Friday, December 1, 2023


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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 16, 1918.

Oliver Elephant is a very nice elephant boy who lives in the jungle with his father and mother and Uncle Abner Elephant, and wears big, loose gray rompers which he may some time grow into.

On this particular day I happen to mention all the family were sitting in the front yard of their jungle home trying to keep cool, and, as it was about as hot as four Fourths of July rolled into one, they didn’t make much trunkway—pshaw! I mean headway, but when you’re talking of elephants, trunks do seem so appropriate.

Mother Elephant swished her palm leaf fan and father and Uncle Abner Elephant fussed and grunted and rubbed against trees and told Oliver Elephant for mercy sake to keep quiet and not ask questions.

So Oliver, who was just as warm as they were, decided to go for a swim, where he could ask the river people as many questions as he pleased.

He went himpety-humping through the thick brush wishing he would meet his cousin, Tommy Tapir, but no Tommy showed up and, as he lived a long way off, Oliver Elephant preferred swimming alone to fetching him.

A little rustle behind him made him prick up his ears, and there, tiptoeing after him, was a little gentle-eyed deer.

Now, Uncle Abner had taught Oliver to be polite to all creatures smaller than himself and to take no sass from creatures bigger than himself. This was a very good rule and, as the little ones were a lot more numerous than the bigger ones, Oliver was always finding reasons to be polite.

Besides, the deer, Oliver felt, belonged in his family—eating as they did only roots and grasses and not, like the lions and tigers, dining upon their weaker brothers.

“Howdy!” rumbled Oliver. “Where’s your mammy?” The little creature trotted along beside him and explained that its mammy was sick; so “I am going alone for a drink!”

“All right!” chuckled Oliver, “let’s go alone together!” So they did, and the deer told Oliver what a big strong fellow he was and how happy he must be not to have to run away from anything.

“A chap as big as you would never get scared!” And Oliver puffed out his chest and said, “Indeed, not!” and just dared anything to scare him.

And by and by they came to the river. “You take your drink first!” suggested Oliver politely, “’cause when I get in it will be all muddy!”

The little deer trotted obediently down to the water’s edge and Oliver hooked his trunk up in the branch of a tree and stood waiting.

Then all at once he began to shake all over—and no wonder—the branch wasn’t hard as it should have been at all. It was soft—it was alive!

Oliver Elephant could hardly keep from screaming, but before he could budge a hissing came thru the trees.

“Move and I’ll twine around your neck and choke the breath out of you; keep still, it’s the deer I’m after!”

Just then the deer came bounding toward Oliver.

“Now I shall watch you swim!” it cried gayly. “Now—”

Down swung an arch of glistening copper, and around the small creature coiled the terrible folds. It was a python, almost twenty-five feet long.

Piteously the deer looked at Oliver and Oliver, trembling in every limb, looked back.

“Why hadn’t he trumpeted—why?”

“Because you were afraid!” Accusingly his conscience answered for him and in the same instant he stopped trembling. That little fellow had said he never was scared; all right, he wasn’t scared—and just to reassure himself he raised his trunk and trumpeted till the ground trembled.

The gaze of the python, fixed on the helpless deer, wavered; the little animal with its whole heart  in its eyes, struggled feebly in the ever-tightening coils.

Oliver plunged forward. The great snake flattened its head and unconsciously relaxed its hold on its victim. Without giving himself time to get more scared Oliver Elephant kept on coming, making as much noise as he could (and an elephant can make a tremendous noise).

When he got right close to the snake Oliver turned out and went behind it. The python hissing with fury turned its head to see what he was about and when it saw him bearing down—this time with the unmistakable purpose of tramping on him, he let go of the deer and slid with almost uncanny speed up and around the massive tree trunk. The tip of his tail was too slow, however, and down came Oliver’s big foot upon it—ugh!

“And that will be about all from you!” rumbled Oliver Elephant. And it was. The snake drew the rest of its tail up with a jerk and Oliver and the trembling little deer went on back through the jungle. “Don’t ever go for a drink by yourself again!” warned the big little elephant. And it never did.

“Did you have a good time?” asked Uncle Abner Elephant, as Oliver came puffing in.

“Pshaw. Now—I forgot all about it!” spluttered Oliver Elephant. “You see--,” and here he told them what had happened, just as I have told you. And the three big elephants were so proud that they almost burst the buttons off their clothes, but they didn’t say so, my, no!

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 9, 1918

Turn-About Schools in Supposyville

The schools are shut all through the land
’Cept in Supposyville.
You’ll doubtless be surprised to learn
That theirs are open still.

But, then, surprises are the rule
That proves the whole exception.
(That sounds a little twisted, but
I think ’twill bear inspection.)

However, as I just remarked,
Surprises are surprises,
And in Supposyville they come
In many shapes and sizes.

The schools are open, I repeat,
Ho, ho! And every day
Some boys or girls come back to teach
The teachers how to play!

All benches, desks and boards are gone,
The games have honor places,
And now the art of spinning tops,
Of marbles, jacks and races

Are taught in all their branches—
Skipping rope and fast bean bag,
Hockey, dolls, old maids, jackstraws,
Hopscotch and hearts and tag.

Copyright © 2023 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.