#GoodTimes: The Day I Smashed My Face at Circus World

When the doctor on call drew back the hospital curtain, he looked my way and said, “Injury to the face, huh? Nice.”

“Thanks,” I said. I would’ve rolled my eyes but it hurt too much. “Will I need stitches?”

“Not unless you want me to reopen the wound,” he said, reopening my wound as he poked my face. “I would recommend a tetanus shot.”

Great. Needles. 


100_0915I’m getting ahead of myself.

The real question is why was I in the hospital? That’s a good story. It all started the day I smashed my face at Circus World.

Around this time four years ago, I had just finished reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. I loved this book. Loved it.

While researching the author, I learned she did quite a bit of research on traveling circus shows in none other than Baraboo, WI at the Circus World Museum. Winter resting grounds of the legendary Ringling Brothers, Baraboo was just a two hour drive away.

I called up my bestie and invited her on a road trip.

Armed with licorice and mix cds, we headed for a place I was ecstatic to go.

The Circus World Museum contains the largest collection of vintage circus wagons, a room full of circus organs, and costumes, photographs and advertisement posters of the greatest trapeze artists, sideshow freaks, clowns, and their animal counterparts around.

I was engrossed. I needed to explore every inch.

And I wanted photographic evidence I had been there.

circus world collageI was enamored with the magic of the circus. I took pictures with every cutout image I could stick my face in. I took shots of circus miniatures and mannequin sideshow freaks. The only thing I didn’t photograph was the cheeseburger I ate for lunch at the picnic table, and that’s because Instagram wasn’t a thing yet so I didn’t know the world would WANT to see my cheeseburger from the circus.

I got to feed an elephant, you guys. She was beautiful and her name was Tiny. The owner had an animal rescue plantation down in Florida. Tiny’s parents were killed by poachers and he took her in. As she grew up, she wandered in and out of their house – when she could fit – and when she was bigger, stuck her long trunk in through the windows to greet the family.

Tiny was just like Rosie in Water for Elephants. And I was pretending I was Reese Witherspoon, forming an unbreakable connection with this exotic beast.

I was in a bibliophile’s wet dream!

I was seriously having one of the best times of my life because I felt like I was walking through the world of this book that made me fall in love with the circus.

You could say I got a little carried away.

I was off snapping pictures again. Running both to and from my friend in a harried frenzy. Along the cement sidewalk was one of the old animal cages they used to hitch to a horse or truck for parades. It was open. We could go inside.

“Take my picture,” I told my friend, handing her the camera.

With the reckless abandon of an animal that’s been freed, I headed toward the cage, running at full force up the metal stairs and through the doorway.

Almost through the doorway…

In my blind enthusiasm, I failed to notice that the doorway was shorter than I was, and therefore ran smack into the metal frame which clanged in revolt and propelled my head backwards.

Down the path I heard someone’s father say, “OHMYGOD, are you ok?”

Not even a concussion could stop me from enjoying the circus. Without a single second’s delay, I ducked into the circus cage, grabbed a hold of the bars and feigned normality by bearing my teeth and shouting once more to my friend, “Take my picture!”

“No,” was all she said.

“Am I bleeding?”

I put my hand to my face, which yes, throbbed from its introduction to the doorframe moments ago, but I assumed I was fine.

When I pulled my hand back down it was full of blood.

My friend stood in the grass a few yards away. Speechless.

She ran to me in the cage, threw our stuff down on the floor and said she was going to get some paper towel.

Which left me, for the record, bleeding from the face – in no less than 3 places – from the inside of an animal cage in the middle of Circus World.

Children were running up with their parents to go inside and stopping midway up the stairs. They didn’t expect to see a demon inside.

After what seemed like hours, my friend returned with two handfuls of paper towel.

“I’m sorry! The first person I found, it was like her first day, so she didn’t know where the bathrooms were, and I had to run all the way to the front entrance to get these,” she explained out of breath. “But look at you! Not a drop of blood on your white shirt!”

Both my arms were covered in blood however because I’d used them to plug up all the holes on my face.

“Do I look like Carrie?” I asked, embarrassment settling in.

“Let’s get you to the ladies’ room.” And that’s the sign of true friend.


So the emergency room. I awoke the next morning with two black eyes, a baseball size lump on my forehead, and a chunk – one might say a divot – of skin missing from the bridge of my nose.

Oh, and because I’m not athletic in the slightest, I didn’t know I should’ve iced. *sigh*

You know what? I still enjoyed the circus. After cleaning myself up, frightening more families in the process, I put on some sunglasses and headed into the hippodrome with my bestie.

Damn that was a good time!

Tell me about a time you faced disasters
and still managed to come out smiling.
Or, I’m still in the market for a good scar minimizer.
Got any suggestions?



15 responses

  1. Wait. Is this a separate incident from the time you smashed your nose at a circus? Surely that couldn’t happen to you twice…


    If so, you win a year’s supply of geoduck!

    BTW, “I was in a bibliophile’s wet dream!” is a sentence I never thought I’d see written anywhere. Love it.

    1. Same place. Same incident. I just couldn’t believe it had been four years already! My nose healed up much better than I expected it to.

      As for that sentence, no one’s ever described me as “subtle.”

  2. I have a plethora of accident stories, Jess. lol Mathair has always warned everyone that I’m a tripper, a drink spiller and finger jammer. During my graduation, I actually tripped going down the steps after I received my diploma. My feet came out from under me and my ass popped down all three steps before it came to a grinding halt on the hardwood floor. Unfortunately I was so embarrassed that my face matched my red gown, but I managed to get the biggest applause of the night.

    1. Oh man, Inion! That is brutal. But I’m sure you pulled it off like a champ. And maybe, I’ll share my embarrassing graduation story later. Cuz…I got one of those too. #IFeelYaSis

  3. I managed to slam my face into a sliding glass door (my nose was black and blue) as well as sprain my ankle (different incident) at my boyfriend’s house when I was about 19. That should have told me right there the relationship wouldn’t last.

    1. Yikes! Same house? That’s unfortunate. You must not have felt yourself while staying there. Bad juju.

  4. Hang on, I beg to differ on your final point. A true friend would have taken the picture, knowing you were destined to have a blog.

    1. Hahaha! She’s not good with horror movies which is what the day was turning into. And…I’m vain. I would so NOT post that photo. LMAO

  5. Don’t forget the joy you gave to anyone there who started a conversation with a friend or loved one with, “you won’t believe what happened to this lady at Circus World … “

    1. Thanks for calling it “joy”. I probably scarred a couple children for life. LOL

  6. […] Have you been to a dentist lately? I recently went after a two year hiatus. I was positive I had a cavity because there’s a dark spot on one of my back molars. Turns out, my tooth is just dirty! That sure made me feel better. Almost as good as that time my chiropractor told me I am deformed or when the ER doctor laughed at my face injury. […]

  7. […] I do mean endearing. One of my favorite posts on The Happiness Project is about her busting her face at Circus World. It’s so pathetic it’s adorable. The whole world loves a the girl to […]

  8. Oh my GOSH!! We COULD BE NEIGHBORS!!!! I also live 2 hours from Baraboo and have been to Circus World a few times. I do not have any amazing stories like this to share though- sadly. Plenty of other ones, but not here. That I can recall. But I am sure my kids would be happy to share any embarrassing stories with you that I have conveniently forgotten.
    I am totally following your blog!

    1. I would go back. Circus World is a cool place!

      1. I agree- I would go back sometime soon as well. It’s such a fun place to hang out.

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