When an old man is found wandering in the parking area of the Circus Vargas, his owner invites him to come to his office to call the Green Haven nursing home to take him back home. The old man tells his name, Jacob Jankowski, and explains that he worked in the Benzini Bros. Circus in 1931. The owner is curious about it since in 1931 there was the most famous disaster in history of circuses in the Benzini Circus and asks Jacob to tell what happened. In 1931, during the Great Depression, the Polish American Jacob lives with his beloved parents in a small ranch and studies veterinary in the Cornell University. During his final exams, his parents die in a car accident. Jacob learns that he is homeless and without any money since his parents used their house to get a loan for his studies. Jacob leaves his town and jumps in a train in movement without destination to seek a job. Soon he finds that this is the Benzini Brothers Circus train and he finds a job cleaning the animals' excrement from the wagons. When the unstable and violent owner of the traveling circus, August, learns that Jacob is a veterinary, he hires him to train his attraction, the elephant Rosie. August and his bodyguard Blackie, throw workers that complain off the train in movement to get rid of them. Meanwhile Jacob meets August's wife and lead attraction Marlena, he immediately falls in love with her. Jacob gets closer to Marlena and soon he discovers that she is also in love with him, but she fears August.