Rev. Austin Miles, a chaplain in Northern California is a writer and historian. He is the author of Santa's Surprising Origins, a story that received worldwide circulation and resulted in him being cast in the 2004 Hallmark Christmas Movie titled, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus. He played the mall Santa who magically received the gift of sign language.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Society • Jesus and Animals Part 9: The Joy of Knowing an Elephant

Those who have not bonded with an animal have missed out on a rare treat and privilege indeed. Rev. Austin Miles.

Even the largest of animals display emotions and can be soft hearted. Such was the elephant in the news this past week named, Tarra, who lived on an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

A little dog named Bella came to live at the sanctuary, she and Tarra became friends, then best of friends. They would walk together, play together, and simply spend time together in a favorite spot within the large compound.

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Hero Circus Elephant Saves The Day

When Bella had to have surgery on her back, she was confined in the veterinarian room on the second floor of a building within the sanctuary. While going through the surgery and recovering, Tarra stayed next to the building, looking up at the second floor, and refused to move. For three weeks Tarra stood vigil.

Finally when Bella was better, the veterinarian carried her out on the balcony on the second floor so Tarra could see her. Eventually Bella recovered completely and was able to be back outside with Tarra which made them both very happy.

Then, the eight year friendship was tragically ended when Bella was killed by what was believed to be a coyote. Tarra found her, gave a mournful trumpet-yell, tenderly picked up her little friend’s bloody body and carried it over a mile to the spot where she and Bella had spent so much happy time together, then laid it down gently, as she stood beside her body grieving. In the film clip of Tarra mourning her little friend, one can spot a big tear in the elephant’s eye.

There is great joy in knowing an elephant. For years, a featured attraction in the circus was Big Tommy, the largest performing male elephant in the world. Tommy and I became friends.

During a matinee performance in the Municipal Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, an elephant danger alert trumpet-yell rang out from backstage filling the air of the arena itself. Alarmed, I wondered what had happened, and worse, what may be about to happen.

I knew that every person and animal in the circus, except the troupe performing that moment, was being lined up to march into the arena for the Grand Spec (or spectacle). Lots of confusion and rustling around could be heard from backstage.

The ‘Spec” was to appear within moments, and it did, right on cue. Nothing was in order as they came through the curtains, with the elephants scattered throughout the parade rather than coming in as a herd. Everything was in total disarray and tense even though the performers managed to smile.

The last one in the parade that day was Big Tommy. The word had already been relayed to me what had happened. As the show and the elephants were being lined up backstage, someone accidently hit the button that opened the steel stage loading-door that made a rattling noise as it rose, with sunlight suddenly streaming in along with the sounds of the street outside.

This was unexpected for the elephants. They panicked and were ready to stampede into the arena which would have been disastrous, with possible loss of life (which would have happened) had it not been for Big Tommy.

He was the one elephant who kept his head, ran to the entrance leading to the arena and blocked it with his body, stopping the herd of elephants, all who were smaller than Tommy. Their intended stampede was stopped. This wise elephant had saved the day. And he knew exactly what he was doing.

As Tommy came out last (which was not the lineup), he walked around on the track and made eye contact with me standing by the center ring wearing the Ringmaster’s red tails, boots, white breeches, and top hat.  Without using the mic , as he got close, I said, “Tommy, you are the best elephant in the world .....you are a HERO,” and as I did, he bobbed his head back and forth comically, very pleased with those words and himself.

Just an animal? No. There is no such thing. And it is time we all realized that fact. Animals are wonderful beings created by God. We should be their friends, not their indiscriminate executioners.

See part 10: Overview Leading up to the BIG Question.

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