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Circopedia was originally created with the support of the Big Apple Circus
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In The Spotlight

Woodcock RBBB.jpg

BILL & BARBARA WOODCOCK

William "Buckles" Woodcock was born on February 26, 1935 in Lancaster, Missouri, to an old American circus family. Although his father, William H. Woodcock (1904-1963), was a first-generation circus man (and became a legendary elephant trainer with a passion for circus history), his mother was Sarah "Babe" Orton (1902-1988), whose grandfather, Hiram , a former sailor and tavern-keeper of British origin, had started a circus in Wisconsin in 1854. As the feisty Babe would often say, "My family was in the circus when the Ringling brothers were still wearing wooden shoes."

Bill (to differentiate him from his father, William) Woodcock grew up around animals, elephants in particular. When he was a toddler, he was often buckled to his mother on a harness to keep him in check and safe around his father's elephants, thus his nickname. At age 11, he began working in the circus as a candy butcher(American) Concession vendor; so named because one of the first successful concessionaires of the American circus was a former butcher.. But Buckles had other plans: in 1951, over his father's objections, he found a job as an animal handler with another elephant trainer, Eugene "Arky" Scott, who worked with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

Obviously, there was not much William Senior could do. He and Buckles reunited two years later and began working together. Since his father's vision was failing, Buckles's role in the partnership became increasingly more prominent. In 1951, William Woodcock had acquired a four-year old Burmese woodland elephant, Anna May, from the Al G. Kelly-Miller Bros. Circus, and Buckles began working with her. Anna May, who was a remarkably smart and talented performer, would become America's most famous elephant and stay in the Woodcock family until May 2004, when she went into retirement at Riddle's Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Greenbrier, Arkansas. She died there that same year, on December 21.... (more...)

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