Thursday, August 20, 2009

...on elephants

The other day, a writer friend of mine came into the Incidental Bookshop. I took her photo and told her that I keep a blog and that she was about to star in it. I haven’t got around to writing her up yet but I think of her all the time now because when I mentioned the blog to her, she said, “A blog about the bookshop? What on earth do you find to write about?”

Man, I wish I had TIME to write about everything that happens in this shop.
They’re small things generally, of course - moments, snippets of conversations, a young man looking for Ginger Meggs comics to read to his blind Grandad, an old man delighted to find Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn on the classics tables to read to his grandson.

Today, a couple came up to the counter holding a book they’d found on one of the tables. The lady said to me, “I just wanted to tell you a bit of history about this book.”

Well, you know me – I love that kind of thing. I had a look at the book’s cover. It was the elephant book that no-one buys: Queenie – One Elephant’s Story. It’s in one of those difficult to sell categories – true stories for the picture book generation.

Queenie was apparently famous the length and breadth of Australia in the first half of the 20th century as a people mover at Melbourne Zoo. She was elephant-napped in India as a baby and brought to Australia where she spent the rest of her life walking around Melbourne Zoo with a bunch of tourists on her back. In the early ‘40s she crushed her keeper, something most people believed was an accident, and was euthanized. Humans are so fickle!

It turns out that the husband half of the couple who brought the book to my attention is the great grandson of Queenie’s very first keeper, Mr Parsons, back in 1902 or so. The great grandson’s name is Albert Strong – a good name to be associated with a story about elephants, don’t you think?

1 comment:

  1. Keith's grandfather was killed by an elephant in Auckland zoo. It happened on the day Keith was born.

    What happened was that a bunch of young hooligans were sticking lit cigarettes into the elephant's trunk and it was screaming and thrashing around, and Keith's granddad heard and came racing to the rescue, waving his arms and screaming "Stop. Stop."

    The elephant, crazy from pain, grabbed him and beat him to death.

    This elephant wasn't put down, however. Keith's grandmother went on the warpath and said it wasn't the elephant's fault and it was the hooligans who deserved to be put down. They respected her wishes, and so the elephant lived, but everyone says it was never the same; suffering from then on of deep sadness and genuine depression!