Okay! The donniker story!
As I mentioned, circus folks have a language all their own. One of my favorites is donniker, which means toilet. Merriam Webster Online says it probably has its roots in the word dunnekin, from an old English dialect.
Well, be that as it may, of the four circuses I worked for, only one had its own donniker. The others either brought in Porta-Potties (which we still called donnikers) or played venues that actually had restrooms. This wee circus, however, had its very own, an outhouse on wheels.
It was a basically a box. The outside was painted beautifully; the circus logo prominently displayed in red, white, blue, and gold. Inside, it was plain wood. The back held the... container, if you will, with a hole cut in the top. No seat, no paper, no water -- just a hole. This thing had probably been around for 40 years, ever since the little show's heyday in the 30s and 40s.
So. How do I put this delicately? It might have really worked and been a boon to the showfolks if it had been cleaned and emptied even once in awhile.
But alas, it never was. After just a couple of weeks, it was foul. A horrible brew of shit, piss, and whatever that liquid they put in Porta-Potties is festered in the box, filling the inside with a stink rank enough to gag a maggot. After the first couple of times that I used it, I couldn't go back. I preferred finding an actual bathroom. Some of the gazoonies, though, weren't so picky, especially when they'd been partying a little too hard.
Anyway, you'd think that the management would do something about this, but you'd be wrong. Every teardown, they'd hook the donniker up to a truck and pull it to the next lot. The driver would drop it as far from the big top and backyard as he could. So it just sort of followed us along, sloshing and stanky, a brightly painted box full of shit.
Then we got to Poughquag, a tiny little town in upstate New York. The lot was in a lovely, wooded park that had a beautiful lake. This lake had been built up at one end so that it was almost like a swimming pool. Naturally we took full advantage of this wonderful perk. The grass was lush and the air was cool, and we had good audiences. All in all, a great place for a circus.
It was a two- or three-day stand. After the show, I went to sleep in my little blue van. There I was, sound asleep on a starry night, when I woke up to shouting and general brouhaha. I stuck my head out the door and saw an eerie orange glow in the distance.
The donniker was on fire, blazing in fact, the flames leaping up toward the trees and sparks flying everywhere. Who knew poop was so flammable? Gazoonies were grabbing buckets and filling them from the lake, trying to keep the fire from spreading. Remember -- this the 70s, before cell phones, so whoever called the firefighters had to find a phone first! I don't know if there was a pay phone in the park, but I assume there was, for the firefighters arrived soon after I woke up and extinguished the conflagration.
I went back to bed.
The next morning, only charred wood and smelly debris remained. We never did find out who started the fire, but a couple gazoonies were gone by the time the cops showed up to ask questions. The rest of the gazoonies cleaned up the remains and carted them off -- I have no idea where -- and we proceeded to whisper and snicker about the Great Donniker Fire.