Queenie came into my life in March 1953, when she was 9 months old and I was 8 years old, living in Orfordville, New Hampshire. My father bought her in New York for his zoo, which he opened when we moved to Vermont in 1954. Queenie and I grew up together. She could sense my moods. When I was sad, she would touch my face with her trunk as if to say, “It’s going to be okay.”
We started performing together when I was 12: fairs, circuses, amusement parks, TV. Eventually, I left for college and my father died. My mother and I made the hard decision to say goodbye to Queenie. Her journeys thereafter took her to circuses in Michigan and California. In 2001 she came to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia.
When I learned where Queenie was living, I flew down to visit. I hadn’t seen her for nearly 40 years. She had developed a distrust of people. But when I saw her, I spoke her name. Her ears went out; she smelled my hands and then my feet. It was as if we’d never been apart. I cried; she stood there, touching me with her trunk.
I’ve visited Queenie three times now. Each time is the same: We touch and I cry. When I leave, I say, “I’ll see you again as soon as I can.” This June, Queenie and I will hug again.