When my Dad told us the story of the time someone tried to give him an elephant, he didn’t really think it was much of a story. Maybe because he had only heard the story second hand. He was three at the time, and he doesn’t remember the event itself, only the retelling of it by his parents.
He did remember the time he got chased by an elephant, though.
“When I was older,” Dad told us, “Maybe 11 or 12, Grandpa was still with the State Department, working as a diplomat in Ceylon, which is now Sri Lanka.”
In case you’re not sure where Sri Lanka is, it is an island off the southern tip of India. It was known as Ceylon until 1972.
“A friend of mine and I were off playing in the woods around our house, and we saw an elephant coming down the road.”
Dad shifted in his chair. “In Ceylon, elephants were used as work animals. When we saw this one coming, with a man riding on top of it, we thought we’d have a little fun.”
He gestured with his hands, holding them together in front of him, cupped palms down, as if they were holding a rod of some sort. Then he spread them to indicate the rod’s length. “This elephant was carrying a log in its trunk, and the log spanned the entire width of the road. We jumped out of the woods in front of the elephant and started taunting it.”
“What did you do to taunt it?” I asked.
Dad put his thumbs in his ears and wagged his fingers, stuck his tongue out and said, “Na na na boo boo.” Or something like that.
“I don’t remember exactly what we did,” he said, “but something dumb and obnoxious.”
I imagined my dad at 11, not much older than our son is now, standing in the middle of a dirt road, harassing a logger and his elephant. As boys will do.
“Anyway, the driver didn’t think it was very funny. He was trying to get his work done, and we were blocking his way. So he spurred the elephant.”
Dad took a sip of his Scotch.
“And the elephant charged.”
I can only imagine the “Oh shit!” look of surprise on those little boys’ faces.
“Since the log took up the whole road, there was nowhere for us to go. So we ran.”
He took another sip of his drink.
“Once that massive elephant started chasing us, we didn’t think it was very funny anymore either.”
I didn’t think to ask how they got away. All I know is they did, because Dad is still here, sipping his Scotch and water, to tell his grandkids about it.