Copyright Theolonius McTavish 2004.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF ELEPHANTS -- Or, can you tell me where I can find “Babar”, “Dumbo” or “Topsy”? --
According to Google, 826,000 websites are devoted to topic of elephants.
Just imagine what would life be like if there were no behemoths rambling about to give someone a bad-hair day?
Actually these boisterous bruisers have been around for millennia; so long in fact that 4,000 years ago, people in Indus Valley decided it was about time to tame them.
Besides hauling around oodles of stuff, including monarchs and their entourages, plump pachyderms became weapon of choice for ancient warriors with lots of time on their hands. After all, no one moves quickly in a military campaign using ‘Babar’, ‘Dumbo’ or ‘Topsy’; everyone that is except Hannibal, who in 218 BC took a joy ride with 37 elephants over Alps to win Second Punic War.
Not to be outdone by continental hordes, nor content to be just 'King of Castle', British boasted of their intention to rule whole wide world before engineers laid claim to that feat first. To that end, they thought a few elephants might do trick. So, Royal Navy got busy and named two 18th century storage vessels and a gun-ship, “HMS Elephant”, (in spite of fact that gun-powder had rendered elephant obsolete as a high-performance fighting machine).
Wars involving blessedly big beasts and man-made monsters would soon fall by wayside, in favor of more popular "rat race", (a leisure activity pursued by ripsnorting rodents and robber-baron wannabes). Clearly, elephant would need a new reason for being if it was going to survive slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Since pet rocks, silly putty and slinkies had not yet been invented, rich and famous still needed something to amuse themselves. Elephants looked like a good idea at time. So, with a new lease on life, these hefty hairless creatures became objects of affection and "must-have" items of conspicuous consumption for several dudes of distinction. French Emperor Charlemagne acquired a hungry household pet named “Abul-Abbas”, while Pope Leo X, (with few friends around to chew fat and down a pint of grog), found solace through a spiritual connection to his non-ruminating hoofed animal companion, “Hanno”.
With far too many elephants and sacred cows hanging around and taking up space on planet, not to mention scads of young men with blunderbusses, and numerous old bucks bored out of their trees romping around back forty, a new trophy sport emerged to keep these testy titans occupied. While lads were enthusiastically engaged in "offing" floundering floppy-eared things plodding about plains of Africa -- taxidermists enjoyed a booming business upon their return. Apparently, only ones who complained bitterly about trophy hunt were those left behind -- an odd assortment of neglected nitpicking nags, abandoned paramours, and inconsolable damsels-in-distress.
Seeing “Old World” get all credit for coming up with ways to tame or trounce elephants, “New World” cowboys were a tad ticked off. The pursuit of happiness pioneers, (with precious little to do in "home of brave"), decided it was high time to kick butt for a change. So, they tossed yoke of yucky British tea, put an end to tyranny of tasteless crumpets, and created new job opportunities for bronco-busters (in a country with vanishing buffalo, no elephants, and a wide array of flea-bitten mules). A glorious and bright future lay ahead for those who dared to ride bulls bareback, or those willing to take up less stressful occupations such as tenderfooted cowpokes, barnyard groomers, and burger flippers.