Day 209: Tattoo Tour

Laetitia and her group crossed the border from South Dakota into Wyoming. They stopped first at Devils Tower National Monument to see the monolith of that name rising 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain, and then moved on to Gillette, Wyoming, arriving in the afternoon.

Gillette is city of about 20,000 people and is the county seat of Campbell County, Wyoming. Since 1920, it has been the site of the annual Campbell County Fair. In the era before television, sideshows were an integral part of many county fairs. They included acts like fire eating, sword swallowing, and knife throwing. They also featured “freaks”—midgets, giants, and two-headed calves—and some had “hoochie-koochie” shows with strippers.

Laetitia and her group had just started their walkabout when another budding novelist thrust a manuscript into Laetitia’s hand. She sighed and began to read aloud:

“Watching as gloved hands moved rhythmically to rock music and deftly removed layer after layer of clothing, young Stella Starburst breathed the strong, but not entirely disagreeable, aroma of the room she had entered secretly to watch her mother work. From that childhood moment, she knew as surely as she knew that Elvis was alive and would one day woo her in a pink Cadillac, that she wanted to be a stripper—not an amateur like her mother, but a well-paid professional with steady work and fringe benefits. Her dream career later became a reality when she reported for work at Lovingwood Furniture Restorations.”

Laetitia was about to comment when an old man on a park bench named Alfie motioned for her to come over to where he was sitting. He had heard the word “stripper” and wanted to relate his own story. He told her about a teenage experience when he and a friend sneaked behind the tent of a hoochie-koochie show. They lay on the ground and lifted the flap enough so they could see the whole thing. The featured performer was “Yvette, La Parisienne,” and she could be distinguished from other members of her trade by her tattoos. When her back was turned to them, they saw that she had a tattoo of the Eiffel Tower on one buttock and Notre Dame Cathedral on the other. When she faced them, she had a large tattoo of the Arc de Triomphe, with the top of the arch crossing her lower belly and the sides of the arch descending down each leg, framing the flower of her womanhood. Alfie told her that it was like a tour of France and an experience he would never forget.

Laetitia thanked Alfie for his story and later it became the limerick of the day.

Young Alfie will never forget
That county fair stripper, Yvette
When she took off her pants
Her tattooed scenes of France
Fascinated the boys of Gillette.

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