Saturday, January 1, 2005


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Cowardly Lion of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 30, 1914.

And so - Oliver Elephant learned to swim! Pshaw! here I am beginning at the tail 'stead of the trunk of the story. This was the way of it. Big little Oliver Elephant was standing on the edge of a GREAT DEEP forest pool looking at his picture in the water. He was SO busy admiring himself that he didn't hear a scrunching back of him. I'll tell you who it was. His GREAT BIG father elephant and his GREAT BIG uncle, Abner Elephant. And when they saw Oliver nodding and perking at himself in the water - father elephant - he winked at Uncle Abner Elephant and whispered behind his trunk: "Brother, I think it's time our little Oliver Elephant learned to SWIM!"

And Uncle Abner Elephant he winked at father elephant, and he said, "Brother, I think so, too!" Then, very q-u-i-e-t-l-y they came stepping up to where little Oliver Elephant was.

And what do you suppose happened next? Why, just as Oliver Elephant started to say, "What a handsome chap I - " KERSPLASH! His picture had hit him in the eye, and next thing it had swallowed him right up - I mean down. For his great big father and his great big Uncle Abner Elephant had pushed him into the pool. (I don't think Oliver Elephant's mother would have like this at all.)

"Ooooooh!" wailed Oliver Elephant - gallons and gallons of water went gurgling down his throat and roaring into his ears. His trunk was full of water - his eyes were full of water and it seemed as tho' he had swallowed a barrelful o' pins. Down, down, DOWN he went, past squidgy fishes and scrabbley fishes and hodge-podgy fishes. They got out of his way I can tell you!

Well, just as he thought he had swallowed the whole pool he began to rise, and pretty soon his head and trunk were above water.

And the first thing that he saw when the water got out of his eye was a grinning crocodile on the opposite bank. "Haw, haw, haw!" roared the crocodile, opening its giant mouth and showing its both rows of teeth. "Haw, haw, HAW!" This made Oliver Elephant SO mad that he took a deep breath and blew about twenty gallons of water STRAIGHT DOWN the crocodile's throat. "Glub!" gurgled the crocodile and rolled over on his back, and I expect if his wife had not come out just then and banged him hard on the back with her tail he would have choked.

But Oliver Elephant didn't have time to think about how the crocodile felt, for just about then he began to go DOWN again.

"Work your feet!" roared Uncle Abner Elephant. "Work your feet!" roared his big, big father, and both of them came splashing toward him. Course they weren't going to let him go down AGAIN.

When Oliver saw them coming he felt madder than ever. Besides half the water in the pool he had swallowed several small fishes, and they were floating around inside of him, which was very unpleasant!

He really felt very disagreeable. "It's all your fault - blub! glub! - Huhwait till I get you!" wheezed little Oliver Elephant. And he was so very anxious to catch up to his great big father and his great big Uncle Abner Elephant and do something perfectly awful to them - perfectly awful, mind you - that he forgot he couldn't swim - and he began to work his legs like ferry-boat paddles.

"Hurray! Hurray! Oliver Elephant is swimming!" cried Uncle Abner, waving his trunk. "That's it! That's the way!" shouted father elephant, nearly bursting with pride.

And sure enough Oliver Elephant WAS SWIMMING. And when he found how easy it was - and how nice it was - why he forgot all about the water in his eyes - and the fishes in his stomach - and the awful things he was going to do to his great big father and Uncle Abner Elephant (I'm rather glad of this) - and he smiled a great big proud smile.

When he came up with his Uncle Abner and his father they clapped him on the back with their trunks and told him what a smart little elephant he was—and after that they swam 'round and 'round the pool and had a wonderful time. Then they climbed out and all went home to tell Oliver's great big kind mother that he had learned to swim.

They didn't tell her that they had pushed him in tho'- and Oliver Elephant he didn't tell her either.

Oliver's mother was so proud that she made a great big huge cocoanut pie for supper, and they were all tremendously happy, and after that Oliver Elephant went swimming every day.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 7, 1917

The Forgetful Poet

The other day our rhyming friend
Agreed to speak before a meeting.
Engrossed with all he meant to say
He quite forgot that time is fleeting.

The people came and filled the chairs.
The moment for the speech drew nigh.
The ushers, anxious, watched the doors
And people whispered, "Where!" and "Why?"

Meanwhile in bed, the poet wrote,
And wrote and wrote and wrote,
Nor of the passing minutes took
He heed, nor thought, nor note!

The hour for the meeting came
And passed. The crowds went home.
And still unconscious of all things
The poet wrote his poem!

Copyright © 2005 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.