Riding an Elephant

Riding an Elephant

A Story by Beth

A story from younger days.


It was a small roadside affair along the highway to the Arkansas Ozarks. Though I was too young to read the purple letters on the hand-painted wooden sign, later perusals of old photographs tell me that it read ‘Elephant Rides’ in an elaborate style.  There was only one elephant in the arena, fenced round with flimsy wire that would have collapsed should the great animal absentmindedly strike it with her trunk. Shaky wooden steps climbed up to a platform about the height of the elephant’s back. It’s a wonder I wasn’t afraid, but maybe the fact that my grandfather was behind me, steadying me with his roughened hand as I clung to his blue denim overalls, kept me from turning around. My sister, the brave one, laughed down at us from the platform where she stood with a group of eager children. Her smooth brown ponytail swung about her back as she grinned with anticipation. Then it was time. The elephant was led up to the platform, a strange boxy piece of equipment with peeling metal handrails strapped to its surprisingly bony spine. A prickly red blanket was spread inside the railed box, and the turbaned handler began helping children climb on. I sat in front, holding onto the metal rails, my sister was behind, clutching my stomach, and my grandfather behind her. A few other children clambered aboard. The great elephant stood patiently, occasionally flicking her trunk at a pestering fly. Then the handler hopped down from the platform into the arena, took the beast’s rope, and we began to move. It was a strangely circular motion " smooth rocking from one side to the other, much like a small boat swaying in a calm lake. Straw poked through the red blanket, scratching my bare legs. Through the novelty of the ride, I felt bad for the elephant, doomed by the whim of her handler to walk circles in the steamy Ozark heat with sweaty loud children shrieking from her back, and not even any shade to cool off in; only an aluminum bucket filled with tepid water. The thought saddened me.

© 2010 Beth

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Added on January 3, 2010
Last Updated on January 21, 2010



Phoenix, AZ

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