King Kong on the Prairies

In which the eponymous giant primate experiences the discomforts of touring, and accommodating locals provide him with housing alternatives, evidence of which still persists to this day.

When King Kong toured the Canadian prairies in the early part of the previous century, the anticipatory locals were often at a loss as to how to sufficiently house their guest.

The great ape being some forty feet tall, a six-storey structure, free of any interior impediments, was strongly recommended. But six-storey structures were not easily found, not on the prairies, not at that time. 

Kong’s visit would change all that.

When estimated building costs were made public, not a few taxpayers in not a few towns voiced fiscal misgivings. But they were finally persuaded by the argument that, if they longed to see Kong, shelter of some sort was an absolute requirement. The likelihood of prairie storms was recognized by all. Kong would be the highest moving object for miles. The promoters effortlessly conjured up the spectre of a rattled Kong scrambling to find cover beneath a lightning-riddled sky. 

And, in the event of Kong’s electrocution, the residents were left to brood on the guilt and infamy with which they’d be saddled, not to mention disposal of the massive corpse. 

Settlements were reached: the buildings — in most cases — were built, though Kong was obliged to double his appearances.

As was his fashion, Kong got the last word in — that the shelters be erected by railway tracks. He struggled to sleep in the dry thin air of the prairie and was soothed by the sounds of other huge and isolate creatures — even mechanical — groaning through the sometimes seeming infinite night. 

So. Yes. Kong’s shelters were built. And built very well.

Many can still be seen to this day, across the west, though their function has changed. Prairie folks, not big on museums to some mythic passage, put the buildings back to work. These days most of them function as grain elevators. 

But if you look closely at the inner walls of some, even now, a century later, you may make out scratchings in the wood — the work of Kong’s fingernails unsettled in sleep, seeking out the sloping peak of Kilimanjaro, 8,500 miles to the southeast, the great stone beast, pillowed in fog, willing cradle to his weary bones, ancestral home he never quite reached.

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Andrew Rai Berzins

Andrew Rai Berzins

Andrew Rai Berzins' writing includes Cerberus [short fiction] and the screenplay for the feature-film "Beowulf & Grendel." These days he's mostly reduced to roaming Nova Scotia.

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