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Tigers and lions . . .

. . . don't get along. This has long been known by big cat tamers. Then along came the great Clyde Beatty (1903-65), who became an international legend by mixing the two big cats in his circus shows. This took immense courage.

At the height of his fame, Beatty had twenty lions and twenty tigers, of both sexes, in one show. Beatty was armed with a chair, a whip and a pistol that shot blanks.

There were two incidents in the big cage that merited national attention.

In one, Beatty was jumped by a large male tiger, who held the tamer's waist in his jaws and trotted around the ring with Beatty dangling like a rag doll. Beatty appeared dead, and would have been if the thick leather belt which tamers wear (for this reason) hadn't prevented the tige'rs fangs from killing Beatty instantly. The tiger made a lethal mistake when it trotted under the stand on which the boss lion, Caesar, perched. Caesar lept and bit the back of the tiger's neck, killing it instantly.

Beatty woke up in a hospital to headlines that the great Caesar had come to the rescue of his master. Always aware of the power of publicity, Beatty let the story fly. In his autobiography some years later, however, he admitted Caesar had been waiting for that tiger to turn its back, and that happened when the tiger attacked Beatty. In essence, Beatty said Caesar didn't give a fig for Beatty, but couldn't pass up a chance to take out that tiger.

The other famous incident came when Beatty was performing in the South in an outdoor ring. When a sudden summer lightning storm struck, the circus goers fled. For one of the few times in his career, Beatty lost all control of his big cats _ traumatized, they roared, snarled, and Beatty beat it out of there.

Once again, the natural antipathy of lions and tigers took hold, but other instincts entered the fray. Lions are social animals and live in prides and work together when hunting. Tigers are basically loners. This proved a deadly situation for the tigers.

The lions lept off their stands while the tigers stayed on theirs. In a gang, the lions approached the tigers one by one, pulling each down off its stand and _ though in each case the the lone tiger battled valiantly _ killing it, as the other tigers watched and waited their turn. Some ten or twelve tigers were murdered before the carnage ended (on a one-to-one basis, by the way, the tiger usually wins, often overwhleming the lion with its size and ferocity, according to Beatty; on the other hand, the lion is the cool counter puncher, and has decent odds in one-on-one when it keeps its head).

The moral of this story is, of course, so obvious and fits so many situations, from censorship to genocide. But I love the power of it _ there was something tragic about those tigers, unable to act for the common good. We can call them dumb beasts, but we do the same. We sit, we watch, then we become the victim. We are tigers taken out by the lions and wonder what hit us. By time we register on the threat, it's probably too late.

I read the Beatty stories when I was a kid, but they have come back to me in recent weeks because of the issue of libraries being in trouble. Then, yesterday, I saw Kim Cooper's second blog on the problems of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Any writer in the Los Angeles area should log on to saveLAPL.org and have his or her voice heard, while there is still time to hold off cutbacks, reduced hours and the reduction of the purchase of new books.

Or wonder why, some years down the line, nobody's reading anymore.

6 Comment count
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Lion Psychology

I liked your analogy about tigers and lions as they relate to libraries, but I have to say the Beatty stories really caught my attention. When I was in Zambia researching Heart of Diamonds, we encountered lions many times while walking in the bush. The key, according to the guides, was to always stay together in a group, because the lions then regarded us as a herd, which wouldn't be attacked. If you strayed away on your own, however, you became an object of interest--if not dinner. Beatty's tigers apparently didn't get the word.

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Dave, I think your observation . . .

. . . is a pretty strong analogy, too. Did you use it in Heart of Diamonds? The tigers not figuring it out _ they've gone centuries as the hunter, not the hunted, like one of Shakespeare's kings, sitting there, head in the clouds, while his empire collapses around him.

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The Circus Is In Town


I can hear the barker now:

" The Pacific Grove City Council Circus comes to town the first and third Wednesday of every month. Show time is 6:00 pm. Arrive early, seating is limited. Every show is S-R-O ! That's Standing Room Only, folks. Admission is free, but you will pay a price ! "

" You'll see blind acts of ambition, deaf ears, fence walkers, tap dancing clowns, and everybody's favorite ; The Budget Buster. "

" Before your very eyes, performers will attempt logic-defying stunts, mystifying, head-scratching positions, and false representations ".

" Ahhh, there ain't nothin' like the PG Circus, folks. "

" And don't forget, we'll have plenty of back-stabbers showing off their pin-point accuracy. What a show ! "

" We'll also bring to you, all the way from the culture-deprived, destructive depths of hell, the one, the only, that book-burning beast ; The Lucifer of Libraries ! "

" What a show ! "

" And remember folks, keep the kids at home. And, if you can't keep the kids at home, keep 'em in the dark. "


Mr. Hauk,

Very stirring piece.

Tigers and lions act instinctively. On the other hand, humans have the ability to act distinctively. Not acting at all puts us on our own endangered species list.

How go the budget battles in your town of Pacific Grove, Ca ? Any progress with the library ?

Keep fighting the good fight.






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Dear Semi . . .

. . . very creative, funny response. I know the politicians won't like it, which is, of course, high praise. The Pacific Grove Library could end up down to 25 or less hours open per week by late summer. But it's not just about PG. Los Angeles is having trouble, too, and a lot of cities inbetween (the size of Pacific Grove, smallish, and Los Angeles, I think now our second-largest city _ perhaps having passed Chicago?). There are times when less hours are acceptable or understandable, usually in very small towns. A few weeks ago Nancy and I were in Bradley, a very small town in South Monterey County, and its tiny library, run by the Monterey County Free Libraries, is only open 15 or so hours per week, but that seems to work for a very small population, most of which in within a few minutes walk. In Parkfield _ the ``Earthquake Capital of California'' _ the library is housed in a trailer, and the hours are minimal. The latter may hold less than a thousand books, but requests are filled quickly, delivered to Parkfield.

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Bradley Library

What were you two doing in Bradley of all places?  Did you find the fault line?  I have heard that the Bradley trailer used to house Big Sur's Library collection before the county rented a building to function as the Big Sur Library.  I wonder where the trailer will go in its next life.   Thanks for keeping up the press on libraries! 

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Mary, we're replying a bit late,

but, that's interesting, if that was once the Big Sur library trailer. Also a trailer in Parkfield; holds maybe 500 books. Hope you are doing well.

Steve and Nancy