When Elephants Walked in West Virginia

They were the best of times. They were the worst of times. They were the time of the Elephant in West Virginia. You may not believe it. I would well understand should you not. The querulous mind dances lightly upon the phrase—and then rejects it utterly.


There have never been elephants in West Virginia.

Then you may pause. And reconsider. Oh, yes. There likely have been elephants in West Virginia. I do recall them coming to town when the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus came to Huntington. And thence to Charleston. (Or was it the Barnum & Bailey Ringling Brothers Circus? No matter.)

So, yes. Perhaps he is right to claim there as a time when elephants roamed West Virginia. An Elephant Walk! To the circus venue. That is most certainly what he means!

But you would be wrong.

Oh, so wrong.

Though West Virginia’s forests are big enough to house Babar the Elephant’s extended family, we do not mean he and they, when we speak of the days when elephants walked the state.

I am speaking of a time when elephants—to be exact, one elephant—roamed West Virginia. And I don’t mean roaming the deep, wide Appalachian forests of the state, a place, it must be admitted, which could conceal a veritable Babar’s family worth of elephants.

No. This elephant strode boldly down a main thoroughfare in Mercer County, West Virginia.

It was witnessed by many. Many eyewitnesses!

The year was 2011. The month was April. It was a sunny day.

The occasion was the conclusion of All Together Arts Week, a veritable Lolapalooza of the arts in the small, southern West Virginia city of Princeton.

It was a princely event in Princeton, if not a princess-ly one!

For you see, the grande finale of this week’s worth of celebrations was a parade. It was a parade right down the centerline of Mercer Street, a street made wonderfully colorful, and artistic, costumed and glittery and …. oh!

There was so much glitter!

The organizers of this event, known as RiffRaffians, had long dreamt of bringing an elephant to Princeton. To the crown jewel event of their All Togethering.

And so they did.

They manifested it.

They manifested an elephant.

Here is the story of the day that an elephant walked in West Virginia!

PART ONE: Calling the Elephant into Being

But exactly how do you manifest an elephant when none are to be found—and it would take far too long, and be far too costly, to ship one to your doorstep via Amazon Prime? Here is how.

A video of the Large Animal Bureau of TheStoryIsTheThing.com

PART TWO: An Elephant Walks in West Virginia

What do you do with an elephant once you manifest one? Silly question. You put him in a parade!

A video of the Large Animal Bureau of TheStoryIsTheThing.com

PS: A musical prize goes to the first person who correctly identifies the sonorous voice of the former West Virginia cultural figure who narrates these two videos. Answers below in the comments!

PSS: The All Together Arts Week event lives on in this time of pandemic. A mammoth—speaking of elephants!—online version of the event takes place on Facebook from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., this Saturday, May 16, 2020. The event—conceived and executed by those same RiffRaffians mentioned above—features pre-recorded segments of music, poetry, art-making, comedy, profiles of state artists, a tour to creative venues, plus live ZOOM interviews on the arts in West Virginia in a digital age. Click this link for the colorful details! (The above elephantine videos are part of the lineup!)

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