Texas Town Aids Stranded Russian Circus

Artania
A member of the Russian equestrian troupe Artania performs.
CBS

They are one of the top circus acts in the world - a Russian equestrian troupe called Artania.

But instead of performing in front of sold out audiences as they did in Europe and Canada for years, CBS News correspondent Don Teague reports that today they're stranded near Dallas with no promoter, no transportation and no money.

"He is part of the show and he has been here since the beginning so he's not going to quit no matter what happens," a translator says of performer George Batsosov.

Why the Russians were abandoned last month by their promoter after just a week of performances is in dispute.

There are money issues and threatened lawsuits, but this isn't a sob story.

It's a story about people helping people - and horses in need.

Lisa Blackmon owns an equestrian center. When she heard the circus was in trouble, she moved all 19 horses into her barns and some of the Russians into an office building turned bunkhouse.

"They're such good guys and they're such hard workers," Blackmon said tearfully. "And we've just fallen in love with them, you know, and we want them to have a fair chance."

Blackmon has also mobilized an army of volunteers.

"We brought 100 pieces of friend chicken and potato salad and a case of beer," said volunteer Donna Orr.

Good-hearted Texans have donated more than just food and money to the Russians and their horses. When one of the horses needed life-saving emergency surgery, a horse lover came forward and paid for that.

The bill? Almost $7,000.

"Well, I love animals, absolutely love animals and love horses," said Jill Hegna, who paid the bill.

The Russians are performing make-shift shows in Blackmon's riding arena to raise money.

"We're glad we can help them," said one audience member.

They plan to pay everyone back if they can only get back on the road.

But being stuck in Texas has some advantages.

"Good Barbecue," says one of the Russians.

Barbecue is near the top of the list. Then there are those wild nights at a nearby karaoke bar.

The U.S. and Russia have a troubled history but here in Texas, they are all under one tent.