Elephant Wrath and House Fire

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As a child one of my fondest memories was Mom reading stories to me. These included Little House on the Prairie, Moby Dick, a horse book called Black Beauty, and a collection of funny stories about a veterinarian named James Harriett. There was a large children’s Bible in my bookshelf, but we never read that. One day I happened to pick it up and was looking at the pictures. The only picture that registered and remained in the foggy background of my memory was the one of a man carrying a big piece of wood.

I’m sure this little monkey was well deserving of her share of spankings, but I recall only one incident: Following the spanking, which occurred upstairs, Mom went downstairs leaving me to ponder my sins alone. However, as far as I was concerned I was innocent and had been wrongfully punished. Therefore I was determined to get revenge. With all the wrath a four-year-old can muster I grabbed the most lethal weapon I could find – my big blue stuffed elephant. Marching halfway down the stairs I took aim at my target, Mom’s back as she stood washing the dishes in the kitchen. Unleashing all my fury I hurled the missile envisioning it striking her head and her head going down into the yucky dishwater. But instead the thing landed on the ground just behind her feet and she appeared not even to notice. Outraged at my abysmal failure I yelled something and retreated to my room to pout.

Seven days later I was sitting just outside the house playing in the snow while Mom and Dad were across the runway hitching-up Beauty to a sleigh for the first time. All of a sudden I heard them screaming and shouting and Mom came sprinting across the runway. She was crying as she scooped me up in her arms. I had no idea what was going on until she turned around and faced me toward the house. The house was engulfed in flames! She had thought I was inside.

The fire consumed the curtains on either sides of the big picture window. The hanging plant fell as Mom’s macramé disintegrated. We had stuck the Christmas tree in a snow bank a little ways from the house. Mom plunked me down by the tree and she and Dad ran inside the house to try to salvage some of our things. They rescued a few items including the new jumping horse they had just given me as my birthday/Christmas gift. As we didn’t have a telephone, Dad started the car and Mom drove to the neighbors to call the fire department. Meanwhile the chimney came crashing down. Dad held me where I could look at the seething inferno raging inside. The fire fighters were able to quench the blaze, but not before it had burned a hole in the roof.

Everything inside our house was either burned or ruined by smoke. A church gave me a quilt for my bed and people brought clothes for us. We moved into the shop area for the rest of the winter. It was crowded but we made it work till spring. Then some friends came and tore out all the burned and smoky walls in the house. They put in new sheetrock and painted it so it looked almost like new.

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