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Describing this painting David Shepherd wrote, “Elephants adore mud. After a cool few minutes sploshing around, during which time they get themselves into impossible positions to ensure that the mud reaches every square inch of their rather large bodies, they come out and have a good dust down in the sand–the elephant equivalent of talcum powder. This is an essential part of the daily routine of an elephant. Then, if there is a convenient tree nearby–and there usually is–the next thing to do is to have a really good scratch to complete the whole blissful experience; the ticks in the heavy folds of the jumbo’s skin don’t like this treatment very much but then that’s the whole idea. Around many a waterhole in Africa it is possible to see many trees have been worn as smooth as glass by this treatment.

“In such settings, over the years, I have seen many unforgettable sights. Elephants, if left undisturbed, always seem to be doing something funny. On one occasion, a really tiny baby had got stuck in the mud on the edge of the lagoon. The mother kneeled down on the bank and put her tusks under the baby and pulled it up out of the mud. It popped up like a cork out of a bottle; she was using her tusks like a forklift truck.

“On another occasion, I sat up in the remains of an old platform in a very dead tree.... We climbed up and, for the next three hours, I enjoyed one of the most thrilling experiences in Africa. 300 elephants came down to drink. Several times they came right under the platform and if I had wanted to, I could have stretched my leg over the edge and touched the tops of their backs. The only possible danger would have been if one of the stroppy young bulls had decided to scratch himself against our particular tree—then, anything could have happened! I watched enthralled as young elephants dug into the banks with their trunks and sploshed wet slime under their bodies. Baby elephants, only a matter of weeks old, were cavorting in the sand and mud, wobbling in all directions not quite knowing what to do with their little rubber trunks. All the while, the elephants’ tummies were rumbling like a motorbike rally; they had no manners.”

LITERATURE:
David Shepherd, The Man and His Paintings (Newton Abbot, Great Britain: David & Charles Limited, 1985), pages 100-101, illustrated

PROVENANCE:
Jeanne Hopkins, Tucson, Arizona
Present owners, by descent

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