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Little Aggie

by Marriott Edgar
Illustrations by John Hassall

Poor little Aggie at the back
Poor little Aggie at the back

The origin of the proverb 'an elephant never forgets' is obscure, but since an elephant's lifespan in a zoo or circus is 20 to 30 years (50 to 70 years in the wild), it no doubt has lots of experiences to mull over while awaiting its next iced bun.

The brain of the elephant is larger than any other land mammal and large also relative to its body size. This doesn't necessarily correlate to enhanced memory but does indicate mental flexibility.

This means that even if an elephant cannot remember whether staring in the tourist's camera lens will result in temporary blindness from the flash, it might at least have the intelligence to know that the tourist is unlikely to post a copy of the photo for the elephant to frame and keep on the mantlepiece.

So don't worry if you are not so adept at remembering things; it just means you are not an elephant.

See also this fascinating article about some real elephants.

When Joe Dove took his elephants out on the road
He made each one hold fast with his trunk
To the tail of the elephant walking in front
To stop them from doing a bunk.

There were fifteen in all, so 'twere rather a job
To get them linked up in a row,
But once he had fixed 'em Joe knew they'd hold on,
For an elephant never lets go.

The pace it was set by the big 'uns in front,
'Twas surprising how fast they could stride,
And poor little Aggie, the one at the back...
Had to run till she very near died.

They were walking one Sunday from Blackpool to Crewe,
They'd started at break of the day,
Joe followed behind with a bagful of buns
In case they got hungry on t'way.

They travelled along at a rattling good pace
Over moorland and valley and plain,
And poor little Aggie the one at the back
Her trunk fairly creaked with the strain.

They came to a place where the railway crossed road,
An ungated crossing it were,
And they wasn't to know as the express was due
At the moment that they landed there.

They was half way across when Joe saw the express,
It came tearing along up the track,
He tried hard to stop, but it wasn't much good,
For an elephant never turns back.

He saw if he didn't do something at once
The train looked like spoiling his troupe,
So he ran on ahead and he waggled tho buns
To show them they'd best hurry up

When they caught sight of buns they all started to run,
And they soon got across at this gait,
Except poor little Aggie-the one at the back,
She were one second too late.

Joe ran ahead and waggled the buns
Joe ran ahead and waggled the buns

The express came dashing along at full speed,
And caught her end on, fair and square
She bounced off the buffers, turned head over heels,
And lay with her legs in the air.

Joe thought she were dead when he saw her lyin' there,
With the back of her head on the line
He knelt by her side, put his ear to her chest,
And told her to say "ninety-nine."

She waggled her tail and she twiggled her trunk;
To show him as she were alive;
She hadn't the strength for to say "ninety-nine,"
She just managed a weak "eighty-five."

When driver of th' engine got down from his cab
Joe said "Here's a nice howdedo,
To see fifteen elephants ruined for life
By a clumsy great driver like you."

Said the driver, "There's no need to mak' all this fuss,
There's only one hit as I've seen."
Joe said, "Aye, that's right, but they held on so tight
You've pulled back end off t' other fourteen."

Joe still walks around with his elephant troupe,
He got them patched up at the vet's,
But Aggie won't walk at the back any more,
'Cos an elephant never forgets.

Aggie just managed to say 85
Aggie just managed to say "Eighty-five"

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