Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger,
“Pshaw!” grunted Uncle Abner. “How long is that boy going to stand everybody’s impertinence—makes my trunk curl to think of the way he ran just because he saw tiger prints at the drinking pool this mornin’. Why, when I was his age I—”
“Humph—ahem!” grunted Father Elephant, winking at Mother Elephant. “You certainly were a wonder, Abner—!”
“Don’t YOU worry about Oliver; he’ll find himself soon enough.” Mother Elephant stopped in her dusting and shook her trunk reprovingly at her brother. “And don’t you be putting notions into his head either.”
Uncle Abner rattled the newspaper irritably; then muttering something about “other people’s children, and minding his OWN business even if it led to the ruination of everybody concerned,” flung out of the house.
At that very minute the cause of the argument was walking carelessly through the forest with Tommy Tapir. They had been paying a visit to Tommy’s Uncle John Rhinoceros and had not yet decided what to do next. But suddenly it was decided for them, and in a most unpleasant fashion. Oliver Elephant, bringing his gaze slowly down from a tall palm, where he had been admiring the gay plumage of a parrot, met the cruel yellow eyes of a tiger staring fixedly at them not more than twenty feet away. A frightened squeak from Tommy proved that he also was aware of their danger. The tiger’s eyes widened as he saw the unmistaken signs of terror in the two. He resolved to enjoy their discomfort for a while before he gave chase. Many a time he had chased Oliver through the forest—just for the fun of it—but today—he was hungry—today he meant business!
Oliver’s head was in a whirl—all in a second he realized it would be impossible to run back the way they had come—the forest was too dense and choked with underbrush. What then should he do? Already he seemed to feel those four claws gripping his shoulders. From sheer nervousness he screamed. The tiger’s ears flattened backward in surprise; for, though Oliver screamed with fright, it sounded uncommonly like a bellow of rage.
Tommy, quick to notice, whispered, “Do it again—do it again!” And Oliver, hardly knowing why, set up the most fearful trumpeting. The leaves swished to and fro, and in the distance little animals could be heard scurrying away. With each harsh scream the tiger blinked, but still crouched ready to spring, till Oliver, to whom the last minute had seemed a century long, could endure it no longer. He wound his trunk around a tree to steady himself and to his amazement, found he had torn it up by the roots. The sight puzzled him; then suddenly something snapped inside. It was fear. Over him, like the flow of a great river, rushed the consciousness of his mighty strength. With a scream, which this time was ALL fury, he plunged forward.
The tiger, taken quite unawares, had just time to jump aside before the great gray whirlwind swept past, pounding the underbrush to a pulp, and turning in a fury to charge again. Once those terrible feet barely grazed him; then like a yellow streak he flashed through the trees and was gone.
“Oliver—Oliver—big splendid Oliver!” thrilled little Tommy Tapir, coming out from behind the tree where he had watched open-mouthed his friend’s valiant charge.
“Pooh,” said Oliver, shaking himself all over. “That’s nothing, Tommy! But isn’t it queer I never thought of it before?” he added half aloud.
“Thought of what?” said Tommy. “Why, RUNNING AT THINGS instead of away from them!” chuckled Oliver Elephant. “And any time you want a tree pulled up, Tommy, you just let me know, will you?”
“Didn’t I tell you!” exulted Mother Elephant that evening after Oliver was in bed as she related the story to Uncle Abner. (Tommy had told the afternoon’s experiences with great pride.) “Didn’t I tell you that he would find himself!”
“Takes after OUR side of the family!” mumbled Uncle Abner, secretly delighted. “Why, when I was his age—!”
“HA HOH!” roared Father Elephant. “Upon my word, Abner, you were a wonder!” And that was the end of Oliver’s running away from things.
Just glancing through a volume
’Tother day, his Majesty
A-happened on that gliding,
Sliding, fascinating ski!
The pictures of Alpini shooting
Down the mountain side
Filled him with admiration;
“There’s a thing that must be tried,”
He murmured to the Minster
Of State, whose very hair
Stood straight erect in terror
At the pictured skiers there;
“’Tis for the young folks, I presume,”
Said he in husky tones,
“For such maneuvers in the old
Would lead to broken bones!”
“Tut, tut!” the King looked up at him;
“For all of us, my dear Allonz.”
The minister pushed back his specs,
Too startled for response.
“Now order me ten thousand pairs—
Ten thousand pairs of skis;
And call the royal weather man
And order up a freeze;
’Twill be a fitting finish to
Our Christmas holiday!”
“’Twill be a sitting finish,” quoth
Allonz, and stumped away.
In just three days the skis arrived;
Assembled at the Court
The good Supposies listen while
The King explains the sport.
“A simple matter, merely keep
Your balance, that is all;
Don’t turn your toes in and be calm,
Whatever may befall.”
Supposyville’s a mountainous
And hilly little place;
Now, all with skis slung on behind
Make for the steepest place;
The boys and girls, the courtiers,
And the merchants, fat and slim;
The King and Queen, the Ministers;
Allonz, with aspect grim;
In one long line they ranged themselves
Upon the mountain top;
“Remember,” warned the King, “that once
You’ve started not to stop.”
The castle lay below them
In a twinkling robe of snow;
The last strap’s buckled, ready,
Feet together, off we go!
And off they were indeed, how far
The dears will never know;
A whirling mass of arms and legs
And hats; and, if you please,
The daring, dauntless company went
Landsliding on their skis;
Faster still and faster flew
The ones that kept their feet;
Some others quite reversed things and
Just made the trip complete
Upon their heads; some struck on rocks
And bluffs, and fairly bounded
A mile in air, while, oh, despair!
Some others quickly grounded.
The King he reached the valley,
Leapt the castle, and was spired
Upon a turret by his cloak;
A derrick it required
To get him down; the Minister,
Allonz, tried to diminish
His speed, achieved and unbelieved,
The painful sitting finish.
A day it took to dig them out
And separate the skis;
No one was killed, though all were spilled,
And “we’ll soon manage these,”
They chuckled to each other, naught
Dismayed by bumps and bruises;
The King, with one eye bandaged,
All ski literature peruses.
Copyright © 2022 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.