Fourth of July: JoJo and the Nose Trick


One Fourth of July, 70 or so years ago, we sat out on our grandparents’ front porch, which faced out to the road going through town. The road took a sharp right turn right there, so everything slowed up. We were waiting for the parade, with everyone dressed up in their uniforms and the two school bands.

The porch was not much of a sanctuary. The wood decking had splintered and somehow, because I was always barefoot, I kept getting sharp splinters into my foot. I could bluff for a while but soon enough I would be limping and would get caught. That meant one to hold you down, one to heat the needle, and one to find the tweezers and the iodine.

But this was the Fourth of July and I was trying to be careful. I sat on the stairs with my two sisters. We could see the parade was three blocks away, headed our direction. A big young man, with a colorful loose shirt, came up to us. He had a broad smile, we knew him from our Aunt Gladys, who had said, that’s JoJo Sprague, don’t worry, he’s fine. Later, when I saw Quasimodo and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I would realize that was JoJo.

He was here to show us a trick. He pulled a big wad of dirty cotton twine out of his shirt, rolled it into a ball in his big meaty mitts and shoved the whole thing into one of his nostrils, with an even broader smile. We thought that was the trick. But then, he reached up into his other nostril, rummaged around, and caught one end of the wad of twine and pulled it down. Now he had it, both ends were hanging from each nostril and he could pull them back and forth and did, with glee. I can still see the string and the glee.

There are apparently Tantric exercises involving nostrils and passage, but in JoJo’s case, this was a completely local phenomenon and it took our breath, and speech, completely away. Jojo left and then thankfully, the parade came with hundreds of men and women, in the uniforms they had saved since the war and dusted off, for the parade. 

God bless America, we are a weird one, but we are a land and a will.


Peter Miller
Peter Miller
Peter Miller runs the Peter Miller Design Bookshop, in Pioneer Square, in the alley between First Avenue and Alaska Way. He is there, every day. He has written three books, Lunch at the Shop, Five Ways to Cook, and How to Wash the Dishes. A fourth book, Shopkeeping, A Manual, will be published in Spring 2024, by Princeton Architectural Press.



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