Long live spring! It’s here to stay, and it’s not going to leave. When we headed south on New Year's Eve, the gray weather was like mush. I promised to bring you sunshine bright as a dandelion patch, I returned a few days ago to a rush of bloom, and a generous supply of green lawn that already takes a good mowing. There is a satisfaction in April’s first lush lawn.
The Florida air was bright and gay, the palms lazing in a warm breeze. Before my wife could coax me into unpacking, I was snoring quite loudly on the couch. Abruptly, a knock on our door.
A husky man apologized and said he was searching our Quail’s Run condo neighborhood for a red car with an Iowa license plate. So far, he had no luck. I rubbed my sleeping eyes and said, “That’s probably me.”
“BY GOLLY, it is you,’’ said the gent. We invited him in, and he made himself at home in a cushy chair. He identified himself as Richard Kleppe, who farms about 400 acres of land near Clarence, Iowa. That was a shock … a friendly face from Clarence, Iowa, about 1,500 miles north of Englewood, Florida.
He said he read my column back home, but somehow forgot my name. He knew I had a little red car, wintered in a place called Englewood, and that I loved the circus. He escapes Iowa winters in Venice, about 50 miles away from our place.
We had a friendly chat about crops and such things and he explained why he wanted so desperately to locate me.
“I WANTED to take you to the circus in Sarasota,” he said. Sarasota is 75 miles away from our front door. We turned him down, but he persisted. He would not take no for an answer. He pleaded. I gave the excuse that Circus Sarasota, a tented circus of considerable prestige, played only grassy lots. I was clumsy-certain that both Helen and I would tumble in the grass. I relented when he claimed that star of the show was the famous aerialist Dolly Jacobs, a personal friend of mine.
Off we drove in Kleppe’s new Cadillac, but first to pick up his girlfriend, Tess. Kleppe commandeered a chair to wheel to me into the big, jeweled Camelot-styled tent; Tess helped Helen into our box seats. It was a sensational show … Long live the big red and white tent with the swinging trapeze. All the world seemed upside down, with three members of the surviving Wallendas still performing.
The show was over and at the entrance graciously stood Dolly Jacobs, who has performed for presidential audiences at the White House. She was lovely in the white gown in which she had earlier performed on the trapeze. She called out, “Bill, Bill,” and must have kissed me at least three times. It made me think how grateful I was that Richard Kleppe knocked on our condo door and asked if we knew where to find a little red car with an Iowa license plate.