My friend Robyn came to visit and while the focus of her stay and our time was training for a fight (in which she did excellently), one of the things we were sure to do was go visit the elephants at Patara Elephant Farm. There’s a strong connection between elephants and Muay Thai, in the movements, the power, the forms, the calm and storming. It’s incredible.
I could go on at length about how much I love washing elephants. I’m amazing at it; it’s a gift and no elephant is ever as clean as the elephant I wash because I take it so seriously. (Unlike the end of the elephant washing, at which point you’re supposed to line up and have your photo taken being “surprised” by a spray of water from behind you. Robyn and I failed epically to even pretend to be involved in that nonsense and instead staged a fantastic head-kick against a backdrop of elephants and a confused/curious handler in our midst.) But the cleaning – no that’s serious business.
So at the end of the day we arrive back at the farm and there’s a 4.5 month old baby elephant having a bath with his mom. He’s disgustingly cute. Horrid, really. He’s rolling around in the water, not getting a lick of attention from mother or handler because the mother is in the middle of a bath which is, like, the only 10 minutes she has to herself in the damn world with this little rug rat chasing her around everywhere and she’ll be damned if she’s going to have her time interrupted by this lolling monster. Meanwhile, the handler doesn’t have to concern himself with the baby because he’s cleaning himself off just fine rolling around in the water like a tennis ball in the front loader. He’s just having a gas, this kid.
Baby Elephant Photo Credit: Robyn Klenk
But then a bigger elephant comes along, a male, and mama elephant isn’t down with this at all and commands baby elephant to hightail it out of there and they trot up the bank while this male elephant settles in for what he assumes will be a Sylvie-level bathing but ends up being not his turn at all and he just kind of starts drinking the entire river. But baby elephant is now romping around like crazy while his mother starts tearing apart giant banana leaves, ripping them with her trunk and just chowing on down. The baby runs around for a little bit before full on bulldozing a laughing handler who had just taken a seat on a little tree trunk next to mama elephant. The handler struggles to stand and then bumps the baby elephant with his butt, kind of pushing baby away. Baby loves this and does a little lap to come back for more. The handler kind of wrangles the baby, wrapping his arms around the baby’s shoulders and letting most of his own weight come off the ground. The handler and our guide explain that the baby likes the feeling of the pressure, it’s a good feeling and this is how they play.
(Baby Elephant Photo Credit: Robyn Klenk)
So now the baby elephant is charging a couple of us hapless bystanders while mama elephant is just happy as a clam to have that little beast expending energy on a giggling mass of people instead of ramming into her all day long. She’s watching, for sure, but her chewing is content as ever.
Baby elephant rams a few men first and they try to hold him back with their hands, like suckers. Baby elephant weighs a few hundred pounds guys, really? I mean, really? Our guide warns us not to do this because the baby elephant will read the pressure on his head as part of the game and will push harder, mowing us down and trampling our chests, which will make us… then he searches for a word. “Dead?” I offer, and the guide accepts the word choice.
Baby elephant decides that my backpack is probably my favorite toy, since I’ve been holding it this whole time, so when I put it down to play with him he rushes me, steps on the backpack and starts tap dancing all over it. Stomp, stomp, stomp! I grab him to wrestle because it’s on now and he thinks this is the best part of the game yet, so he rolls his head down onto the ground to, I don’t know, secure his base? It’s like what puppies do when they play. If he made a sound it would have been like that vulture from the Bugs Bunny cartoons, “Aaaaaa, no no no no.”
But it’s even cuter than his smashing of my treasured backpack (which the handlers are trying desperately to save and I’m just trying to wrangle the baby elephant, who I end up kind of clinching with for a few minutes before he tears off in a wide circle and rushes one of the handlers with his ridiculous I’ve-only-been-in-the-world-for-10-minutes, jabberwocky gait.
Robyn took the high road and coaxed the baby with sips of water poured into his trunk (he curled his trunk up way too tight before sucking it into his mouth, indicating his fine water-retention sinus skills weren’t up to snuff yet) so that she could get hold of his tiny vacuum cleaner trunk and blow into it, whereby he would remember her forever. She got him; she’s locked in there for 80 years, easy. But that little critter wrestled his way into my forever memory banks with the combination of rowdy play, boundless joy, and a clear lack of consideration for his poor mama’s tolerance levels. Sympatico.