Who came to the rescue when the animals won?

Clyde Beatty in the circus lion cage.
Clyde Beatty in the circus lion cage.

The two pre-med students in the back corner of an Indiana university library were trying to be quiet enough to not get kicked out.  They could not resist whispering between themselves.  They had several books spread out in front of them and their pens were poised over completely blank paper.

“What doctor are you doing your report on?”  Josh asked Nick.

“Nick replied, “Well, he said it could be on any doctor ever, that we admired, either real or fictional.  So you will be interested to know I am going to do my paper on Dr. John Watson.”

“Really?  From Sherlock Holmes?”

“Yeah,” Nick answered.  “I do admire Dr. Watson.”

Then Josh asked, “Why do you think our esteemed professor gave us a fiction option?  It is very odd.”

“I think he is hoping we will realize the common traits all good doctors have: methodical examination, bedside manner, compassion, stuff like that.  Does that sound logical?  Some of the class offerings are going to end up being puff pieces, as a result.”  Nick let out a burst of machine-gun laughter and Josh followed close behind.  They looked around to see if they were getting stared at.

“Not fact-gathering, but ferreting out physicians’ good qualities.  Yes! I think you have nailed it.  It is a plus that we are not being held to fact-finding because I can find almost nothing about my doctor.  It is like he was sucked into a black hole.  When I type his name in search windows, there is nothing,” Josh admitted.

“Who would that doctor be?”

“Dr. Stephen D. Malouf, M. D.  Have you ever heard of him?”

“No.  When did he live?”

Maria Rasputin
Maria Rasputin

“He lived from 1890 to 1986 and he is a real person.  I did find out that much from a genealogy site, but I have to pay to see the newspaper archives and I am always running on empty at this time of the month, as you know.  I sure would like to take a peek at his obit—I think he lived right here in Indiana, Peru, in fact.”

Then Nick posed another quick question.  “Why do you admire him?”

“He is mentioned in two articles about large-animal attacks on humans,”

Josh was ready with a reply.

“Animal attacks?  Now that is unusual.  No one else will probably be doing a report on that guy.  He sounds pretty obscure.  Who got attacked?”

“As you already know, there was a circus in Peru.”  Josh started his tale.  “As a result, there were probably way more than two large animal attacks over the years, dealing with huge, dangerous, bite-y animals, but two were stand-outs and in both instances Dr. Stephen D. Malouf is credited with saving the lives of the bite-ees.  If he had not been on the cases they most surely would have died.”

“Oh crap!  This is going to be a good story.  Not your run-of-the-mill doctors passing out pills and slapping on Band-aids.  Keep going, please.”  Nick closed the book he had been pretending to look at.

“Do you remember that guy, Rasputin?” Josh asked.

“The Mad Monk?”  Nick got a mental picture of Rasputin’s strange eyes boring into him.

“Yes.  He had a daughter, Maria, and after her father was killed and dumped into the river near St. Petersburg, she made her way, in a kind of round-about method, to America.  She did what work she could do here, often assembly-line work, and worked for a time as a riveter. Eventually she went into circus work, due to her love of animals—working several different circuses.  She was often billed as a lion-tamer and she even kept a journal of her circus experiences.  She seemed to have eerie and hypnotizing eyes, such as her father, and they played this angle up in her animal acts—she hypnotized the huge, dangerous beasts with her eyes.”

“She mesmerized them!”  Nick added to the unfolding drama.

“Yep!  That’s how it played.  One day in 1936, Maria got into a cage with Hemmie, a 400 pound Himalayan Bear, when he was doing his trick somersaults.  He accidently knocked her over and it threw the whole vibes inside the cage out of kilter.  She panicked—maybe she screamed or something, but the bear became instantly aggressive and bit her viciously fourteen times.  Two men were able to save her from the bear.  The blood was flowing from her.  They got her to Dukes Memorial Hospital and Dr. Malouf saved her life.  After recovering from her wounds, she worked up nerve enough to continue on with circus work, but she admitted that it took her some while to get her courage up.”

When Nick came out of his trance he uttered, “I had no idea Rasputin even had any children that came to America.  Who was the other person Dr. Malouf saved?”

“I don’t know if you have ever heard of Clyde Beatty.  He may not be famous in general, but he is very well-known among circus fans.  He had a lengthy and stellar career.  He often worked with lions and Nero was his favorite lion of all.  Nero had once saved Clyde from another lion that attacked him.  In 1932, Clyde was in the ring and tripped and while he was down, Nero lunged for his thigh and bit it.”

“Huh, his favorite lion did that?”

“Yes.  He was pulled to safety by other performers.  Animal bites and scratches are very dangerous because of infection.  Clyde got a temperature of 104 degrees and he was on his way out, for sure.  Dr. Malouf was called in.  He tried a bunch of serums to fight the infection.  They didn’t work and time was running out.  Dr. Malouf opened up his thigh and removed a pocket of poison, deep, close to the bone.  With that removed, Clyde turned around and was able to recover, although he had spent ten weeks in bed.  He later went back in the cage with Nero for the movie The Big Cage.”

“Ol’ Dr. Malouf knew what he was doing in the animal-bite department!”

“Maria Rasputin even mentioned this in her memoirs.  ‘Dr. Malouf saved my life, just like he did with Clyde Beatty in 1932.’”

“Fascinating!”

“Nick?”

“Yeah.”

“I was thinking.  Maybe I could turn in another doctor Report for extra credit.”

“And it would be on…..?”

“Since we can do fictitious characters… Dr. Jekyll, of course.”

ScavengersSong

Please click the book cover image to read more about Sara Marie Hogg and her novels.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Sara, when I was a boy, my father took me to see the Clyde Beatty circus when it came rolling into Kilgore. Small tent. Sawdust floor. A few assorted freaks. But when Clyde tamed the lions, and I was sure he tamed them before my eyes, I was breathless, and I still am. To be so small, it was indeed the greatest show on earth.

    • Sara Marie Hogg

      Circuses are such great memories for small children. Mine was the Shrine Circus held at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield. The unusual building, itself was entertaining to look at. After all the neighborhood kids saw this circus, we tried to duplicate it in the back yard, and sold tickets. Yessiree, our dogs could jump through hula hoops, shake hands and roll over. One neighbor boy was pretty fair at magic tricks that came inside cereal boxes. As an adult I am a little queasy about forcing animals to perform in circuses. It seems cruel–but we didn’t know any better at the time. We made a little spending money with our circus and had a blast while doing it. Oh the grandeur…Glad you got to see Clyde!

      • Caleb Pirtle

        If people can eat well, travel the country, and perform in the spotlight, why can’t animals? I’ve traveled with circuses. The animals have a pretty good life. They don’t have to track down food, and nothing is trying to track them down.

        • Sara Marie Hogg

          An excellent point!

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