliet. It didn’t matter where we were because I was livin’ my life like I wanted. Ain’t nothin’ more romantic than that.

One thing I took to were motorcycles. First time I ever sat on an Indian Scout with that purrin’ engine I knew what a cowboy must feel when mountin’ his steed. It felt so natural. Whenever I had free time I would ride around the campgrounds at full speed swervin’ at the last minute around the carnies who thought I would crash into ‘em. I declare I sure did scare them with my antics. They never had nothin’ to worry about because I was always in control. They’d cuss and shake an angry fist at me. Soon enough they got used to my foolin’ and when they’d curse I’d hear the smile in their voice. It was grand fun.

Sometime in the early 20’s the carnival got a velodrome. For you folks who don’t know about that I will tell you. It were a huge round tub made of wooden planks. Think of a giant teacup only made of wood and as wide as 6 men layin’ head to toe. Customers would gather ‘round the top and look down into it. What did they see? Believe it or not, they would see a man sittin’ on a motorcycle at the bottom. He would start the engine and begin drivin’ round and round and higher and higher until he got enough speed goin’ that he were able to drive around it at a sideways angle. It was like magic and surely somethin’ to see, let me tell you. The people would gasp and cheer as the rider went faster and faster. What a thrillin’ site when he let go of the handlebars! They called the velodrome the “Wall of Death” and it became a big hit. Maybe the name drew ‘em in, but the excitement kept ‘em comin’ back.

The “Wall of Death” looked dangerous, but I knew it weren’t so dangerous if the rider knew what he were doin’. By this time I had become an ace on the Indian Scout and was hankerin’ to become part of the show. At first the promoter laughed at me sayin’ it were too dangerous and, worse yet, it weren’t woman’s work. I kept askin’ and askin’, never gettin’ nowhere. I got tired of askin’ and decided that showin’ was better. I snuck into “The Wall of Death” before we opened the midway. I started ridin’ and got up enough speed to get goin’ in a circle just like the men did. Some of the carnies came over to see what all the ruckus were about since no one were supposed to be in there so close to opening. When they saw it were me they set to hootin’ and hollerin’. Pretty soon most of the company came over to watch, includin’ the promoter. When I finished he gave me an earful and threatened to fire me. When he were done I asked if he liked what he saw. He didn’t say nothin’.

I said, “Imagine how much you could charge people to see a lady daredevil.” He weren’t a good promoter for no reason and he knew a money-makin’ scheme when he saw one. We tussled a bit until he eventually agreed to give me a try for a couple of shows. “But don’t come cryin’ to me if you get kilt!” he said.

The rest is history. I became his biggest draw. Every day the people would pay their 15 cents to watch the “Girl Who Flirts with Death.” I were never in danger, but I never let ‘em think that. To me I was just a Kansas farmgirl who wanted somethin’ different out of life and found it on a motorcycle ridin’ ‘round in circles while people cheered.

  1. John says:

    I don’t know how these guest people manage to get into my blog and publish things all willy-nilly. 🙂


  2. rangewriter says:

    Is this really a guest post, or is it John’s imagination crafting a lovely story?

    Liked by 1 person

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