Thursday, June 10, 2004
Out in the West Texas town of -- Towanda?
Performing cowboy visits for a spell
By Bob Holliday
TOWANDA -- Cowboy Randy Erwin twirled the rope in a giant circle and teased the children at Towanda Elementary
School with "Should I?" when they begged him to jump through.
Erwin, who moments earlier had fascinated
the children with yodeling, wasn't quite ready to oblige.
First, he coaxed one of the children inside the twirling
rope, making her the center of attention.
Still not ready to do what the children wanted, Erwin asked a little
boy from the audience to help him demonstrate rope twirling.
In the process, Erwin delivered a science lesson,
talking about Newton's laws of gravitation and motion.
To illustrate, he stopped twirling and the rope fell
to the gym floor.
Only momentarily impressed, the children again urged Erwin to jump through the rope.
This time he did, to the delight of the young audience of about 100 children sitting on the gymnasium floor last month at
Erwin, a children's entertainer whose visits to numerous libraries in Illinois, Missouri and Indiana
will include a June 17 stop in Normal, got his biggest reaction when he took his twirling rope right into the student audience.
Some screamed as the rope passed just over their heads.
By this time, Erwin had worked up quite a sweat and decided
to slow the pace of the presentation.
He asked for questions.
"Where do you live?"
"How old are you?"
"Have you ever ridden a horse?"
"Yes, I've ridden a horse. I had one as a kid, but I can't afford to keep him anymore."
Erwin, whose real name is Randy Erwin Skalicky, dropped the last name because he didn't think it was a good stage name.
Erwin has performed much of his life. His interest in music and performing was cemented early when growing up on a
rice farm in Texas and listening to Bach and Beethoven for hours on an old stereo.
Kids keep him sharp
Stints in a variety of bands followed before Erwin decided about eight years ago that entertaining children was his calling.
"Kids keep you show-sharp. If they're bored, you know right away," Erwin said.
has four nationally distributed compact discs and has done music for several film scores and television commercials, has been
yodeling since his mid-20s, when his baritone matured.
Erwin's Towanda and Normal visits are pegged to summer
reading programs. His Normal Public Library performances are open only to participants in the summer reading program.
His children's entertainment business got a boost with the recent release of the Disney animated film "Home on
the Range." In the film, Erwin provides the distinctive yodeling that enables villain Alameda Slim to hypnotize and steal
This summer, however, it's more about Midwest library visits than Hollywood, with Erwin having a full
schedule of library shows.
Yodeling involves singing with abrupt changes between the normal chest voice and the
"You either have it or don't," Erwin said.
He's happy to have the gift and
plans to continue entertaining children.
"I'll probably drop the trick rope when I'm 80 or disabled,"