Is An Elephant That Died 80 Years Ago More News Worthy Than A Black Man Euthanized By The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office 3 Years Ago?

by Travis Mateer

In a sane world, the answer to the question posed by the title of this post should be a resounding NO, but this is not a sane world, which brings us to the question: what kind of world IS this?

The picture above is a circus program that’s nearly 100 years old. I ordered it as part of my research into the Cole/Cowles family, though I’m not sure if THESE Cole Brothers are a part of the family that produced the man who transformed Spokane, King Cole.

Now, with this in mind, imagine my surprise when NBC Montana featured a story AFTER I got this old program of an elephant that died in Dillon, Montana. Take one guess which circus this elephant was a part of.

Pit the elephant was killed by a lightning strike when the Cole Brothers Circus came to town on August 6th, 1943. 

“She was buried right where she fell,” said University of Montana Western biology Professor Emeritus, Jack Kirkley. “This is Dillon’s elephant. It’s definitely part of our oral tradition.”

On the anniversary of her death, on August 6th, 2023, Professor Kirkley helped spearhead a community memorial service to honor the beloved elephant that Dillon claims as its own.

Is that weird? I think that is very weird, even if it was just a one-off, but this has been the air that I have been breathing for quite some time now, so I’m trying to get used to it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to get used to it. Maybe I should remain confounded that the mechanisms of narrative control are so effective that a non-story about a dead elephant gets attention, and the effort to SAVE HOLLAND LAKE! gets money and so much anger, not even the dashing good looks of Christian Wohlfeil could save him from the supposed death threats and vitriol that finally broke him.

“In terms of that threatening comment, in the very beginning there were all these comments and all this stuff coming through, and this isn’t my job, I don’t know how to do social media very well,” she explained. “In the beginning I just kind of left everything out there. I didn’t delete it right away. It was then when we heard that Christian was saying that there were threats that I sat down and went through every comment and every post.”

She said she spent hours combing through all the comments.

“And I found that one and I thought, I’m sure it was just an offhand comment from an upset local or something, but I thought ‘oh this doesn’t look good’ so I deleted it,” she said. “So it wasn’t immediately, it was as soon as we realized that people were taking it as a threat seeing it on the public page.”

When you fuck with things like pets and peaceful lake retreats for wealthy Boomer transplants to kayak and paddle-board, WATCH OUT!

If you’re a Sheriff’s Office acting with impunity because charades like coroner inquests have no chance of bringing justice to grieving families, do NOT watch out, because you don’t have to! No one is coming to say BAD Sheriff’s Office for euthanizing that man in a private hospital room (not like you thought that was every a possibility).

What outrage is next? A tasteless Halloween costume on campus? A political candidate caught waving the wrong colored flag? Or maybe a Gonzo journalist who can’t always control the volume of his voice will say something REALLY actionable before “the horseshoe” of inquisition? Wouldn’t THAT be a gift?

Tomorrow I’ll let Zoom Chron readers know what issues people in Spokane get fired up about, since I traveled there on Monday to observe. What did I learn? Stay tuned and find out, because there’s even going to be a crude poem at the end!

If you appreciate my work, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way to help me out, and making a donation at my about page is another. Thank you for trickle of donations coming in, I appreciate it!

And thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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2 Responses to Is An Elephant That Died 80 Years Ago More News Worthy Than A Black Man Euthanized By The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office 3 Years Ago?

  1. Concern Troll says:

    Interesting elephant history in Missoula and also Smetankas latest film about Missoula speaks about an incident of an elephant escaping the circus in Missoula and Missoulians nearly beating it to death.

  2. Pingback: Week In Review: October 16-20 | Zoom Chron Blog

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