31 May 2007
Buying The Elephant
Once upon a time I bought an elephant. Now it was with the help of virtually every child living in Fresno County in California, but she was my elephant because we were both five years of age and besides I wanted her to be my elephant. We all voted and gave her the name of "Nosey". Not exactly original, but what do you expect from first graders who just wanted an elephant for a pet. She went to live at Roeding Park, one of the few totally green places in Fresno. It was much easier to keep her there than in the garage as I suggested at the time, but at least I got to visit her regularly.
Over the years I would make a point of calling on Nosey whenever I came to Fresno. In 1965, I brought my children to visit my elephant and in the 1980s my first grandchild went as well. Nosey knew how much everyone loved her. She was just a natural star and queen of the zoo even when she had been joined by other elephants. It was her presence that made the growth of a small local zoo into a modern scientific facility.
In 1993, the terrible news came down. Nosey had cancer. Her keepers kept her as comfortable as possible, but the time when they could no longer do so was quickly approaching so her birthday party was held a little early that year. It was an unusual day. There were people in their 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, teens, and infants in arms. They had all come to say goodbye to "their" elephant. She was a gracious matriarch of a whole city not just a herd.
Every once in a while you would see an adult brush away a tear while holding a child to see Nosey dining on her "birthday cake" of fruit frozen in ice. Shortly after the party, my elephant left as peacefully as she had arrived, her importance marked by the front page headline. The city had lost an icon that had to be immortalized in some fashion.
If you go to the zoo that Nosey built now called Chaffee Zoo, walk over to the elephant enclosure. In front of it is a statue of my elephant. There are always a few children around it petting the pachyderm. Nosey is still doing her job, attracting young children to the wonders of animals and a love of nature.
Moral of the story: If you ever get a chance, buy an elephant.