Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Isn't that cover photograph great- the little boy and the big elephant, next to each other, hanging out.
My friend Martha lent me her copy of Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer, which I devoured in a few days. It took me awhile to catch on that it was a novel (well, when you want it to be true, my mind does that). Regardless, it's a wonderful, compelling story. My first clue was John Ringling North showing up in the Black Forest in I believe the 1920s, when he should have been in school at Yale. I've done so much research about circuses in the past year and a half, I know things like that. The Hartford circus fire was during World War II, and it was worse than it should have been because the tent wasn't flame retardant (all that was commandeered by the government for the war effort). John Ringling North was not with the circus then, for that very reason.
Finally, the haven where Modoc lives out his last years must have been Jungle Land (where Mabel Stark worked the big cats), where the Thousand Oaks civic center is now. But surely that was more of a theme park than an animal sanctuary? It probably helps to know less of the history in the case of this particular novel.