Juggling ‘Howze-fly’ Creates Stir

Another archival newspaper article – and, yes, I did write serious stuff, but they’re packed away sort of like the Ark was — as in Raiders of the Lost (Linda Smith)

If you ever think, “Now I’ve seen everything,” — think again.

When Edgar Howze walked into the newspaper office bragging about his juggling housefly, we suppressed a collective smile. But as he plopped the set-up, complete with a live fly, on a desk, and the tiny fellow began to twirl his tiny cork dumbbell, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The many-legged Rocky Balboa only dropped it when the photographer tried to take his picture. Nervous, I guess.

Howze had the fly perched on a cork pedestal with a pin through the hard shell covering his back, and had made the teeny dumbbell out of tiny pieces of cork. Pleased with the impression he had made on the impressionable newspaper staff, he presented it to us as a gift. We named the fly, “Scoop.” (The editor happened to be on vacation at the time).

Scoop was whisked away with the circulation manager to be exhibited elsewhere, so was not present when the sports editor returned from wherever sports editors disappear to. He had only the word of the associate editor and myself that such a talented insect existed. And he was not believing any of it. Pictures, we told him. We have pictures. “Pictures can be doctored,” he said. The sports editor may not believe this, yet.

Howze said this fly-by-night adventure began when he left his southern hometown for Detroit in 1930. It was during the Great Depression and one of the banks had folded and had been turned into a bar. Edgar dropped in with his older brother, Frank. As he bellied up to the bar, some guy intent on making some change told Edgar that for 30 cents he could see his trained housefly.

Unable to pass up such a unique offer, Edgar laid his money down. The guy produced a penny matchbox holding a cork, a pin, little dumbbells, and a fly, and set them on the bar. The fly’s many legs started pumping and the dumbbell twirled. Enthralled over his new discovery of the talent of flies, Edgar said that was 30 cents well spent.

Well, Edgar captured and exhibited many of his own flies after that, entertaining his friends at the plant where he worked. Years later, he retired and moved back here to his hometown. Going through his old routine at a family barbecue, he grinned triumphantly at a fellow from Houston.

“And you thought Texas had everything,” he said.

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