[Illustration: Pa Jumped Like a Box Car.]
Pa Breaks in the Zebras and
Drives a Six-in-Hand Team in the
Parade—The Freaks Have a Narrow Escape from Drowning.
Pa is stuck on the zebras. I do not know what there is about a zebra unless it is the wail paper effects of his exterior decoration that should make a man leave all the other animals and cleave unto the zebra, but pa has been putting in his leisure time all summer breaking the zebras to harness, and driving them single and double in the ring Sundays.
Everybody about the show knew pa was going to spring some surprise on us. I have tried to reason pa out of his unnatural infatuation for zebras, but you might as well talk to a rich old man who gets stuck on a chorus girl, and gives her all his money, and has to go and live at the poor house.
A zebra always looks to me like a joke that nature has played. Who, but nature, would ever think of laying out a plan for a zebra, and painting it in stripes, like a barber’s pole, and yet we must admit that few human artists could paint a million zebras and get the stripes on as perfect as nature does with her eyes shut. The mule and the zebra are distant relatives, ’cause lots of mules have a few stripes on their legs, but the zebra is the eldest son who is aristocratic and inherits the stuff, while the mule is the younger son who never gets a look in for the money, but has to work for a living. So it is no wonder to me that the mule kicks. The zebra is the dude of the family, and the mule looks up to him, when he ought to kick his slats in, and rub out his stripes with a mule shoe eraser.
While pa was in the hospital at Kansas City he formed a plan to paralyze the town by driving six zebras to a tally-ho coach, in the parade, and the reporters interviewed pa, and the papers were full of it, and the people were wild with excitement, and everybody wanted to see a six-in-hand zebra team, driven by Alkali Ike, one of the greatest western stage drivers that was ever held up by road agents. Pa was to be Alkali Ike. The show struck Kansas City Sunday morning, and the management was scared at what pa had advertised to do, and they all wanted to call off the zebra stunt, but pa said if they cut it out the people would mob the show, so all day Sunday we hooked up the six zebras, and the hands led them around the tent with a mule with a bell on ridden in the lead. They seemed to go pretty well, but I could see pa’s finish when he got out on the streets with that crazy team. Pa wanted all the freaks to ride on the tally-ho, and he had invited nine newspaper fellows to ride with him. Pa thought the zebra team would follow the bell mule ahead, like a 20-mule borax team would.