Recently, while driving past our neighborhood supermarket, I saw that a carnival had been set-up in the parking lot. I have seen quite a few carnivals in parking lots in Southern Arizona, but this is the first time I have seen a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and a "Ring of Fire" in our neighborhood. At night, I could see the lights from the ferris wheel from our front yard and I thought about how excited the kids must be, seeing their roof-tops and streets from high above the Food City parking lot. I could not help but remember about the time I rode an elephant when I was a little girl in Amarillo, Texas.
My family lived in Amarillo, Texas for a few years in the 1960's. One day, my mother and I went grocery shopping at the local Piggly Wiggly store and low and behold, there in the parking lot was a small carnival. It was on the small side meaning that it had a couple of rides for little kids, a "Scrambler" for the big kids, and it also had an elephant. For a price, you could sit in a seat for four and ride around the parking lot while a man led the elephant. I was instantly interested in seeing this elephant. Mother and I stood and watched people ride around on top of this enormous animal. She kept a tight hold on my hand just in case I decided to get too close for her comfort. But for me, at that moment, I had made up my mind that I was going to ride that elephant! When I asked my mother, she said the most dreaded words I hated to hear... "Let's ask your daddy."
Now, "Let's ask your daddy" was code in my home for "It's probably not going to happen." I had heard this phrase most of my five year old life. "Can I have a dog?" "Let's ask your daddy." "Can I have a horse?" "Let's ask your daddy." Can I have a Chatty Cathy?" "Let's ask your daddy." Needless to say, I didn't get a dog, a horse, or a Chatty Cathy. All afternoon long, while dreaming of my triumphant ride, I was planning on how to secure my daddy's agreement to ride the elephant. I even thought of recruiting my brother Gary, but since he was seven years older than me, he usually thought my ideas were not what the cool junior high boys did. So, I was on my own to work this plan out.
When Daddy came home from the office, I started my campaign the second he walked in the door. He smiled and kinda chuckled, but he didn't tell me "no". We sat down for dinner and I told him all about the elephant ride in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly. I was prepared to launch into a crying, begging, wailing fit, but to my surprise, when the table had been cleared, my daddy said, "Let's go ride that elephant."
I was so terribly excited! As a family, we drove to the Piggly Wiggly, and there it was in all its glory. THE ELEPHANT! Mother, Daddy, and I stood in line with the other people and waited for my turn. When it was time for me to ride, the man pulled on the elephant and it bent its front legs and back legs and kneeled on the pavement. The man took my money and helped me into the metal chair that held four people. Three other children were also lifted into the seat. When we were settled, the man gave a command and the elephant rocked back and forth to stand up right. Holy Moly! The powerfulness of that elephant was so intense as it rocked to stand up that I was absolutely terrified as it was all happening. I know my eyes had to look like saucers! However, once we were settled and the ride began, I was in control of my of my fears, but I held onto the metal bar in front of me for dear life. We slowly paraded around the parking lot and I even chanced a wave at my family. I just know I looked like a princess on top of that elephant. It seemed like forever as we walked around and around.
I don't remember the elephant lowering itself to the parking lot or me getting off the elephant. I don't remember the ride home or even discussing the experience. But I do remember the fear, the power, and the glory it felt that day. I could do anything because I had ridden an elephant!
Many years later, when I was a mom and Meg was a Brownie, the circus came to town. Meghan and her troop went to the circus together. However, when she came home she was horrified that one of the elephants had dropped its sequin clad rider and the ambulance had taken her away. Hmmm... I knew better than to mention an elephant ride at that moment.