March 2, 2020

Wikipedia says the great showman P. T. Barnum is credited for the saying, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”  Sometimes it seems like Governor Cooper takes the taxpayers of North Carolina for suckers just like our old friend P. T. Barnum. 

Barnum’s life was rich with amazing displays of entertainment and celebrated hoaxes that wowed the public and was known most of all for his “Greatest Show on Earth” – the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus.  More on that and Barnum’s tie to North Carolina, and more specifically to Governor Cooper’s native Nash County, in a moment.

Our friends at the Carolina Journal have uncovered that Governor Cooper’s NCDOT bought a circus train (minus the engine) from the Ringling Brothers circus for the price of $383,000.  According to a spokesperson, the purchase was part of the Governor’s “Strategic Transportation Initiative.”  Hmmm…

No kidding – the very strategic train cars are sitting on abandoned tracks in Nash County near the town of Spring Hope.  Purchased by the state for $383,000.  Maybe it’s a mysterious strategic component of Cooper’s much-maligned pipeline deal.  We’ll probably never know.

But the story can be found here and is worth reading.

Now, back to the Nash County connection.  According to a NC Natural and Cultural Resources website, P. T. Barnum left another circus he worked for in Virginia to start his own traveling circus.  Their first stop was in Nash County at a location near the Falls of the Tar River in what today is Rocky Mount. 

After spending the night at an inn there, on November 12, 1836, Barnum arose and accompanied the landlord of the inn to a Baptist church nearby.  Seeing a grove of trees with a podium and benches, Barnum asked the pastor if he could say a few words after the service.  He proceeded to preach to the crowd of around 300 people, imparting what was said to be at least 30 minutes of an impressive delivery.  (And there is no record of calling them suckers.)

Today, there remains a church at that site, and there is still a Barnum Road off of U.S. Highway 64 in the vicinity of the Falls of the Tar River and the newly-redeveloped Rocky Mount Mills.

We believe Governor Cooper’s DOT purchase could simply have been a nostalgic nod to old P. T. Barnum’s swing through North Carolina since Cooper has shown a penchant for treating NC taxpayers and healthcare and educational institutions like a bunch of suckers with his state budget veto and refusal to allow much-needed funds to flow to critical state projects.