Who wants to run off with the circus?

·3 min read

Everybody can’t do everything.

That slogan makes me feel better about never having run off with the circus. I like to think I coined the saying myself, but somebody else probably said it first.

My slogan runs counter to the prevalent notion that anybody can be anything they want to be.

But nothing against trying.

Me, I’d like to add professional street performer to my resume. I envision people tossing money my way if they like a song I play on my neck holder-held harmonica as I stroll with hand-held spring-loaded stilts. I take requests.

The flaw in my dream? You can’t pick up money when you’re holding stilts. You can’t even stand still.

So far I’ve performed only for free anyway – Christmas parades, an impromptu nursing home walk-through and an appearance at a non-profit fundraiser where I could have made a name for myself by walking up the steps to the stage. I didn’t want to break my nose on my harmonica.

By the way, is there another harmonica player performing on hand-held stilts?


Looks like I’m it. Plenty of musicians walk on stilts, including an entire jazz band. But those players all use strap-on stilts – the kind used by construction workers who tape and bed drywall ceilings. I have some of those stilts too. Too easy.

On second thought, with those hands-free stilts I could play both guitar and harmonica. Bells could transform each stilt (a word seldom seen in non-plural form) into a percussion instrument.

Musicians, take note:

If you don’t have what it takes to be a first-chair in the band or a singular star of impressive magnitude based on your musical skills, you can shine bright anyway. Just be different.

The less talent you have, the more different you need to be. Just don’t go for stilts – especially not the hand-held kind. That’s my schtick.

Age matters. If you’re very young or very old, you get extra points. I remember a friend of mine in his upper 80s simply dancing with his wife. Spectators were smiling.

“When you’re old, whatever you do is cute,” he said, as if apologizing for something he couldn’t help.

But just because you can’t change your age doesn’t mean you can’t play it for what it’s worth.

One evening during the recent Christmas season, I was exiting Dollar Tree when I saw a young man up against the building poised to play his harmonica. I fetched my fiddle and joined him. Fun! People smiled and gave us money. It probably helped that I looked like his grandmother.

Jaden plays only blues. I told him people would tip more for Christmas music.

If you’ve never heard a bluesy version of “Frosty the Snowman” for harmonica and fiddle, use your imagination.

Jaden helps his dad buy fuel for their bus home. I told him he could have all the tips. He let me keep a few dollars anyway. They’re stashed in my fiddle case. Starter money for my next street gig.

Hanaba Munn Welch is a correspondent for the Times Record News who divides her time between Abilene and a farm north of Vernon. Her columns, as a tribute to the Childress Engine 501, always contain, amazingly, 501 words.

This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: Who wants to run off with the circus? Hanaba Welch column