Hey! Here’s a #TBT story for you guys.
In the early 1900’s there was a traveling circus. It was called Sparks Family Circus. They took themselves seriously as a group that did business above board. “Sunday School Circus” was their motto. This was to distinguish themselves from their primary competitor, Barnum and Bailey, which already had a reputation for dishonesty and hucksterism.
Now this circus had an elephant. Her name was Mary. She weighed 5 tons and was supposed to be the largest living animal on earth, advertised as three inches taller than Jumbo, the star of PT Barnum’s show.
The man who ran Sparks was said to have been gentle and caring and, in keeping with their general marketing as The Not Shady Circus, emphasized care and respect in the treatment of animals. This was especially true for Mary, who was not just a performer, but had been the family pet of Circus owner Charlie Sparks ever since he was 4 years old.
One day in 1916, the Sparks Family Circus rolled into a town called Kingsport Tennessee. In addition to the usual lions, tigers, jugglers, magicians and clowns, they had in their company a man named Red Eldridge. Not much is known about him other than that he was hired last minute to help train the elephants because the Sparks Family Circus needed all the staffing they could get to compete with bigger, more well funded shows.
Red had little experience dealing with elephants.
Red was not known to be good at his job.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
On this day, September 12, 1916, Red was leading Mary through town as part of the pre-show parade designed to excite paying customers for the evening’s show. Red had been given specific instructions not to use rough tactics with Mary. She didn’t get down like that and it wasn’t necessary.
But Red was not known to be good at his job.
Legend has it that during the parade, Mary stopped mid stride, possibly distracted by a piece of fruit she noticed on the ground.
Red Eldridge tried to encourage Mary to continue but she did not.
Red Eldridge then made a decision that altered his life and the lives of many.
He used a bull hook to prod her along. He had been given this, but told to use it gently and sparingly.
He used it angrily and roughly. He dug the bull hook into Mary’s flesh, forcing her to put down the fruit and go. Now.
Mary resisted this.
Eyewitnesses say that Mary became enraged, grabbed Eldridge with her trunk, and flung him against a wall. He fell to the ground against a water fountain, where Mary trampled upon his head, killing him instantly and in brutal fashion.
The crowds scattered, themselves trampling one another underfoot.
A local blacksmith attempted to fell Mary by firing four shots into her, but they did nothing.
“Kill Mary. Kill Mary” the crowd is purported to have chanted.
Mary was subdued by a group of officers and civilians who “arrested” her and chained her to local jailhouse until her fate could be decided.
Charlie Sparks had a decision to make.
He loved Mary.
But the story of Eldridge’s gruesome death would undoubtedly be spread far and wide. It was clear that his circus would be done for unless he took quick and decisive action.
Charlie made the painful business decision of putting Mary to death publicly.
She was hung. Around the neck. By chains. Suspended from a crane that was used to build the railroads that criss- crossed the country.
Human beings owned Mary for the entirely of her life. Human beings controlled Mary for the entirety of her life. Mary resisted this control one day. And then human beings strangled Mary to death in public for all to see. A man decided that it was better to kill an elephant than to face a financial loss.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Eric Garner’s Last Words were:
“Get away [garbled] for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today. Why would you...? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] Selling cigarettes. I'm minding my business, officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. please please, don't touch me. Do not touch me. [garbled] I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.”
Generally speaking, people who kill animals are treated less favorably by the legal system than police officers who kill unarmed humans.
So maybe an animal tale will make sense to some folks.
If it seems weird to have to explain it this way, just chalk it up as part of the insanity of having to state that Black Lives Matter.