English 4

Elliot Fandinski’s Empire

Elliot Fandinski owned one of the largest ranches in Texas in the first half of the 20th century, so1 his rise to wealth and prominence is what most remember. He did not inherit his mass of land, the way many of his contemporaries did. In fact, nothing could have been2 farther from the truth. He was the son of two poor Russian immigrants, who arrived in the United States just after the year 1900. They were given work as farmhands in upstate New York. Elliot was born on that farm, and was raised in a small hovel also inhabited by chickens, goats and field mice.

Elliot quickly developed a fondness and connection to the animals, learning to train them when he had reached the age of just four years old.3 He became so dazzlingly talented at teaching the animals new tricks and behaviors that the farm’s owner, Mrs. Hass, requested that Elliot be responsible for her many house pets. Modest even at that young age, Elliot merely credited the ample space he had on the farm for keeping his “trainees” happy. [4] Animals, generally, require,5 months with a trainer before they begin to respond fully and favorably. Young Elliot, however,6 could teach even sheep impressive tricks accomplishing this7 in just one afternoon session.

Mrs. Hass, a shrewd businesswoman, saw an opportunity. She began advertising shows, in which people could come from miles around to witness the awe-inspiring menagerie that Elliot had put together. Audiences delighted in watching a goat walk on its hind legs and a chicken run through an obstacle course, but, even more, they loved the cute, young boy behind the spectacle. Not all audiences, however, were so appreciative,8 one local newspaper ran an unfounded feature article stating that Elliot, the supposed wunderkind, was not actually responsible for the training at all. [9] Elliot, whose inclined10 laugh at his detractors, notes in an interview later in life that he framed the article and kept it in his bedroom. The writer re-surfaced years later but they renounced him and nearly arrested for libel11 on a different assignment.

As the popularity of Elliot’s animal shows grew, so did his fame. Elliot toured the country dozens of times, performing at fairs, corporate events, and Gatsby-esque parties during the roaring 1920’s. He started his own academy for animal trainers, which grew so quickly that he made the major investment of purchasing his own massive estate in Texas. [12] Rolling hills stretch for miles and you can see the reflection glimmering13 off the surface of Elliot’s pond, his favorite place to sit and read. And, of course, there are hundreds of gleeful animals. From Fandinski Farms, it isn’t14 much of a stretch to think that Elliot might never have felt a need to leave.15