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Jennings animal trainer recalls life under the big top

BY MANNY GAMALLO - Tulsa World Modified: January 17, 2011 at 12:42 am •  Published: January 17, 2011
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/articleid/3532982/1/pictures/1342232">Photo - Former retired animal trainer for Ringling Bros. Circus, Mickey Bohannon next to a sign on Highway 99 south of Jennings which honors him, taken in Jennings, Okla. on January 12,2011. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World ORG XMIT: DTI1101121531410021
Former retired animal trainer for Ringling Bros. Circus, Mickey Bohannon next to a sign on Highway 99 south of Jennings which honors him, taken in Jennings, Okla. on January 12,2011. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World ORG XMIT: DTI1101121531410021
After the Ringling Bros. bought a well-trained buffalo, only Bohannon could get it to perform.

In his years with the circus, Bohannon traveled from coast to coast and included 63 performances at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The circus had become a family affair with his wife, son, Chris, and daughter, Deanne, joining him.

They helped with animal performances — riding them in shows, doubling as clowns or performing other chores. Sandy Bohannon came to have her own act.

The circus management asked her to perform a snake act, from which she initially recoiled in horror. After a handler promised to train the snake, she consented.

Bohannon’s circus career was cut short in 1988 after suffering a brain injury while preparing a rhinoceros for a show.

Before the performance, Bohannon leaned over the rhino, which spooked the animal. It reared its head and drove a horn into Bohannon’s forehead, requiring him to be resuscitated and left him with partial paralysis, vision and speech impairments and seizures.

“The circus took real good care of me,” he said.


Read the rest of the story on Oklahoman.com
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