Tillie’s Capture

As Reported by Jim Dooley, Elephant Trainer

Sells-Floto Circus Elephants, 1930. Charlie Ed, 6th from the left &Tillie, 7th from the left.

Article from the Cranbrook Herald, August 2, 1926. Reprinted from an article

originally in a Spokane newspaper.

Spokane – Her 16 days’ vacation over, Tillie, the 15-year-old, ton-and-a-half Sells-Floto elephant, is on her way to Eugene Oregon, to be “back on the job” today amusing kids and grownups in the big top.

The truant animal, nervous, but playful, arrived at 9:30 from Cranbrook BC, over the Spokane-International railroad and transferred over the Union Pacific in her special baggage car for the Oregon city.

With the runaway were Zeck Terrell, a circus official, Jimmie Dooley, her keeper and the man who finally coaxed her back to good behaviour, and Eddie Thomas and H.B. Clark, assistant keepers.

Tillie has already cost more than her value to return to the fold and the bill is still growing. The ticket for Tillie for her trip from Spokane to Eugene cost $329.27. This was paid in advance by Mr. Terrell. The elephant uses a ticket for ten persons and occupies the space allotted to more than that number.

She was shaking her head from side to side when the train awaited the arrival of custom officials. When asked to speak to the reporter she consented to give a couple of squaky grunts and proffered her truck for a handshake.

Jim Dooley said his charge was perfectly peaceful now and would be on show in a couple of days. A wound in the right leg, caused either by a bullet or hitting a snag, was causing some trouble, but it will heal rapidly.

Tillie was actually captured three and a half miles from Cranbrook but had journeyed more than 50 miles during the fortnight’s AWOL. The Indians were credited with having trailed the beast.

“They are wonderful trailers,” Dooley explained. “Where we had to go was sure a wilderness,” he continued. “Not a living soul had been in those wilds. It took the Indians two days to locate her after they got right on her trail. Then the trouble started. A day and a half was required to coax the runaway 12 miles. We did this with a piece of bread.”

“You’ve got to treat em kindly and that’s all there is to it. Our main trouble was getting word to the gang that we had located the trail. There are no telephones around that place and as soon as we would get some information about the elephant it would take long enough to get relayed to let her get away.”

“The Indians are all right, but the mistake we made was to offer that $200 reward for each elephant captured. When the reward had been paid the Indians got a bit drunk and were laid out for a couple of days.”

“The other pair, Charlie Ed and Myrtle, are still running loose, but they’ll get them soon. Ralph Davis and ‘Spud’ Griffin are up there in charge, and they’ve got regular organization formed. A big camp is located outside of Cranbrook and a ton of hay is waiting for the pair of jumbos when they get through being funny.”

Mr. Terrell stated that they Indian guides are headed by a woman whose trailing ability is almost uncanny. She was responsible for getting trace of Tillie, Terrell said.

“Charlie Ed and Myrtle are fond of each other and almost jealous of each other.

“They’ve got lots to eat and drink up in the wilds and apparently take little jaunts of 30 miles to the mountains and then more toward a creek for a drink.”

“Cheerful” Gardiner, well-known elephant man, who was called to help in the search, has returned to Kansas. The main hope of getting the missing pair of elephants back rests with the Indians.

Fear is expressed that Charlie Ed., one of the circus elephants, is either hopelessly lost in the woods or dead. Charlie has not been seen for several days. When last sighted near Jap Lake he was suffering from foot trouble and showing signs of emaciation.

Myrtle, the female, located near the Worden ranch on the Gold Creek road, is obviously the worse for her experience in the Kootenay jungles. She too, is sore-footed and thin, though still defiant. The best efforts of the trainers who are camping with her in the woods have been wasted on Myrtle so far.

For the past two or three days the trainers have been risking their lives in their endeavor to coax Myrtle into something resembling docility. There is now a probability that with the advent of cooler nights the elephants still at large will not leave the wilderness alive if indeed Charlie Ed. Is not already dead.