Paul T. Gilbert

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the stories: Snake CharmerArthur Borella, ClownThe Flying WardsReporter in TightsElephant TrainerTight WireDress Rehearsal

mayme ward, aerial artist

The big life net had been rigged up, and the tiny swinging ladders had been let down from the lofty platform. The band was tuning up. A group of cowboys were practicing with a lariat, and a girl was riding a white horse around the ring...

Mrs. Mayme Ward gave me a look of admiration. "Why, you look just splendid in tights!" she exclaimed.

"Thanks," I said, "only I hope they don't bust."

It looks easy enough to scramble up that little ladder, but if you think it's anything like ascending a step-ladder, you're mistaken. The first few rungs you have to take hand over hand, and I was glad when finally I could get a foothold.

Up I went, feeling like a spider, until I found myself under the steel girders of the Coliseum. Erma Ward, the little red-headed girl who does 101 aerial somersaults, or "one-arm rollup," was on the platform waiting for me. It was not a steady platform, and it was not particularly wide.

The big brown net stretching below seemed ever so far off. I began to wish I was back on terra firma... (read the whole article)

photo: Mayme Ward, the only woman ever to accomplish a double aerial somersault to a "hand-to-hand" catch, tries a move called a "crab" (also called "bird's nest") with a 46-year-old Paul Gilbert.