07 July 2009


Bear with me, Stuart found this story on an elephant in Wichita Falls and I just had to share it:

Someday, perhaps, a work crew laying cable or pipe will unearth a large set of bones near a busy Wichita Falls intersection.

They may think they have found the remains of some prehistoric creature, but they would be wrong. Should a paleontologist be consulted, the expert would determine that the bones, while old, did not come from a wooly mammoth, but its evolutionary descendant, the elephant.

How an elephant came to be buried in Wichita Falls is a story of incredible cruelty – at least by modern standards – that from this distance smells like a publicity stunt. Whatever the motivations involved, a bizarre set of circumstances converged in this Northwest Texas city in 1899.

It started when a circus hit town. The owner of the show let it be known that the company had a killer elephant under sentence of death.

The animal had been spared after killing one man some years before, but when the pachyderm killed a second, the circus proprietor sentenced it to death. At least that was his story. Maybe the animal was just getting old and the circus boss figured the publicity attendant to executing a “killer” elephant would be worth a whole lot more than the hay it took to keep the animal swinging its trunk.

Plastering the town with handbills, the owner called on the good people of Wichita Falls to lend a hand in the execution.

On the date set, the elephant was walked from the Big Top to a spot near where Brook now crosses Kell Boulevard and staked out with leg chains. As one newspaper later reported, “Everybody in Wichita Falls who had a shooting iron repaired to the scene. There were folks with shotguns, revolvers of various kinds and rifles.”

Unfortunately, no one had the kind of firepower it takes to drop an elephant. The beast took on more lead than 20 coats of old paint and seemed not much worse for the wear. The only noticeable affect, totally understandable, was a considerable annoyance at those doing the shooting. The elephant lunged at its chains, but fortunately for the crowd, the iron held.

Shotgun pellets bounced harmlessly off its thick hide as the beast roared in fear and rage.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals not yet having a toehold in Wichita Falls, the circus gang came up with another idea. A railroad track being nearby, with the ready cooperation of the local station master, two switch engines were employed to stretch out a heavy chain fastened around the big animal’s neck.

The killer elephant, if indeed it was, finally died of strangulation.

Safe at last from the possible rampage of a rogue elephant, the people of this Northwest Texas community faced another not-so-little problem: How to dispose of a dead elephant.

As city officials pondered the situation, someone noticed the town scavenger in the crowd and had an idea. If he would bury the elephant, he could have the hide.

The man, thinking the near bullet-proof skin would make a fine roof for his house at Seventh and Austin streets, agreed to what literally was quite a large undertaking. With help from his family, he skinned the elephant, dug a hole sufficient to contain the body, and somehow got the carcass in it.

For a time, the junk dealer had the distinction of having the only elephant skin roof in Wichita Falls, the state of Texas and perhaps anywhere in the nation.

But fame, and utility, proved fleeting. After the first good rain, the elephant roof shrank like so much green rawhide. By that time, of course, the circus had long since pulled its tent stakes and moved on to the next town.

Crazy! I'm telling you, the weirdest people live in this city that I call home. Well, the city that the AF made me call home and now I am voluntarily calling home. And for your patience here is a glimpse back in time.


Jennifer W. said...

OMG - look at Tyson's chub chub!! Don't tell me Avelyn will lose hers anytime soon, I love it so!

Also - that is sick and sad. Your town is WEIRD.