The Great Shoshone Mahaffee was, as the name implies, half Indian, half irish, and all drunk. Not a good combination in any profession, but particularly troublesome in a knife thrower. However, the Great Shoshone could charm the skin off a snake, had a keen eye (being half Indian), unswerving aim, a steady hand drunk or sober, and nerves of steel.

She (Fifi, his assistant) also had a cast in one eye that prevented her from seeing the knife coming; but the sound of it had finally gotten to her, causing her to be subject to hysterics during performance. In addition to which she had developed a twitch. But worse yet, the most dangerous of all problems to befell anyone in the knife throwing profession, she had begun to flinch!

Part of the requirements of a knife thrower’s assistant is having a young nubile body scantily clad in blood red, for obvious reasons, on display in a dangerous situation. It looked good for the act. But due to her increasing bouts of flinching, less and less of Fifi’s flesh could be exposed. The cruelest cut of all came when…well, let’s just say she never again had to worry about a hangnail on her right pinkie finger. So this, coupled with losing her nerve, forced the Great Shoshone to look for new blood.

Here is where I (Ronnie Claire Edwards) enter the narrative. I had been taking tickets in the tent (anything to be near the world of art) when I sensed the Great Shoshone eyeing me. Not a man to beat around the bush, he approached me straight, and in a very forceful manner told me I had the proper conformation and temperament to train as his assistant! I was thrilled to be noticed by a star of his magnitude, but I demurred, saying that I could never hope to compete with Fifi, the Female Phenomenon. He scoffed at that and swooped me up and fixed me to the apparatus.

The act works something like this: the knives are thrown directly at the target. They do not prop up from behind, as the rubes think. It always made me mad when people asked if they did. They must have thought I had no artistic integrity. I was buckled spread-eagle to a wheel by wide leather straps, my head secured in a vise (similar to the electric chair). The climax of the act came when this wheel was given a terrific push and spun as the Great Shoshone commenced hurling knives, swords, sabers, a tomahawk and — the piece de resistance — an axe at my rapidly whirling body; pretty much every weapon found in online fantasy games. Whoever says you cannot hit a moving target is lying. Being a knife thrower’s assistant teaches you discipline real fast.