Saturday, September 18, 2010

After Horton

Dealing with Tragedy

It’s been decades since the near disaster; the time when all of our society hung by the thinnest of threads and only the strength and fortitude of one small boy saved us all from our short sightedness. As I look back over the years I am astounded and a bit saddened by what has happened to all of us that were engulfed by the events of the day.

Of course the exploits of the two heroes have been widely reported in the tabloid media over the years. Horton, the noble steadfast beast, remained true to his principles for a period of time, but even he was unable to avoid scandal.

The sordid affair with Miss Maisey producing a bastard child eventually drove that pachyderm to a lifelong addiction to peanuts. Although he protested loud and long, claiming that he had only the noblest intentions, the product of their illicit union could not be denied. Horton did acquit himself to some degree over the years, raising his elephant bird son, eventually sending his unique offspring to veterinarian school before the lad was tragically crushed while caring, ironically, for an elephant at the Miami Zoo.

Horton overcame the subsequent depression and, after a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic, went on to star in several movie adaptations of his life and win an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as lead elephant in Tarzan and the Leopard Men. After penning his memoirs he settled down in The Bronx, where he continues to live with his wife, Esther. In a recent interview he was quoted:

“I’ve lived a long and full life with enough adventure for ten elephants. I have to say that through it all I’ve remained true to my principles treating everyone equally, with compassion and the right amount of love and kindness. And, for those of you that have tried to wrong me over the years” he added while popping a peanut into his mouth, “I have to say, be careful, be very careful, I won’t forget…I’ll never forget.”

The other hero of note was Jo Jo, only a young boy at the time. But, it was his timely “YOPP” that saved us all. Of course, he was celebrated in both print and electronic media and his fame spread. Only a few years later he went on tour with his rock group, “Jo Jo and his Yo-Yo’s”. They played to packed houses for two summers straight and there song “Yipps and Yopps” stayed at number one on the Billboard charts for five months straight.

After a few years, however, his star began to fade. Addiction to heroin plagued him and less than ten years after reaching the pinnacle of success and fame he was found dead, with a needle in his arm, at a crack house on 17th Street. His band tries to carry on without him and you can still see them on Thursdays, here in town at Lena’s Café.

Mother Kangaroo tried to rise above her role, claiming that her only crime was ignorance and that Horton should have been more forthright and insistent regarding his claims. She said in the weeks that followed the events that she feared for the safety of her young son, that a crazed, wild elephant posed a great danger to the jungle. She realized later that it would have been better to humor Horton at the time, but she was trying to set a good example for her son; that it is always best to confront danger, rather than hide.

She eventually, after her children were grown, had a brief affair with a Tasmanian Devil, before marrying the Lorax and finally settling down. They formed the nonprofit organization, “Green Against Pollution” which championed “Green” technologies and fought against waste and exploitation of our natural resources. Mother Kangaroo’s most successful campaign was against the use of beezle nuts and beezle nut oil, citing the considerable smoke that could pollute the air when this oil is used for cooking as well as the dangers of intoxication when excessive quantities of this particular nut are ingested.

Her son, Angus Kangaroo, made a name for himself some years after the near tragedy. His book, “Momzilla, Life in the Pouch”, hit number one on the New York Times best sellers list and stayed there for sixteen straight weeks. He eventually came out and spoke out strongly for “Kangaroo Rights”, battling years of built up prejudices against Kangaroos and their many marsupial relatives. His second book, “I have a Pouch and that’s OK”, although not selling as well as his debut, received much critical acclaim and raised awareness about the plight of marsupials everywhere.

The greatest tragedy that followed our near demise was the suffering of the Wickersham Brothers. The guilt of having nearly destroyed an entire civilization was more than the three of them could handle.

The eldest, Hiram Wickersham, was found hanging from a beam in his jungle apartment only three weeks after the events. The note only said “I’m Sorry…I’m Sorry”.

Elrod Wickersham, the youngest, immediately hit the talk show circuit, claiming that he never wanted to boil that dust speck, as was widely reported. He was only going along with his brother’s wishes and claimed that he never intended to go through with the horrible deed; that he would have stopped them before it was too late; that he also feared for his own life and that if he interfered he would have found himself belly up in a boiling cauldron of beezle nut oil. Of course, he became an outcast from society, never able to clear his name and eventually joined a monastery in Perth.

Ambrose Wickersham, the middle brother, earned even more notoriety in the years to come. He never apologized or denied any wrongdoing in the Whoville affair. In fact, in the aftermath not a word was heard from him. Two years later he was photographed throwing stones at an elephant in the Houston Zoo and it was only a short time later that his hatred for all elephants came to light. It seems that the Wickersham’s father was crushed to death by one of the elephants in the “Outback Circus”, part of a combined elephant/monkey act. Although an investigation proved the death was an unavoidable accident, Ambrose was never able to forgive the elephant and harbored a lifelong enmity towards all elephants, be they Indian or African. Only a few years ago he died in a manner similar to his father. He climbed into the elephant enclosure at the Sydney Zoo and taunted the residents until they charged him and he was trampled. The death was ruled a suicide by the Sydney Coroner’s Office.

Valad Vlad-I-Koff, the eagle that cast our home into the vast field of clover actually came out unscathed. He claimed that he was trying to save us by hiding us from the vicious mob and deranged elephant in one place where we would be safe, the field of clover. I almost believed him at the time, but later eyewitness accounts refuted his claims. Still, he became a successful businessman, starting “Eagle Courier Services”, a company that specialized in overnight deliveries. Rumors abounded a few years ago that the company was involved in delivery of illegal drugs and merchandise, but these allegations remain unproven and Valad sold the company only last year and retired to Palm Beach, Florida.

As for me, the Mayor, I have weathered the years, staying in my position as Mayor of Whoville for forty one years. The near disaster led to a call for more safety measures and plans were made to construct a bright beacon that would make our presence known to the smallest being in the outside worlds. In addition, work was begun on a powerful amplifier, something to make all the outsiders aware of our presence. Political infighting stalled all these projects and then the faltering economy and shrinking tax base forced us to abandon them completely. I never married, as my child hood sweetheart, Cindy Lou, chose to marry that professional baseball player instead. I heard that he has mistreated her terribly, but I can’t say for sure.

So now I spend my days walking in the park, feeding the ducks and reminiscing over those old days. Every day I stop and admire the statue of Horton that sits in the middle of Whoville Park. The ears and trunk have turned green over the years, but the statue still stands as a reminder to all the generations of Who’s, reminding them and us of the fate that we narrowly avoided.

For those of you that don't remember "Horton Hears a Who" here is a link to the text of the story by Dr. Suess