. . . 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.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...