That happened with the current Elks Magazine in a piece written by Tom R. Kovach titled "The Amazing Compassion and Intelligence of Elephants."
I wrote an article for the same magazine awhile back about the German hyperinflation of 1923 (that doesn't sound like me) in which I said it gave rise to a 34-year-old-excorporal named Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Workingmans Party, (the Nazis).
Hitler spent nine months in prison where he wrote the first volume of his Mein Kampf when German housewives needed a wheelbarrow to haul enough marks to buy a loaf of bread. People were faced with calculations of astronomical dimensions. The German mark reached the exchange rate with the U.S. dollar of one to 420 trillion. It was a good time to travel to Germany, believe me.
But getting back to the elephants, Kovach wrote "when one or more members of the herd would stay with a sick animal" as long as possible, Now that's compassion!
He also wrote that Asian and African elephants are different. The Asian pachyderms have been domesticated for over 2,000 years, while the African elephants "are rarely trained."
I wrote about them, too, when I was doing a bicentennial column for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, and I have been fascinated by them ever since.
I told about "Hero," the Elkton elephant which terrorized Brookings County in May of 1916 when it escaped from the Ortman Brothers Circus and went on a rage after is was abused by a drunken handler. It was finally shot by one Paul Honke with a Savage rifle – but it had something like 300 bullets in its carcass put there by frantic Elktonites who didn't know they were on a safari.
I wasn't there at the time, so I don't know all of the details of the rampage, but suffice to say that Hero's body went to South Dakota State Agriculture College (now SDSU). And I understand that the university in Vermillion got the skeleton. Honke got $10 for the fatal shot!
We've got a family connection with an elephant, too. Jim and Margaret Gunderson (Phyllis' uncle and aunt) were sleeping in their farm house a mile north of the village of Gayville, when Margaret awoke and shouted: "Jim, Jim wake up! There's an elephant in our yard."
Jim rolled over and said: "Go back to sleep, Margaret, there's no (expletive deleted) elephant out there."
But there was. It had escaped from a circus playing in Gayville at the time.
The Elk's Magazine renewed my interest in those giant beasts which have always enthralled me. Hairy mammoths once roamed across South Dakota thousands of years ago, and apparently they aroused my interests in elephants.
I have visited the Labrea Tar Pits in California and the "dig" in Hot Springs, one of the Black Hills' premier tourist attractions.
They say an elephant never forgets. Neither do I, as far as the magnificent pachyderms are concerned.
© 2008 Robert F. Karolevitz