Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I’ve been really blocked up with a bit of research and it is all Kees’ fault. If you don’t know Kees’ blog, you should. Kees blogs from Africa and in between outrageous photoshops he tells Wilbur Smith-like tales of life in the bush punctuated by stunning wildlife photos.
So, Kees does a post on elephant executions. Quite possibly the most bizarre of which happened in east Tennessee about a century ago. They hung a 5-ton elephant from a railroad derrick in Erwin, TN in 1916. It was actually a lynching and a good study of mob behavior over a large geographical area. The elephant killed her hobo handler in front of a crowd. Crowd demands blood. 3000 show up to watch.
I find it very interesting that when elephants kill it is called murder. I mean, when dogs, horses, bulls and mules kill people, it’s called an accident or a mauling—but with an elephant, it’s murder. And when they put down an elephant, it’s called an execution.
The citizens of Erwin are understandably upset that the event, after almost 100 years, is not going away. People are still horrified by it. The cities of Kingsport, Rogersville and Johnson City all had a larger hand in the killing of the elephant, but because Mary the elephant was strung up in Erwin, Erwin ends up being blamed.
I don’t think the specter of a 5-ton pachyderm being hung by the neck until dead is possible to erase. If the picture hadn’t been taken, maybe—but the photo is out there and it’s not going away. Ever. Using my astounding powers for the obvious, let me offer this idea.
Tennessee has one of the most amazing animal sanctuaries in the country. The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN takes in old, needy and sick elephants and offers them a place to live out the rest of their days. No doubt, it would have been an option for an elephant like Mary had something like that existed then.
What if Erwin held a memorial festival every year to benefit the Elephant Sanctuary? It’s a win-win--Elephant Sanctuary gets much needed funds and Erwin gets a chance to exorcise of this horrific event while helping its local economy. And Mary's troubled spirit can finally rest.
I hate to tell you, but if you don’t do something like this—the great grandchildren of current Erwinites are still going to be making excuses. Wouldn’t it be much nicer to be known as the town who helps finance The Elephant Sanctuary?
Today’s story is:
This story, in its final draft form, has been accepted and will be published June 15, 2008. In keeping with the SMB's policy, the rough draft has been removed and you will need to go to the publishing website to read it. Please watch the sidebar for details.