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"What I like most is the idea," Perleberg said. "It means something to me that if a man wants to catch a whale and cart it around this country, he can get the money and do it. Take off, live a free life, show the whale, and in the end I guess you end up giving more to Uncle Sam than I do. Now, that's all good. There's something very good about that. If this were some Communist country, I guess you would need an act of Congress to do a crazy thing like this."
"If they have a Congress," Jerry said.
"Right. Well, I know you're busy but I just wanted to say thanks, because I enjoyed this and I like the truck, and most of all because I kept thinking that what you are, carrying a whale around—you are a perfect example of the free enterprise system of this country."
Jerry nodded bashfully at the grandeur in that, and the men shook hands and, when Perleberg left, Jerry mused on how growing apples and trucking a dead whale around weren't all that different. It was both a case of wanting and trying, improving and expanding. Americans of Malone's age have been shaped by the sharpest of contradictory economic experiences—first, growing up in the harsh, sore days of Depression and then suddenly being tossed on the labor market at the instant of boom when all of the rules of a childhood are out the window.
The generation is hybrid, related neither to those who came before with Calvinistic devotion to long hours and frugality, nor to those who followed, who have known only affluence and the leisure and idealism it affords. Instead the Malones believe, on the one hand, in the honor of good, old-fashioned employment and, on the other, in risking the fruits of all that on speculative home runs. Hard work, easy money. You really must work for yourself if you are to manage as an apostle of these twin faiths.
Malone has always been an overextender. The Little Irvy scheme did not just happen. It sort of took shape in the marvelous sequence of Jerry's life and, as soon as the whale business began to look successful, Malone was promptly off spreading himself thin again.
Rambling in some disorder, he explains: "See, here's what happened. First I had bought these two cute little Casey Jones trains, kiddie rides, and then I bought a trailer and put a monkey circus in it," says Jerry, getting started. "I brought in an artist from Albuquerque, and many people said he painted the most beautiful trailer front they'd ever seen. I bought 10 monkeys, bars, rings—everything for the kids—and then I got Eric Rasmussen, who has the most successful Arabian Giantess in the business, and, also, everyone thinks he does the best bally. And he was great. He gave it all this stuff on a recording about how this one monkey shaves and that other one does something else like that, but even with this and the trailer front it just never caught on. Because, like Charlotte had told me, what do I know about monkey circuses?
"Not only that, though, but then in Phoenix I saw a friend, Mr. Kelly, and the world's largest alligator, but his alligator just died, so he gave me a good price on his trailer, and I fixed it up and put two seals in there. So you see, by then I had two Casey Jones trains and two trailers.
"But what I found was that a show can't work just with a beautiful paint job. People want beautiful equipment, like the truck. I had to do something. I sold the two Casey Jones trains. Then I was down in L.A. and I ran across this guy doing shopping centers named Bebe the Clown. We made a deal and I took my monkey circus trailer and fixed it up different inside with a little theater and pillows all over the floor for the children. Then I got Bebe to change his name to Macaroni and we bought a St. Bernard dog and called him Noodles—so now you got Macaroni and his friend Noodles, and maybe we can find a spaghetti company somewhere to work something out with. Macaroni shows movies and jokes with the kids. It's going very well. There's a lot of shopping centers in L.A.
"I've still got the seal trailer setting back in Visalia. We had a fire and one of the seals was killed, and the other I put in a friend's pool in Bakersfield, and it was stolen out of there. Now I'll be damned if I can figure out who would want to steal a seal in Bakersfield, California, but they did. Now the trailer in Visalia, the trouble was, it was never meant to be a seal trailer. That was my mistake, but it'll sell because a lot of guys know I got it and, if you do have the world's largest alligator, it is perfect for that."