img075Just a ‘kid’ turned on by curiosity, busy exploring every blade of grass and anything that wiggled surrounding me. NATURE was the whole theme as my classroom was made up of the great outdoors.

Studies consisted of bugs, birds, pets and even people. Challenges were eagerly attempted while the best lessons came accidentally. Like waiting for my Mom to drive off to the grocery store so I could finally test my latest plight. Climbing up on the garage roof and jumping off with the aid of a doll parachute. Somehow it didn’t work BUT I landed in an ARMSTAND! I actually had to kick my legs to get down. What an astounding discovery!

This happening could actually work during ‘hickory nut’ picking days. I would climb this skimpy hickory tree as far up as it would hold me and then hang upside down on the branch shaking the hickory nuts down and the kids would fill the baskets. No fear of falling as I could land in a handstand.

Next I should find a hill, one that would come high up behind me. I would then stand in front of it and bend backwards every day. Soon I found a lower hill and discovered I could bend backwards ever further. The day came when I could bend backwards all the way to the flat ground and VOILA did a BACKBEND!

Now this finding was thrilling as decided that I would practice these things like HAND STANDS while waiting for the school bus. AND one day, a professional acrobatic team lived kitty corner from the bus stop. They spotted me and from the knock at my door stood this little girl inviting me to come visit. Permission from Mom led me to their outdoor practice session.

Somehow all my ‘tomboy’ activities prepared me for this try out. It seemed that I learned acrobatic tricks in moments rather than months and they signed me on to train and travel with their team. We performed fairs in the summers and theaters in the winters.

Show business was a hard life but I relished the discipline. Morning rehearsals, afternoon & evening shows. From a 10 yr old to late teens on the road, joined in with top headliners: “The Barons” a professional Wrisley Acrobatic Team.

Although my someday replacing the key performer in the troupe crashed as planned, my life was permanently marked forever. Intensive ballet training continued, all led to distance running and body building, tallying a lifestyle of FOREVER FITNESS!

Elaine Neihardt Smith