Elephants With Taking Ways
By Joy Bassetti Kruger
Copyright 2016 by Joy Bassetti Kruger
This short animal story will eventually be included in a book
In the meanwhile, please enjoy it as a freebie
It was Christmas morning, and we were staying at our little holiday bungalow in the middle of the Bushveld. The birds had already visited us for their breakfast, but there wasn’t an animal in sight, which was rather disappointing.
We’d been staying at the house for several days already, but so far we had only seen a couple of Impala. So it seemed that the animals were avoiding us, as even our usually friendly mama warthog and her four piglets, had not come around to visit us.
The birds were thankfully prolific, and we loved the way they seemed to hang around in the nearby trees, just waiting for a handout. They had become somewhat tame over the years and would always venture right up to us whenever we walked out onto the patio.
Long before we had even woken up, our first visitors on that Christmas morning were the Guinea fowl, who announced their arrival by calling out with their shrill, squeaky calls. Then while we stood out on the patio in our PJ’s and fed them bread crumbs, we watched the sky as it slowly lit up into what was going to be another beautiful day.
The next arrivals were a flock of Arrow Marked Babblers. Their quarrelsome approach meant that they could be heard coming from afar, long before they flew from tree to tree all around the house in a noisy, gossipy group.
Then stopping off briefly they took a bath in a small ceramic water bowl at the edge of the patio. They splashed around in the bowl for several minutes before flying off again into a nearby tree, where they fluttered their wings and literally shook themselves dry. Satisfied now that they were now clean, they departed and flew further into the wooded area, where their loud, persistent chattering, penetrated sharply through the thin morning air.
As everyone that had visited us so far had headed directly for the water bowl, before even looking at the food, we immediately refilled the bowl. The babblers had splashed around so much in the shallow bowl that they had almost managed to empty it.
It was winter, and there had been no rain for several weeks now, so we knew there were no puddles out in the veld where the birds could find water to drink. This meant it was up to us to make sure the water bowls were always kept topped up.
Two Red Eyed pigeons arrived next, and as they perched up on the wooden rafters under the thatched roof, we noticed how they were fussing around with strands of grass. Then soon we began to suspect that they were trying to build a nest up there, which was not ideal since their droppings would soon make the patio look very messy.
A crested barbet, who trilled loudly while he sat on the back of a chair out on the patio, immediately declared that all the fruit we had placed out there was now his property. He did this by puffing out his feathers, trilling loudly, and also doing a tail flicking dance.
His antics drew the attention of a pair of Bulbuls, a Red-billed Hornbill and a couple of Olive Thrushes and soon several other birds were calling to each other from the surrounding trees.
Why Barbets always seem to announce that they have found a delightful food source has always been a mystery to us because they then still try to prevent any other birds from eating the food. They actually chase them away by acting very aggressively.
Later, an Ostrich came running through the veld to see what all the commotion was about, and he immediately stuck his head through the dining room window where we were presently sitting and eating our breakfast.
He begged for some titbits by looking directly at us and tilting his head from side to side in a most appealing manner. This meant we walked out onto the patio with some bacon rind and crumbled bread for him.
We watched as he gobbled it all up and then looked around for more. After a while, he stood back and tried to outstare us. After realizing that we were not going to give him any more food, he came over and undid our shoelaces. Then feeling ever so pleased with his efforts, he then looked up at us expectantly in an intelligent manner. -So, of course, we gave in to his demands and fed him some more.
Although the Ostrich was fun to watch and interact with, it was disappointing that none of the usual friendly animals came to greet us. We named the Ostrich Fred and he seemed to like the name, because he then began to follow me around as I watered the potted plants near the house. After a time he ran off into the veld rather urgently and I suspected that he had hear something that was not in the human hearing range.
After breakfast, I sat on a lounger out on the patio and read one of the books that Father Christmas had obligingly dropped off for me that morning. It was an interesting story, and I soon became absorbed in it.
Then suddenly, breaking through my concentration, a murmur, a sound, or perhaps the snap of a twig, caught my attention, and I looked up. And there on the very fringes of the surrounding trees, I saw two large bull elephants standing there and looking in my direction.
They stood there for a moment longer, and then paused, mid-stride as they watch me. Then when I got up to take a closer look, they began to walk towards me.
They stood on the ground just below the edge of the high, raised patio and although I was delighted to see them, I moved back a respectable distance from their probing, long trunks.
They stood there just looking at me for a moment while they both shifted their weight from one front foot to the other as if they were marking time. Then one Eli slurped up all the water in a ceramic bowl at the edge of the patio, and his friend meanwhile extended his trunk to gather up the few crumbs left there by the birds.
It felt as if time stood still while the three of us silently communicated in an unspoken language, that we all appeared to be fluent in. Then somehow by some strange form of telepathy, the elephants managed to indicate to me that they wanted something sweet to munch on, -preferably one of the green apples they could see that were presently piled up in a bowl just inside the doorway.
I went on to verbally explain to them that I was not supposed to feed them. But then as I mentioned the reasons behind this thinking, one Eli tossed his head in indignation, and I swear that he planted the suggestion into my head, that a single apple each would not constitute actually feeding them.
I walked inside and picked up two large green apples that they immediately very gently each took from me. Then while they chomped on these, I was able to take a closer look at their rough, patterned skin and their exceptionally long, straight eyelashes.
I could tell they wanted more apples, but by now my conscience had kicked in, so I stood firm and refused to co-operate any further with their demands.
They hung around for a while, but as they kept coming back to the patio for a drink, I refilled the water bowl several times, and they slurp up all the water time and time again.
Then after realizing that I wasn’t going to give them any more apples, they browsed on the ripe seed pods from a nearby Raasblaar tree. Later, they walked into the wooded area where they slurped up all the water from a large water container that was embedded into the ground down there.
Then suddenly with a toss of his head, the one Eli headed off into the bushes at quite a trot and his friend soon followed after him. I watched as they silently disappeared into the shadows and then went back to reading my book.
In a few minutes and just when I’d got back into the story, there was suddenly a loud crash. It came from the direction of the kitchen, where I recalled that the top of the stable door was standing wide open.
I vaulted up and ran in that direction and in my haste I collided with my husband, who was also rushing towards the clattering sound coming from the kitchen.
To our surprise, one of the elephants had his trunk extended right into the very centre of the kitchen and he was now standing with his massive head sticking through the open half of the stable door.
The pair had obviously snuck back quietly when I wasn’t looking, and the one with his head inside had managed to knock down all the pots from a shelf near the door. –So this was the clanging sound that had alerted us to them being there.
We both began to shout and bang on things to try and chase them away. But the Eli with his head inside was undeterred by our efforts. He had found a prize on the countertop, and he was determined not to lose it. So now with his trunk almost entirely extended, he elongated it even further, before he deftly grabbed the loaf of bread I had earlier placed on the sink draining board to thaw.
As he snatched the bread, the thought that went through my head was that this was no contest and that since he was bigger than us, we had better just let him have the bread.
It worried me that the bread was still wrapped inside its plastic bag, but the bright Eli, who had possibly done this before, put the loaf down onto the paving and deftly tore off the plastic wrap with his trunk and then discarded it. Then picking up the bread he ate the entire loaf in one large gulp.
His friend at this point was standing close by, but he seemed to know better than to ask for a bite. So perhaps elephants don’t share their loot!
The thieving Eli then began to step up to the open door again, to try his luck for something more. But as quickly as he could muster, and before the elephant could stick his trunk inside again, my husband slammed the top section of the door closed, -directly in his face.
For a few minutes we both stood there shaking, and as we leant heavily against the door, we began to feel rather foolish. For if he had really wanted to, the Eli could easily have pushed the entire door down or even done something much more destructive.
Luckily for us, after lingering around for a while longer, the pair soon disappeared into the bushes again. And as a result, I learned the lesson of not giving them even a single apple, no matter how much they seemed to silently insist that it this was actually okay.
To this day, there is still a distinct deep dent in the thatched roof above the back door, where the Eli once stood and had his way with our loaf of bread. We also discovered from our partners, that this had happened on several occasions in the past. The pair had apparently once snatched a big cherry cake through a window, taken a slab of butter from the lunch table out in the boma and also devoured quite a bit of fruit and even a couple of packets of potato crisps, which they had somehow managed to get hold of.
Of course, once we recognised this as a pattern, we became more aware of where we left our food, especially since one cannot argue about whose food it is with a determined, huge elephant, which might just give a huff and a puff and knock the entire house down.
I hope you enjoyed reading this little story, and if you did, look for more such stories under my name on Shakespir.
We had been warned not to feed the Elephants, but they had become so tame over the years, that we often forgot and gave in to their damands with somewhat disasterous results.