the high-wire equestrian from Trash Dump, Wisconsin.
If you're ever in Trash Dump,
having landed via sea plane with a load of
Supplies in the middle of a hundred-year flood,
make sure to look for Julian.
Check his trailer at the mobile home park.
(Ask Judy, at the rental office, which one is Julian's.)
Scout out Super Burger and Sunview Lanes,
where I once beat him at bowling 154-132.
Stand for a moment inside the post office,
and check the photograph I gave you against those on the wall.
And, of course, go out to the horse boarder,
and look there--look around--look up!
If you brought an apple, toss it as high as you can.
Julian McNickelbaker was the foremost high-wire equestrian
in the southern Wisconsin division for seven years running.
You should have seen the "wires" we used,
which were actually a weave of tungsten, New England hemp, and local sod.
You could have walked an African elephant out there,
with bowling balls in a bag on his back.
I said--while balancing on one foot, 50 feet in the air, on horseback,
in front of a crowd of almost two thousand--
"I love you, Julian McNickelbaker," and I did, at that moment.
But later, he was angry, disappointed,
and I wanted a drink rather badly but was 10 years sober,
and too proud to have to face anybody after.
I left that night, on a Greyhound bus,headed to Racine.
I didn't see a horse again for days, just cows,
and I stayed right on the ground like skittish schoolgirl.
For years after, I suffered from vertigo and impetigo,
slept with no one and read about ten thousand trash novels.
But Racine boasts many splendors.
Tiring, at last, of Petrifying Springs Park,
I made my way to Wind Point Lighthouse.
It has a light bulb inside a Fresnel lens, placed there by angels
or the Parks Department or some other soul weary of shadows.
The keeper, who does not operate the light (it's automated),
and is there mostly to foil graffiti artists,
Approached me and confiscated my can of spray paint.
She could see that I was having a "moment."
"Do you want to go bowling?" she asked me.
Gosh, it had been a long time.
"Yes. I'd like that," I said. I stopped staring at my shoes then,
tilted my head back and gawped,
all the way up the spiral stairs to the top of the light.