The circus wagons come to a bridge detour on the way to Springfield. They're due at a parade at 1 pm, and they move onto the detour. A man, Flash, watches from hiding and then he and two of his circus workers run out and remove the detour sign.
Despite one wagon getting stuck repeatedly in the mud, the train continues on to Springfield. When they get there they find a sign from Al saying that his circus is already there. Tim realizes that Al has tricked them out of the booking at the Springfield, but tells Pete and Joey to get some horses and follow him. They ride ahead while the wagons head into Springfield as quick as they can.
Soon, Tim, Joey, and Pete arrive and discover that Al's parade is ready to start. Tim figures that if they can hold Al's parade up for a few minutes, their people will get to the main street first. Joey suggests that Tim talk to Al, figuring that Al will gloat. Meanwhile, Joey and Pete will sneak into the camp.
Al addresses his workers, saying that they need to hit the main street at exactly 1. Tim comes over and congratulates Al on putting one over on him. Al congratulates him on being a sport. Meanwhile, Pete and Joey sneak into the camp and duck under a wagon. They then join Tim and Flash greets his "friend" Pete. The parade starts and the horses run off on their own since the two men secretly untied them. Al realizes that Tim is responsible and warns him that he doesn't have the contract yet.
Later back at the circus, Tim tells Corky that Al is one of his best friends. Joey goes over to see Mr. Jethroe Ames, the head of the Springfield Fair. Colonel Jack has sent a letter to Corky saying that he sent them a present and it's at the rail station. Corky and Pete go there to get the present, while Tim and Joey go into town and finds Al with Ames. Ames says that Tim is too late and he's decided to give Al the contract since he's seen Al's new attraction. Al introduces his new trapeze artist, Gloria George.
s Ames gets out the contract, Corky runs in and whispers to Joey what Jack sent them. Joey speaks up and tells Ames that he should look at their new attraction, the only one west of the Mississippi. Al figures that they're stalling, but Ames insists on seeing it. They go outside and see the new present: Hortense the Hippopotamus. Impressed, Ames agrees to give the contract to Tim.
Back at the Garson circus, Al and Flash discuss the situation. Flash suggests that they file phony charges against Tim, but Al warns that Sheriff Jim Henderson won't stand for it. The other man suggests that they get Henderson out of town for a day. Henderson's brother-in-law is the deputy, Herman Kratzmeyer, and he's a high school dropout at the age of 30. Al figures that they have to deal with Hortense, and Flash figures that they'll have it tossed in jail instead and lays out his plan.
Later, Al brings Herman to the hippo cage and claims that it's murder. Pete brings Tim, and the other circus workers, and Herman says that Hortense killed Flash. Flash's hat and shoes are in the cage, but everyone laughs. Joey points out that Hortense is a vegetarian, but Al suggests that Hortense mistook Flash for a carrot. Herman arrests Hortense and draws his gun, ordering them to stand back. Tim explains the situation but Herman doesn't care and says that he'll kill Hortense. Al objects but Herman would rather shoot a live hippo and says that he'll do it at noon. Tim tells Al to tell the truth, but Herman says that Al is under his protection and orders them to drive Hortense's wagon to the jail for the execution.
Once the wagon leaves, Tim tells the others that there's not much he can do. Joey figures that once Al gets the contract, he'll tell Herman the top. Just to make certain, they'll stop by the jail right before noon. Corky suggests that Tim and Al are acting pretty silly before he goes off.
Al tells Ames that Hortense ate Flash, and breaks into tears on cue. He quickly signs the contract and returns to the circus. Al spots a bystander, Punk, and offers him a dollar and a free ticket to the circus to go to a rundown cabin and tell the waiting Flash to meet him at the jail before noon. Punk goes to the shed and passes on Al's message. Flash is practicing the shell-and-pea game, and demonstrates for Punk. He soon suckers Punk into placing down some money, but Punk keeps winning and Flash keeps playing.
Tim and Joey arrive at the sheriff's office and find Herman preparing to shoot Hortense. Al shows up and tells Herman that Flash is alive and on his way. Herman figures that they're all working together, and he'll shoot Hortense once a photographer arrives.
Flash keeps losing and Punk takes him for his coat, hat, and watch. Punk points out that it's almost noon, and says that he's play the shell game before and his father was with the circus for twenty years. Flash meets up with Corky and Bimbo, and says that he needs to get to town quick. They both mount up on Bimbo and head for Springfield.
As Herman prepares to shoot Hortense, Tim warns him that he's making a big mistake and tells him to hold it up until the sheriff gets there. Herman refuses but discovers that he forgot to load his rifle. Corky, Bimbo, and Flash arrive and Flash explains that he's not dead. Tim and Joey say that they were insulting an officer of the law, and Herman arrests Al for a couple of days. Al says that he still has the contract, and Ames arrives to warn that there's nothing he can do about it. Tim points out that the contract says that Ames can cancel it if Al can't present his show, and Al can't go on as ringleader. Ames agrees to sign Tim's contract, and Herman takes Al and Flash to jail while Hortense, Tim, Joey, and Corky share a laugh.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 21, 2017