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As It Was: Circus Elephant Dies of Fatigue on Muddy Del Norte Road

Maintenance of early day roads made of dirt or dirt-covered wooden slats was tricky, with rain a constant threat.

Del Norte County in California was the first to try oiled gravel roads, but they didn’t hold up to traffic, and were vulnerable to destruction by heavy rain. 

In 1927, a section of road near the south end of Del Norte County became impassible in the rain and a crew’s trucks got mired in the mud.

The crew noticed a traveling circus was also stuck and camped nearby.  They talked the circus manager into using his elephant “Big Diamond” to push their trucks out of the mud.  It was hard work, and after little progress the elephant collapsed and died.  The crew then had a dead, one-ton elephant, in addition to their trucks, to get out of the mud.

J.W. Hauser, owner of the Hauser Construction Co., took responsibility for the elephant’s death and disposed of the remains, skinning it for the hide, and then burying it beside the road where it fell.

Source:  Hall-Patton, Mark, and Bill Wensrich. The Trail to Sailors' Diggin's. First ed., Riverside CA, Genesis Printers, 2017, pp. 121-22.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.