Guest Blogger, Elijah A. Smith, The Register, Blaineton, NJ
There’s no place like home. Unless there are a quantity of elephants about you’re not in India or Africa.
SEEING THE ELEPHANT recounts my family’s return to Blaineton after nearly a year’s sojourn in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t a very long time in the grand scheme of things, but big changes had been cooking.
First of all, Miss Tryphena Moore became my boss. Yes, that's the same Tryphena Moore who made life miserable for Maggie in SAINT MAGGIE. She had a change of heart that even I have to confess was God’s doing.
Anyway, Miss Moore wanted to secure my services as Editor-in-Chief of her newspaper, The Register. I always wanted to give Horace Greeley a run for his money, so I happily sold myself to her. In the bargain, she secured Maggie’s permission to sell the lot on which the old boarding house had stood. She then turned around and purchased for us the old Greybeal House, a mammoth place just outside of town on a fair bit of property.
Imagine that! In the blink of an eye, we went from being poor as Job’s turkey to rattling around more rooms than we could count (I exaggerate, but you get the picture). Suddenly we had the potential to become big bugs[i] in our hometown.
Speaking of big bugs, one had already moved in during our absence. His name was Josiah Norton, an industrialist who already owned several mills out east around Paterson and now possessed a woolen mill and uniform factory south of Blaineton. The man knew how to take advantage of the war. The government was more than willing to pony up the cash for his merchandise. But then again, Maggie’s brother Samuel was doing the same thing over at this carriage factory after he had converted to making wagons for the Army.
I don’t care much for industrialists. They seem to spend their money on themselves and little on the folks working for them. I like things to be fair, and that’s not fair. In short, Mr. Norton and I didn’t get on too well. We still don’t.
Also new to the town was the Western New Jersey Hospital for the Insane, built on a hill to the town’s north. Dr. Stanley, the asylum’s superintendent, was all about the Moral Treatment Method – a more compassionate way of helping those labeled “insane.” I figured the place might be helpful, seeing as how there seemed to be a number of men coming back from the war with injuries to their minds, rather than their bodies. Dr. Stanley had good intentions, but good intentions can’t always protect you from greedy men.
As for me, I had to admit that I was one of those men struggling with the impact of the war. I didn’t fight, of course, but as a correspondent I had been in enough battles and their aftermaths to have seen the elephant, and I didn’t like it. Turns out the elephant didn’t like me, either. It was giving me nightmares, which became a worry to me and to my dear wife.
So that’s the set up for a tale woven around human frailty and foibles as they do battle with the power of love and hope. Yessir, Blaineton was headed toward a big blow up of some sort. It was far too many elephants for me to take in.
And just to complicate matters, my stepdaughter Frankie got a job over at the insane asylum. That girl! She has a heart as big as the great outdoors and yet can whip her weight in wild cats. I declare if she lives to make twenty-one years of age, I’ll be able to die in peace.
If you’re so inclined, please go over to the Store and read the first chapter.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it was pleasure stepping in for Miss Stafford these past days. I understand Miss Stephanie Hopkins Moore of LAP It Marketing might be interested in having me stop by and chat with her sometime. I would not mind that in the least.
Thanking you kindly for your patronage, I remain,
Elijah A. Smith
 “Seeing the elephant” means “I’ve seen it all” and “I’ve seen battle.” (J.R.Stafford
[i] “Big bugs” is Eli’s way of saying “big shots.” (J.R.Stafford)
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder