From More Information Than You Require, published by Dutton in 2008.
MARCH 26, 1950
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTIN SHORT! When he was born, Short was immediately proclaimed the 124th Child King of Ontario. His was a unique, though unhappy, childhood. His first twenty-two years were spent entirely within the walls of the Golden Horseshoe, Ontario’s forbidden city, where he was trained in royal etiquette and calligraphy, and he was regularly bound in stiff bandages in order to maintain the proper elfin stature as befits an Ontarian king. When Ontario’s monarchy was abolished in 1972, Short was forced to flee the Golden Horseshoe, but his exile came as a relief to Short. He did not miss the royal life, and soon joined a common work gang in Canada’s vast comedy mines, where he still labors today.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1885
ONTARIO DE CANADA: Famed circus elephant “Jumbo” is killed by a train.
One legend has it that Barnum’s great pachyderm gave his own life to save another, pushing a smaller elephant named “Tom Thumb” out of the path of the train and safely onto a group of small children. A lovely story of heroism and children-crushing, to be sure, but is it just another Jumbo-load of Barnum bunkum?
There are just as many who suggest that Jumbo committed suicide . . . that after all those years of zoos and trains, the big, sad beast stood on the tracks, the hot white circle of the locomotive’s headlamp growing on his face like an African full moon, and waited to be taken home to the land he just couldn’t ever forget. But that’s just sentiment: Elephants forget all the time, especially if they drink the way Jumbo did.
Luckily, Jumbo’s worldwide celebrity did not end at his death. At some thirteen feet high, his corpse was a much-desired oddity: The skeleton went to the Museum of Natural History, his Volkswagen-sized heart went to Cornell University, and his hide was stuffed and proudly displayed on the campus of Tufts University until 1975, when it was destroyed in a fire (the university had been hit by a train). This is where we get the saying “An elephant always dies twice.”
But as for Jumbo’s brain, its whereabouts remain a mystery. I certainly don’t have it in a jar, and I certainly haven’t attached electric probes to it or held séances around it trying to understand why Jumbo killed himself.