This is a guest blog from Barrie Mahoney, who lives in the Canary Islands. Barrie was a teacher, head teacher and school inspector in the UK, and also a reporter in mainland Spain, before moving to the Canaries as a newspaper editor. He is the author of two crime thrillers: Journeys and Jigsaws, Threads and Threats and several non-fiction books, Twitters from the Atlantic, Message in a Bottle, Expat Survival, Living the Dream and Letters from the Atlantic. His weekly column ‘Twitters from the Atlantic’ is featured in several newspapers, including the English newspaper The Leader (www.yourlocalnewspaper.info), where this article appeared on July 22, 2013. His article, while being of general interest, should also prove fascinating to anyone fond of the Old West. Here it is:THROWING KNIVES AT MOTHER
No, rest assured, this is not another harrowing tale of domestic violence, but a skilful performance by Dorian Ledda and his family who have been performing in Gran Canaria’s Sioux City for the last 28 years of so...
These were the opening words of an article that I wrote for a magazine several years ago, following a visit to Sioux City, which could best be described as a Wild West experience on an island in the Atlantic. It is the stuff that generations of boys and girls read about in their comic books and watched countless films of baddies being dealt instant justice by goodies. Sadly, Sioux City is no more, as it closed its gates for the last time a few days ago, for financial reasons, after 42 years of faithful service to the cowboy loving public on holiday in our island paradise.
The Cañon del Aguila (Eagle Canyon) offered a barren landscape and gave the perfect opportunity to recreate a pioneer Old West town based in the 1850s, with real buildings that are unique in Europe with a complete construction, and not just simple film set frontages. Sioux City was just the stuff to feed the imagination, relive childhood memories, as well as being a great place for a day out.
The town was constructed and used as a film set in 1972, at a cost of two million dollars, for major Hollywood Wild West films, such as Clint Eastwood’s ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘A Few Dollars More’ and ‘Take a Long Hard Ride’. Gran Canaria’s desert-like landscape in the south of the island was just right for this kind of film in those days.
Once filmmaking was completed, the set became redundant and was opened to the public as a theme park with a difference. Until last week, visitors would wander expectantly through the gates of this Wild West town and be instantly transported into a world of cowboys and Indians, bar brawls and bank hold-ups.
It is in this Wild West town that I interviewed Dorian Ledda and his family – mother, Katy and brothers Davide and Daniele, an Italian family from Turin, who presented breathtaking performances of knife throwing, lassoes, whips and horse riding. Originally the Ledda family performed in Italian circuses, theatres and television before moving to Gran Canaria thirty years ago. Indeed, Dorian’s father was throwing knives at his mother when she was pregnant with Dorian, and so throwing knives at mother seemed the most natural thing in the world to do!
Dorian’s brother, Daniele, also featured in the Guinness World Book of Records for jumping with a lasso, as well as appearing in a feature for the BBC. Dorian and his two brothers performed at Sioux City and Katy had knives, axes and flaming torches thrown at her. Indeed, watching the poor lady endure this torment from her sons with such a contented smile on her face made for a very unusual Sunday morning’s entertainment!
Although the knife throwing act was performed several times a day for the last thirty years, fortunately without an accident, I couldn’t help thinking that it would not be a good idea to have a row with your sons or let them throw knives at you after a night of partying!
Sadly, this fictional universe and unique recreational activity for tourists visiting the island, created as a labour of love by several generations of craftsmen and entertainers over four decades, has now come to an end. Like so many who know Sioux City well, I hope that a way will be found to open it once again to an adoring public, who can once again watch magnificent horses, can-can dancers in beautiful frilly costumes, cowboys falling from buildings, as well as Indians throwing knives at mother.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, Twitters from the Atlantic (ISBN: 978 1480033986). Available as paperback, Kindle and iBooks. iPhone/iPad Apps: ExpatInfo and CanaryIsle now available from the Apple Store.
Thank you, Barrie! Interestingly, my next Black Horse Western The Magnificent Mendozas features a circus troupe, with two family members in a knife throwing act. And of course Tenerife features in my latest crime thriller Blood of the Dragon Trees - published by Crooked Cat and available from Amazon.co.uk - http://goo.gl/fsLk3X And anyone interesting in the writing of a western or any genre fiction might like to cast an eye over Write a Western in 30 Days! - http://goo.gl/FbQGr1