“Don’t try this at home, kids,” urged Michelangelo Nock, the host of the Nerveless Nocks show and the owner of a particularly great name.
I’ve spent a few days at the Missouri State Fair now and there was one new show that I just couldn’t resist any longer.
The Nerveless Nocks, a band of “Thrill Performers” and “Dare Devil Acrobatics” (according to their sign, at least) have a particularly impressive setup. It’s a playground of pipes and wires and every time I passed by that corner lot by the Mathewson (Nocks Corner, naturally) I couldn’t help but think about how I’d like to see the show that occurs at a place like that.
They even had a steel ball of death! The whole family loves the steel ball of death, especially the kids! How could anyone resist?
I finally got the chance on Sunday evening — the sun was in my face but the show was about to begin and they were playing songs like the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Stroker Ace” to get us in the right mood.
Excuse me, I’ve just been informed that the preferred nomenclature for the steel ball of death is the “Globe of Thunder.” Perhaps even the “Extreme Globe of Thunder” if you’re feeling frisky. That’s more family friendly.
The troupe started us off with an easy one: the “Tower of Chairs.” This was undertaken by Govian Espana, the younger half of the father/son team that makes up the core of the Nocks show. One man, five white wooden chairs, a light breeze and no problems at all.
“We’ve taken it around the world,” said Nock.
The double space wheel is an impressive-looking device and produces impressive results. It’s a trick that clearly requires a good partner. Two stuntmen standing in large, sideless metal cylinders on an axis have to read each other well to move the rig without hurting each other. The elder Espana, Ramon, went so far as to walk and even jump rope on the outside of the circle as his son focused all his concentration on doing what he could to make the thing spin just right.
“We’ve been lucky, no injuries,” said Nock.
Oh my, it’s steel ball of death time! Excuse me — Globe of Thunder. I hope they light it on fire and fill it with disagreeable animals.
The hardest part has to be gathering proper centrifugal force to ride the walls. It took Ramon a good few seconds to do it, but eventually he circumnavigated it with style.
His son got even more vertical, but not all the way upside down. Not yet at least.
Then they announced it, as though they weren’t going to do it the whole time. You don’t bother to pack around a Globe of Thunder unless you plan to go all the way upside down in it.
And eventually the father-and-son duo double-teamed the globe. It was fast, mesmerizing and it was a few amazing seconds of nearly symmetrical deathball motorcycle action.
They make it look easy so it can be difficult to grasp just how dangerous these stunts can be — but you shouldn’t doubt for a second that they are.
If you don’t go see their show (at noon, 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily until Sunday, when they forgo the last show) for anything else, go see it for the moment when the Espanas are both hitting the Globe of Thunder at full speed at the same time.
“I think it went fantastic,” said Nock, “Missourians really like live shows.”
“Some towns are more exceptional.”