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The following sketch, taken from the Alabama Journal, of a “ few” who really did see the “ Elephant,” is by the graphic feather of Johnson J. Hooper, a native of the old North, but now practicing Law in Chambers and the adjoining counties, in Alabama. We consider him, next to Longstreet, the best delineator of country life, manners, and customs :

The monotony of our village life was agreeably broken, on last Monday, by the advent of Raymond’s Menagerie. Not the juveniles only, but the whole adult population, male and female within five miles of the Court House, were alive with excitement. The North wind was cutting as a note-shaver, but in spite of that and the supposed scarcity of coin, the “ pavilion” was thronged. A more motley assemblage I never saw--the animals were nothing in the comparison--and in point of decorum, the spectators might have taken lessons from the Grizzly Bear. It was the only public assembly that I ever heard of, in this country, which the presence of ladies did not control into propriety of speech and manner. Even the professional beast tamers themselves, Mr. and Mrs. Schaffer, failed to subdue the rampant animals outside the cages.

The elephant was the great point of attraction as usual. Many were the remarks elicited by its immense size and docility.

“ I want his hide and frame for a corn crib,” said a fellow from Pan Handle Beat.

“ Save me his ears for skearts to my old wagin saddle,” remarked another.

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“ Goodness gracious,” ejaculated a sallow girl, with a dirty blue ribbon around a dirty yellow neck, “ was it borned with that ugly snake-thing stuck to its face ?”

“ Its got a’most the least har to as much hide, that I ever seed,” quoth Jerry Brumbelow.

“ Whar do they raise ‘em ?” asked some honest searcher after knowledge.

“ Not here--not here in this (hic) country,” replied Jim McGaffey with a knowing, would-be-sober--shake of the head.

“ Whar then ?”

“ That animal,” said Jim, who was very drunk, “ that animal wasn’t raised in the island (hick) of Ameriky. It come all the way from (hic) Ireland.” [2]

“ Give us your hand, my friend,” exclaimed old Tom Martin, with an ironical air, “ give us your hand for the true words ye’re tellin’ the boys. Don’t you see the creatur’s fut ? look at his fut ? [3] Sure ‘twas made for the Bogs of the ould country !”

“ This thing tho’, is but a heifer, as ye may say. What would ye say, if ye could see a giniwine grown up Airish Bull ? Och ?”

Satis ! jam satis ! ”[4] soliloquized a corpulent lawyer, as he walked up ; unconsciously latinizing the spirit of Tom Haines’ remark on a similar occasion, made to Tom Jefferson.

The group adjourned to the vicinity of the Lion’s cage.

“ Why didn’t they shurr (shear) that critter’s fore parts, as well as his hind one ?” asked some one.

“ You see,” said his keeper, a man with huge whiskers, and a green blanket coat--"he’s got a breast complaint and we were afraid of increasing his cold.” [4]

“ Well, be granny, I did notice he was hoarse, when he hollered, awhile ago.”

“ Whar did he come from, Jim ?” asked one of the crowd.

“ From Ireland, too, be Jasus,” said old Tom the Irishman,
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taking the word out of Jim’s mouth--“ Didn’t he McGaffey ?”

“ I judge (hic) he (hic) did,” said Mack.

“ I’ll take my corp’ral of it,” returned Martin : “the grooves of Blarney is full of ‘em !

Presently the crowd was ordered back, and Mr. and Mrs. Schaffer entered the cage with the lion, tiger and other animals.

“ That takes Billy’s horns clean smooth off to the scull--now don’t it ?” said Tom Hussey.

“ Its the first time I ever seed the likes, and I’m sixty-five come fall,” remarked an old grey-headed man.

“ Is it a rail woman in thar ?” asked a skeptical dirt-eater.

“ Why, you see,” said Jim McGaffey, “ Its a rail woman, but she’s got great sperets. Some people, tho’, (hic) think these show people (hic) ain’t regular human, no how.”

“ No more, and they ain’t,” said old Tom.

“ What are they then ?”

Airish, to be sure !”

“ Well ain’t the Irish human ?”

“ Divil the bit of it !” responded old Tom, “they’re all subjects of the Queen of Great Britain.”

“ That’s (hic) a fact,” said Jim McGaffey ; and the point was settled.

Mrs. Schaffer shook her whip at the tiger, which dashed by her, and crouched in a corner of the cage, growling furiously.

“ Take care, she-bar legs, the old boy’s rattling his chain--as my old woman tells Dick, when he cries,” said John Davis.

“ I say, John,” observed a half-worn out man in a slouched hat--“ I ain’t no objection to that woman showin’ off her legs that way ; but if Besty was to.”

“ Let Betsey’s name alone you lazy good-for-nothin”--interrupted a sharp nosed female, with one child in her arms, and another at her knee, “ let Betsey’s name alone, goodness knows ! she can get along without sich notice as that,”--‘twas the
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blessed Elizabeth herself--“ and come here and tote Jack.--Here they’ve been scrougin’ and runnin’ over the poor child all day--and you a-jawin thar ! and a talking about you know not what ! It’s only the Lord’s mercy the elephant didn’t tromp on him, and squash him to death. Come along !

The hen pecked meekly obeyed ; took Jacob into his paternal arms ; and I--ceased to take notes.


Source: Southern and Southwestern Sketches: Fun, Sentiment, and Adventure. Edited by a Gentleman of Richmond. Richmond: J.W. Randolph, n.d. 89-92. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Hooper published a slightly altered version of this tale as "The Elephant in Lafayette" in 1858, in Simon Suggs’ Adventures and Travels.
[2] Original text omits final quotation mark.
[3] In original text, quotation mark appears here rather than at the end of the paragraph.
[4] Original text omits initial quotation mark.

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