By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Not many people get the idea for their future career during a session of detention, but Robert Buchin Jr., also known as “Gator Bob,” is an exception.
Buchin, an alligator keeper who works with the Magic Land circus, says that he has always had a fascination with the circus and animals since reading a biography of famous lion tamer Gunther Gable Williams during a detention session in eighth grade. Years later, while on his way to a job, a train for the Ringling Brothers circus passed through his town.
“We had to wait for the train to go by so while I was sitting there I was thinking how great it would be to have a job like that,” he said.
As luck would have it, a year later he answered an ad for an animal handler willing to travel in a local newspaper, at that point not realizing it was a job with the Ringling Brothers circus.
“I was looking to go places so I went and applied for the job and then I found out later it was with Ringling Bros. and I got the job,” he said.
He started his work at the circus in 1988 as an assistant groomer and worked his way up to being a full-time groom for the animals with the Ringling Brothers. After injuring his knee in a motorcycle accident, he had to leave. However, he continued to work with other circuses and carnivals and continued his passion for animals, saying he even helped a neighbor clean out her horse stalls for 10 dollars a day.
He also eventually found out from his grandmother that his great-grandfather had also been a circus employee with the Ringling Brothers circus in 1905, which he says he had not known until his grandmother told him.
His next circus work will be with the Magic Land Circus, which opens in Liberal April 6. He will be there with his new Cayman alligator friend Wallie, who he named after the sidekick from the famous “Crocodile Dundee” franchise. The circus will also feature acrobats, clowns and other animals such as boa snakes and pythons.
Liberal will also have the honor of being the debut town for Wallie.
“He’s mostly for show and for the kids because of the type of circus it is – it’s a smaller family circus – it’s generally for the kids and little kids in this area don’t usually get to see things like alligators and pythons and boas,” he said.
Wallie is the newest animal addition to the Magic Land circus and since, Buchin says, he is the only one with animal experience, he was tasked with taking care of the critter. Buchin says that he has enjoyed working with the gator and says that Wallie has been easy to take care of, citing how alligators are rather low maintenance compared to other animals.
For people wanting to attend the circus on April 6, Buchin had this to say.
“It is a very clean family oriented show, it’s a great place to take the youngsters and I think everyone will have a great time and Wallie would really like to see a large amount of people for his debut.”