It seems like Almost Yesterday that the circus came to De Soto, Missouri. In the days before television, color movies, and modern entertainment options, a high light for every community was when “the circus” came to town.
Colorful costumes, trapeze artists, beautiful ladies, wild animals, and entertaining clowns — provided an escape from the hard work and isolation of rural and small town America.
The Al G. Barnes wild animal shows regularly stopped in De Soto, Missouri and moved up St. Louis Street to the fairgrounds where the big tent was erected in time for the show. The giant elephants and caged animals concluded the parade and attracted a crowd of excited spectators.
One of the memorable circus events in De Soto was a grand evening finale when an advertised “wild golden-maned nubian male lion” was raised from his cage to the very top of the tent where he sat on a small platform, with no enclosure. There, high above the crowd, the show concluded with loud music and a blaze of fireworks: roman candles, exploding shells, and flashing lights.
This giant creature sat still and silent in the midst of a crescendo ------ until he was being returned to his cage. On this night the great animal leaped into the air, cleared his cage and ran into the crowd. An observer said that no circus tent was ever so quickly emptied. People ran. So did the lion.
But men of town and circus cornered the lion, and soon had him back in his cage. In the process it was discovered that this “wild, african lion” was elderly, but also blind, and deaf. Residents of De Soto, Missouri learned that night why fireworks had not bothered this king of beasts.