Carny Repellant


Carney Repellant

2 lips of long cut, Greenville chewing tobacco
1 bottle of Old Medley Bourbon
4 servings of cotton candy
6 gumballs (accidentally swallowed)
Granite in your veins

Winter Carnival makes me think back to October of 1975, when I somehow found myself riding a ferris wheel at the Alabama State Fair. The ferris wheel was operated by a carny by the name of Milt Lojack, a 90 year-old Russian spy that had never found his way back home. Carny wasn’t an offensive term back then, and I’m sorry if anyone is offended as they read it here today.

What many people don’t know is that carnies like Milt spoke in carnival cant, a language designed to be impossible for fair-goers to understand. Unfortunately for Milt, I had graduated with honors in linguistics from Dartmouth in 1969 and had written a thesis on carny jargon.

If I remember correctly, the thesis was titled “Carnival Cant: The Key to Unlocking the Dark Underworld of Clowns, Dwarves, and Wildmen.” As a result, when the ride stopped and I found myself stuck at the top of the ferris wheel, it wasn’t hard to decipher what Milt was saying to the bearded lady (his younger sister I eventually found out) and the Siamese twins sitting next to him. “Ride’s not actually broke,” he spat out through broken teeth. “Gonna get this guy at the top, his pockets are fat with cash.” My pockets were certainly full, but they were stuffed with loose chewing tobacco that I’d just bought wholesale in Greenville.

With surprising agility, Milt began to clamber up the ferris wheel toward me like a spider monkey. I did what any self-respecting Dartmouth alum would have done. I leaned over the side of the ferris car and “pulled trig,” blinding Milt and sending him sliding to the ground. Lest the old traditions fail.


Roger Sherman III ‘69