In the late 1800’s, a young man left his home in Lithuania and made his way to England. There he found a job with the owner of a circus.
The young man had a talent for carving figures out of wood, and the circus
owner had a carousel in need of some repair.
The young man went along when the showman brought his circus
and the carousel to America. From England’s port to New York City was a journey of some months; the young man lived among the animals in the belly of the ship, and carved
their figures out of wood for the showman’s carousel.
The land of his birth was thick with trees and his father had traded in horses. Besides wood, he knew the horses best. The soulful eyes
and the manes that curled like an ancient alphabet; horses shook their heads, and were not ashamed.
In America, the young man became a carousel maker, and his
horses were liveried and majestic. He covered them in jewels and put roses on
their bridles, gave them golden manes, and silver. He gave them what men give
to what they love.
His hand-carved carousel horses were gilded, rose-clad
wonders, and the young man made his fortune. And lost it, as many did, in ’29. They used to stand in line for carousel rides. Now they stood in line for bread.
In time, the world recovered, men's faces turned to the
sky. Paces quickened, preferences changed. Roller coasters over carousels. Fiberglass over wood. The gilded horse was a relic of a wisdom all but gone.
In his day, he was called “the Michelangelo of carousel
carvers”. He died in 1946, penniless and broken, and Marcus Illions never loved his children or his wife the way he loved
the horses. But he was immortal once, for a moment.