Dreaming of great crops, determined gardeners scoop pachyderm poop

March 26, 1994|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Sun Staff Writer

Sidney Harris' wife asked him to pick up something for her yesterday at the Baltimore Arena.

Circus tickets, it wasn't. What she wanted was pachyderm poo. Three bags full.

Welcome to the annual elephant manure giveaway, courtesy of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

For two hours, brave gardeners could fill bags and buckets with Dumbo's droppings, touted as a soil elixir by circus officials.

"It's the greatest stuff on earth," said Pete Cimini, the circus' stable manager. "It's pure manure, no additives. It grows cherry tomatoes the size of grapefruits, and monstrous roses."

There was only one catch. Folks had to shovel it themselves.

More than three dozen gardeners lined up outside the arena for a memento of the Big Top -- a treasure, they said, they would handle with care.

Not Mr. Harris. He didn't want to handle it, period.

"I'm not thrilled about it," said Mr. Harris, of Woodlawn, as he shoveled fresh fertilizer from a 6-ton Dumpster behind the Arena. "But we just bought a house, and my wife says this stuff will help things grow."

Just then a pachyderm pellet the size of a softball rolled off the shovel and onto his shoe.

Mr. Harris rolled his eyes in disgust.

" 'Til death do us part, huh?" he cried. "Judy, I'm gonna get you for this!"

Others rolled up their sleeves and dug in, filling everything from trash cans to trash bags while extolling the virtues of the fertilizer.

"We used it last year and grew tomatoes this size," said Dwight Arnold, of Parkville, holding a huge pellet in his gloved hand. "The stuff is also good for potted plants. Outdoor potted plants."

Several gardeners, like John Dooley of Arbutus, brought their families to see the backside of the circus. With him -- albeit 20 feet behind -- were Mr. Dooley's wife, Regina, and daughter Amanda, 12.

Mrs. Dooley appeared unfazed. "I was curious about this, but it doesn't bother me," she said. "I mean, I've changed a lot of baby diapers."

Phillip Parr, of Essex, shoveled as his daughter Asianne, 3, held open a plastic bag. "[Asianne] saw the front part of the elephants inside, at the circus," he said. "She doesn't seem to mind the rest of it."

Al Beasley, of Chase, worked quickly to fill a bucket while his wife circled the block in their 15-year-old Volkswagen bus.

"There's no place for her to park, but my wife really wants this for her roses," Mr. Beasley said. "The car is really going to smell good going home, but whatever makes her happy, makes me happy."

Unlike most of the gardeners, who wore old clothes, LeRoy Young came straight from work in a pinstripe suit.

"I've been wanting to get this stuff for years," said Mr. Young, a city worker. "My tomatoes are going to have a new life!"

Many of the scoopers confessed they hadn't seen the show inside. Jeffrey Hubbard, of West Baltimore, filled four buckets and pronounced:

C7 "This is the only part of the circus I care about."

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