Excitement of the Elephants at the Circus Now Just A Memory

Dennis A. Meritt Jr., PhD
Adjunct Professor
Biological Sciences
DePaul University

As a small child I remember vividly my first circus experience. I recall being dazzled by the lights, the sounds, the smells, the action at several levels, especially the elephants. I had never seen any living thing that big or impressive, in unison with its care giver. I was spell bound by the elephant’s individual and collective ability to do things together; an action packed routine set to spirited music.

Some years later as an adult, Texas friends joined us as we went to a small town circus setup morning. Everyone in the community had the opportunity to see the traveling circus setup for its three show stand in this farming community.  We were drawn to the big top which was being erected not by human workers but by two adult Asian elephants, older females, who were in the midst of coordinating their efforts to raise the main poles. I remember our being invited to get closer by the handlers as they encouraged, in so ever a gentle way, their elephant team to move in unison. We were an arm’s length away from the animals as they lifted the main poles and then set about the business of pulling taut the side poles completing the process of erecting the massive tent.

I recall the pungent somewhat invigorating aroma of the elephants, the warmth of their large gray bodies, and the sheer emotional delight of being so close and so privileged to be able to participate as an observer. I relived my boyhood experience as an adult. But no more. Not I or anyone I know will have this opportunity again. The greatest show on earth will soon close its doors and with it the loss of an emotional bond, a lifelong memory that comes with such an experience. Future generations will never have the experience I and others like me had. Changing times it is said, changing attitudes too, but such a tragic loss for us all. We are already poorer for the loss.