The next morning we drove to Forest Park, near the Washington University campus, parked, and time jumped right into St. Louis’ Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Dad had reminded me while we were in the museum it had been 202 years since President Thomas Jefferson purchased more than 800,000 square miles of land from France for only 15 million dollars. Now that’s a real bargain. To celebrate the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase and to show off their growing city, St. Louis’ prominent citizens and leaders had planned to open the Exposition in 1903. Later, they delayed the opening for one year so more countries and states could take part.
Once we jumped, I realized an exposition looked much like a world’s fair. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition held exhibits, amusements, and entertainments from just about every one of the 45 states then in the Union. Even many foreign countries had provided spectacular exhibits related to their culture or latest scientific advancements.
But, Dad and I were not there to enjoy the exhibits. We were hunting the Pirate. Dad had intelligence about how the Pirate planned to steal another historic artifact from one of the scientific exhibits.
As we walked The Pike, the main path through the concessions, toward the exhibit halls we passed hundreds of people enjoying the beautiful fall day. We saw people buying iced tea, peanut butter, and even one of my favorites, Dr. Pepper. Dad said each world exposition or fair tried to outdo the previous one. Each introduced new foods. Dad said the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was famous for iced tea, hotdogs, Dr. Pepper, and waffle cones! But we weren’t there to eat, although I did get to sample a waffle cone stuffed with ice cream, and a hotdog or two. I figured I needed to make up for all those days in Boonesborough without modern day snacks!
As we wandered from exhibit to exhibit looking for the Pirate, I saw Geronimo, the Apache war chief, sitting in front of a teepee, as part of an exhibit. Everywhere I go, I seem to find Indians! He didn’t look very scary; I thought he looked bored.
The exposition planners meant for most of the buildings to be temporary, so they created them out of plaster and hemp fibers on a wood frame. Inside each exhibit hall, we found artifacts and inventions. About 63 different countries had created exhibits. The Pirate could have been anywhere, planning to steal anything. At least he would be easy to spot, with his eye patch and black hair, but there were hundreds of people in the grounds by noon, and the exposition grounds covered more than 1,200 acres!
About two hours after noon, right as Dad and I approached the arena where the two–hour long re–enactment of a Boer War battle would soon take place, I spotted the Pirate. He had just purchased a ticket and was through the arena gate before we could make our way to the ticket counter. Dad purchased two box seat tickets for $1.00 each. That way we could wander around the box seat and general admission areas without attracting too much attention.
With no way to communicate if we split up—remember no cell phones or walkie talkies—we had to stick together. Once the battle re–enactment began, it became easier to move about, as most people took to their seats and enjoyed the show. It also became all but impossible to talk to one another over the battle noises.
In the Boer War, Dad said the British Army fought the Boers, a name for the Dutch settlers to South Africa, for control of that region. South African tribal natives, including the Zulu and Swazi, fought on both sides of the war, some with the British, some with the Dutch, and some against both European armies. About 600 men, most of them former soldiers who took part in the real war, created the Exposition’s battle scenes with loud, ear–shattering battle cries, heroic charges on horseback, vicious rifle volleys, fake death scenes, and even the famous ending of one of the real battles where the Boer General Christian de Wet escaped by riding his horse to a cliff and leaping 35 feet into a pool of water.
Now, just imagine trying to concentrate on looking for an eye–patch–wearing thief while all of that happens in a large arena right beside you. I found it somewhat distracting. So did Dad, and we kept stopping to watch the battle. It’s a miracle the Pirate didn’t escape! However, just as the battle ended, I saw him. There he stood, right above us in the grandstand not 20 feet away. I punched Dad on the arm to get his attention and pointed. Wrong move! The Pirate saw me. He didn’t know me, but he sure recognized Dad, because he took off in the opposite direction toward the African village exhibits. He jumped over seats, pushed people to the ground, and ran. Dad and I pursued him with a little more regard for the other visitors, but I must admit, a few people gave us angry looks as we pushed passed.
The Pirate entered the authentic African village exhibit by jumping the wood entrance gate to that section of the exhibit grounds. While one ticket taker pursued him, Dad and I stopped and presented our tickets to the other. In and out between small straw huts, around fires where roasting meat hung, and by exotic African animals in cages, we ran. I couldn’t understand why the Pirate didn’t time jump, his one sure way of escaping.
Just when we were close to catching him, one of the large cages flew open and about 20 monkeys escaped. Monkeys ran everywhere, on huts, on people, and even up a pole that held a banner. Some of the visitors ran for their lives, while a few brave visitors tried to help capture the small gray monkeys. The exhibit turned to pure chaos. One particular monkey kept grabbing people’s hats and putting them on his head. When one hat fell off, he would run up a person’s back and grab another. Another vicious little monkey kept biting people on the back of their legs. It must have been a painful bite; for when he bit someone, they would collapse on the ground screaming. While running about trying to find the Pirate, we had to avoid monkeys, screaming people, and all the visitors who just stood back out of the way staring at the action.
While Dad kept his cool and surveyed the chaos for the Pirate, I kept one hand on my hat and ran around and between the huts looking for the thief. Suddenly, the most remarkable thing happened. I turned right in time to see Dad grab a long pike from one of the African battle re–enactors, who was trying to help capture the monkeys, and begin a fight with the Pirate. The Pirate had also grabbed a long pole, one with a colorful banner still attached to its end. They fought by swinging their pikes at each other. As their pikes met, they ka–whacked loudly. Men and women jumped out of the way and created a clearing around them. Dad and the Pirate seemed to be equally matched, Dad being only a bit taller, but both with the same muscular bodies. Around and around they fought, the Pirate’s flag pole swinging its colorful red and orange banner wildly with each move. Most of the people and even some of the monkeys stopped to watch, and the noise of the monkey chase dwindled to almost nothing. Now everyone could hear the sounds of the fight as the combatants’ pikes ka–whacked together with more and more force.
At first neither Dad nor the Pirate landed any significant blows. After a time, the Pirate swung low and took out Dad’s feet. With the whoosh of sound made by the flag and its pole, Dad thumped to the ground, flat on his back, and then sprang back to his feet all in one quick move. The crowd applauded. That’s when I realized the spectators all thought it was just more of the exposition’s entertainment!
Dad spun to approach the Pirate again, but instantly stopped. On the end of the Pirate’s pike, a small monkey clung with all his strength to the banner. The Pirate, forgetting all about Dad, shouted and cursed as he swung his pike wildly through the air trying to dislodge his unwelcome passenger. Holding on even tighter, the monkey screamed, and the crowd broke into laughter and more applause. Dad just stood by, awaiting his opportunity.
Soon, the applause made the monkey even more determined to win the battle for he grabbed at the end of the pike trying to climb aboard, right as the Pirate began to shake his pike violently. It whipped up and down rapidly and that’s when Dad struck, hitting the Pirate on the back of his knees. Down he went, face first into the sandy dirt. The monkey grabbed the flag, tearing it from the pike, and ran up a tree. I jumped onto the Pirate’s back and held him down while Dad attempted to keep the crowd back.
We could hear what I assumed were police approaching, based on their many whistles and calls for people to move out of the way, so Dad and I pulled the Pirate to his feet and made a hasty retreat into a nearby hut. In the darkness of the small dwelling, the Pirate went limp and fell to the ground. I assumed he was unconscious and let go of his arms. In an instant, he disappeared—time jumped.
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