Monday, 10 September 2012


I would like to extend a warm welcome Gay Balliet to my blog. Without further ado I will hand you over.

Hi, friends.  My name is Gay Balliet.  As a guest blogger for Taylor Sky today, I have my own version of an African-sun adventure.  It’s an excerpt about Sonny, an elephant stolen from the jungle and cruelly enslaved into several traveling circuses in the United States.   Sonny is a character from my yet unpublished manuscript The Celebrated Pet: How Americans Memorialize Their Animal Friends. 

I write creative narrative nonfiction about animals and veterinary adventures for adults and young adults.  My first book, published by New Horizon Press in 1999, is entitled Touched By All Creatures: Doctoring Animals in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  Then, Lowell: The True Story of an Existential Pig, a story about pot-bellied pigs, came out in 2000.  In 2004, RDR Books put out Lions & Tigers & Mares—Oh, My!  Pet and animal lovers laugh out loud as they read about veterinary medicine, a la James Herriot, in the fields and barnyards of the Pennsylvania countryside.

My latest tome is in ebook form with Trestle Press Publishing: There’s a Bear in the Basement- Vol. 1.  Find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and upload it to any ebook device.  In a few days There’s a Bear in the Basement—Vol. II will be out: more stories of tending horses, turkeys, sheep, cats and dogs in the small towns and fields of eastern Pennsylvania.

Anyone may purchase these books at and at www.b&

The following is an excerpt from the story of Sonny’s kidnapping from his African home:

            The killing of Sonny’s elephant herd in Zimbabwe in 1983 resulted in the annihilation of his family and his sense of security.  In the settling dust along the river’s edge where the grand animals had been grazing one afternoon, eighty adult elephants, some shot through the head, others wounded in their legs and bellies, lay slowly dying.  The African bush glowed with fire-blood, and the river frothed tomato-red.  Though mortally wounded, a handful of bull elephants still struggled to rise in a last attempt to defend the youngsters.  Sitting on their haunches, blood streaming down their sides, they trumpeted in weak but insistent voices as other adult elephants shot in the throat and chest lay fighting for breath, barely able to answer the yearlings’ calls for help.  Most of those eighty adults had been luckier than those expiring by the river’s edge, for the humans’ aim had hit their targets well.  Shot in the heart or brain, most had dropped--stone dead--Sonny’s mother and many of his aunts among them.
            While the year-old elephant struggled to make sense of the chaos around him, the second phase of the attack began.  After the adult elephants had been eradicated, hundreds of two-legged creatures ran, yelling, jumping, and spitting like hyenas at the forty scared young elephants.  They leapt and charged Sonny and his brothers and sisters with an arsenal of hooks, spears, heavy chains, and ropes the diameter of grape vines.  Sonny feared this enemy more than those of the African bush.   Though he had never liked the lionesses as they eased, slinking, past his herd, their eyes watching intently for the sick amongst them, he knew they were seldom a threat.  Circling around him and the other yearlings, the adults, especially his mom and aunts, of which he had ten, had only to stomp their feet at the lioness and trumpet a warning.   Then she crawled away in search of easier prey.               
            The predator that had Sonny’s legs tied with heavy ropes was nothing like the lioness.  Unlike the solitary, hungry feline, these things killed in packs, like the wild dogs in the bush.  They maimed in large numbers--more lethal than a single large cat on the hunt.   And these comparatively small but agile creatures wielded weapons he had never seen before; their tools as sharp as the tip of a split branch, and when he got in its way, his skin ripped as easily as an elephant tearing a limb from an acacia tree.  When Sonny charged one of the two-legs, it flung something at him, and a shock of pain rippled along his back: a deep gash in his trunk gaped like a hippos’ mouth, and it leaked blood onto his front feet.
            These small nimble creatures, mostly black, some white, also knew how to use big moving steel things the size of Sonny himself.  Four round black things under each box, rolled, turned, and moved the steel compartments on top in any direction.  Those boxes could move as slow as a sick, elderly antelope, or they could dart as fast as a cheetah.  They were nightmarish--those walking, rolling vaults--and they slowly crowded him and his cousins, surrounding him, pressing them, into a tight circle. 
            Sonny leaned against the other young, panic-stricken elephants.  At least they had each other.  But Sonny longed for his mother.  She had always defended him against the other ill-tempered bull elephants and charged hungry lionesses.  Where was his she?    Why wasn’t his mother helping him?        
            The yearlings, pressed together, trumpeted balefully; some fell to the ground gasping, their trunks limp with exhaustion, and tears streamed down their skin-cracks.  This wily predator was tenacious.  Soon the baby elephants’ calls slowed, weakened. Defenseless without their elders, they massed together as one—alone and without any will to fight.  As the baby elephants leaned into each other, rigid with fear, the two-legged enemies disappeared inside their boxes—silent and staring with piercing white eyes.
              In two hours the young elephants found themselves huddled together inside those same dark containers, four elephants to each of the caravan’s ten boxes.  As each dark cave began to move, Sonny and the other yearlings braced themselves against its unforgiving metal sides.  For what seemed like days, the terrified animals hunched together to keep from falling, leaning against each other for balance as well as for courage.  The only sound was the rattling of steel beneath them and, inside, the gentle weeping of the elephants.

I hope all those who read and enjoy Taylor Sky’s African-themed novels will find time to explore my animal adventure books, too.  Thanks.
Gay Balliet

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