Elephant in Our Hills


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Elephants in Our Hills

Saturday sun lit the kitchen sink windowsill, spotlighting the players. At stage right, the green and yellow corn vase. Or was it a pitcher? It never occurred to me to ask, I guess. It had been part of a set until the move, when a plate of some sort met its demise in a loosely packed box. My fault. I became lax in the rush of a new job and the ensuing new house search.

Next up in the chorus line of trinkets came our Aladdin's lamp. A smallish facsimile framed with metal and green polished stone. A gift sent from Saudi Arabia by my sister-in-law who lived there some time ago during her ex-pat phase. Quite beautiful, actually, sitting beside the three old glass bottles dug from the old homeplace last year when my father bull-dozed a spot for a turnip patch up the branch. The blue one caught my eye, pulling me into another time, onto the past's stage, and I wanted a scene play out where some old man, or woman, slipped a cork from it and took a sip while the kids played or the sun set.

Shadows passing across the window shook my mind free, and I braced for the swish and bang of the backdoor.

"Dad, dad, dad!" my daughter said. The breathless greeting, as usual, made me smile.

"There's this, there's this, elephant," she blurted. "I seen it, I swear."

"Saw it," I corrected, then thought. An elephant? Well, vines and weeds and misshapen trees maybe. Pretending again.

"That's cool sweetie. You'll have to show me sometime. Trying to clean the kitchen right now, though."

"I mean it, daddy, a real elephant. I 'saw' it's trunk. It was drinkin' by the creek. It's kinda small but I watched it, then followed it. It's walking through the woods!"

I stopped washing the glass in my hands, and looked up at the window out past the yard, down toward the creek.

"I didn't see it honey," I said, tried to take a fun tone. "Besides, no elephants here. Maybe if we were in an Asian or African jungle. Not the Kentucky hills."

I looked her way as she took a deep breath, focused her intense eyes on mine, and waited. Standoff.

"Sweetie, I know you want me to play. Maybe in a little while, but right now, I'm trying to help mommy catch up after being on my trip for a week."

She turned and left. The back door banged again. Shadows flew past the window again. I turned back to the dishes, the sun casting the blue bottle's shaded shadow across the water. And my mind wandered. Again.

I imagined an old-timer, having spent time abroad and arriving back on the shores of America decades ago, maybe even a century ago, leading elephants off a tall ship and into the wild country beyond, forging them an Appalachian home.

Chuckling, I looked up at the windowsill, and at the little porcelain fairy - one of my wife's favorites - that stood alongside the bottles. She smiled, her black eyes staring at mine, intently, like my daughter's. Both seeming to question.

Do I really know? Can I prove it? No elephants in our hills? Had I so forgotten my childhood that I could not dream?

I finished the dishes, carefully rinsing and laying them aside, dried my hands, pulled the plug and watched the sink drain before I walked away, quietly, listening for a trumpet blast.

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Epilogue for Elephants

Too often in our world, even today's miraculous digital world, our planet's animals are forgotten. For some, the plight is dangerous, with extinction a possibility. Let's not let that happen to elephants. Our family has supported the Cincinnati Zoo for many years, which is a conservation effort in itself, as the zoo points out:

"Elephants are important conservation ambassadors for their species and ecosystems. Experiencing elephants in zoos creates an emotional connection that can inspire people to help protect them."

Our zoo helps directly through the International Elephant Foundation and through Asian Elephant Support. Its scientists also do research on several matters of importance to elephant conservation.

Point is, you can help, too. Visit your local zoo, go searching through the cybersphere for foundations and support groups, visit Asia or Africa if you can. Or, if none of that applies, at least check out our zoo's page, and learn more:

Cincinnati Zoo Conservation Page


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