Tuesday, August 19, 2008

RVer Ran Away to Join the Circus . . .

Ted McRae, who is 50, takes a drag on his cigarette and reflects on this unusual life he leads. His wife, Renee, lives in the RV with him, and his two younger boys, Jordan and Dorian, live in a trailer he pulls on road trips. They’re 18 and 16, respectively; both take courses via the Florida Virtual School and ride unicycles and juggle for the big show. McRae’s oldest son, Adrian, is a 22-year-old lighting technician for Ringling Brothers – “I think he’s in Hidalgo, Texas right now,” says Dad.

Unlike many of his Circus Vargas colleagues, McRae wasn’t exactly born into a circus family. In 1994 he had a job driving a forklift at a paint warehouse when he got a late-night phone call from his cousin. The cousin, it seems, had founded a circus. He had a lion and tiger man, but the cats didn’t exactly take to the chap. Would McRae like to jump in the cage? “I said ‘Heck yeah!’” recalls McRae with a laugh. “Actually, I said I’d have to talk to my wife, but she said she’d always liked circuses so let’s go. Later that month I was in the cage with four lions on one side of me and three tigers on the other.”

When asked what experience he had in the field of lion-taming, McRae noted that he’d always liked animals. As for his qualifications, he’s still alive, isn’t he?

As the sun dips below Bernal Heights and the parking lot turns cold, the life of a traveling circus performer is looking about as romantic as a Lombard Street motel. McRae, however, is, quite literally, a happy camper.

“Circus life is cool. We have our own little community and we travel around from place to place,” he says, stubbing out his cigarette. “If you’ve gotta do something, this ain’t bad.”
Full Story & Photos...
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