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No pudding or pole this time, just an elephant

When I finally go off to that great newsroom in the sky _ where columnists run the universe and lowly politicians, editors and convicts who hold stop signs at road cleanup sites do our bidding _ I probably won't be remembered long at all.

But, if I am, it will almost definitely not be for any great journalistic, humanitarian, artistic or athletic accomplishments I racked up while here on Earth.

I will be remembered as the guy who sat on the pole, the guy who won the worm-eating contest, the guy who beat a 90-pound woman (two out of three falls, anyway) while wrestling her in a vat of chocolate pudding and, now, the guy who probably made a fool of himself in the elephant race.

Because that is what I will be doing at 10 a.m. Nov. 4 at Gulf View Square mall during a tent-raising party hosted by New Port Richey radio station WLVU 106.3-FM preliminary to the opening of the Clyde Beatty/Cole Brothers Circus.

Gee, and it seems like only last week (okay, it was only last week) that I was bemoaning the fact that I seemed to have run out of stupid human tricks to add spice to my life and fodder to my column.

Then, as if by magic, I get a call from Sue Campbell, sales director at the station, asking me to participate in an "elephant race."

After informing Campbell that some of us overweight folks don't take kindly to remarks about our excess avoirdupois, and being assured by her that she wasn't a co-worker hunched over a desk in our news bureau laughing, I decided I could outrun any elephant in New Port Richey _ and said I would do it.

No, she said, I wouldn't be racing against an elephant, I would be racing on an elephant. Hmmmm.

Suddenly pictures began to flash through my mind _ grainy videotapes of elephants being ridden by professionals and amateurs and running amok at circuses. Cool.

I mean, I don't want anyone to get trampled, but if anything in Pasco County _ other than the County Commission and its assorted lobbyists, attorneys and functionaries _ ever runs amok, I want to be on its back, mostly because that's almost always better than being in front of it.

There will be a lot of other things going on inside and outside the mall, not the least of which, after the races and tent raising, will be the circus.

I'm not really a big circus buff because I spent a portion of my childhood on the show horse circuit where small circuses and carnivals were part of the picture. Cotton candy loses its appeal after you've had it for breakfast, and the sideshow performer who can hammer a spike through his tongue begins to pale after you've been in Pasco journalism long enough to see Hap "Nap" Clark perform the act after inserting both feet into his mouth.

Real acts of skill and talent are deserving of recognition, though, as are the great circus traditions of the show always going on, fascination with the absurd and a willingness to watch clowns perform for hours.

Oops, that would be Hernando politics.

At least there is a prize for the elephant race _ 100 Hershey/NFL Twister Games for the children's charity of our choice. If I win, the games will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Pasco County, because I believe that kids who develop lower back problems at a young age will have more respect for their elders later on.

When last I checked, Pasco Commissioner Ann Hildebrand was being sought to compete in the elephant races, along with me, a guy from the auto dealership sponsoring radio coverage of the event, WLVU's morning man and five or six other contestants.

But corporate pride made me throw down the gauntlet to C.T. Bowen, a columnist at Brand X who, after looking up gauntlet, agreed to race against me, probably on the theory that he will have an advantage because he's so tall his feet will reach the ground and he can help his elephant along.

My elephant, however, will have been reminded that the barbecue joint down the street serves a jumbo sandwich, and that jumbo is Swahili for elephant.

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