Travel with me back to October
3, 1890 one hundred and twenty years ago to a small Appalachian town
in WV called Alderson.
The town of Alderson is a beautiful valley divided by the Greenbrier
River with a lovely arch walk bridge connecting the two sides. The
people who live in the small town are like family so the news has
spread far and wide that French’s Great Railroad Circus is coming to
The children can hardly contain themselves as they ready themselves
for bed knowing that some time in the wee hours of the night
French’s Great Railroad Traveling Circus will be chugging down the
railway into their beautiful town.
Around midnight in the light of a full moon one could see the smoke
flying into the night as the train rounded the hills. The clowns,
lions, and bears sleeping safely as the train came to rest at the
Alderson Train Station. It would not be quit dawn when the hustle
and bustle of the circus family would begin preparation to rise the
big top of the circus tent into the morning air.
Alderson, today a famous little town home of the Alderson Women’s
Prison Camp and for a short time the home of many famous
celebrities, one being Martha Stewart is only minutes from the
famous Greenbrier Hotel. News travels fast even in those days when
something as big as a circus is coming to town. All over the county
the women were preparing food to picnic and have a grand weekend at
the circus. The show will be full of the “whose who” society so the
town folks and the performers are anxious for show time hoping to be
noticed by any famous people who may be at their performance. The
performers are practiced, skilled and ready as they prepare for
their acts but tension is building for they know everyone will
It is now right before show time when Sumatra the star lioness
begins to feel the pain of childbirth.
Sumatra a proud beautiful lioness has hid a secret for some time and
is now expecting to give birth to three warm cuddly cubs who would
be the prize of not only herself but her husband King David the
lion famous throughout all circus’s in America.
French’s Great Railroad Circus had a lion tamer named Scrapper,
Scrapper was a big rough tough and sometimes mean man who trained
the lions and he was not happy when he realizes the cause of
Sumatra’s ailment was going to be the delivery of three cubs. This
truly was a grand event that he was now dreading, alas the birth day
of the young lion cubs.
Sumatra’s becoming pregnant, carrying and now birthing new cubs was
not in Scrappers plans, he knew that lion cubs can not survive in
captivity how did this ever happen, he was always so careful to keep
Sumatra and King David apart except right before show time. It is
well known to all lion tamers that cubs born in captivity develop a
strange stomach ailments and will not live till maturity. Also
another problem is the timing of their birth will it also ruin the
great show he had planned for the evening to impress the oncoming
crowds. How could Sumatra perform under the big top in her
condition? Scrapper had to do something fast, he knew Sumatra could
not care for them and they would die anyway so he began to devise a
way to rid himself of them at their birth.
Somehow he would cause them to disappear in such a way that she
could not even get their scent, yes they would be gone and he would
get rid of these untimely lion cubs as soon as they were born.
Suddenly Sumatra fell to the ground in pain for her time had arrived
and the beautiful tiny cubs made their grand entrance into the world
struggling for their first breath of air.
Three beautiful perfect little lives born into an environment that
may cost them their lives before they were even able to stand to
their feet. Yet he had made up his mind and Scrapper was not about
to allow these three to live and he was determined to rid himself of
this problem, for the show must go on. These cubs are more than he
has time to deal with he knew they would only distract Sumatra from
her performance and he would not permit any distractions not even
these newborn cubs. He had to distract Sumatra from the cubs
somehow and he only needed a few seconds to steal them from her and
destroy them. Scrapper had to be quick and take them far enough
away that she would not hear their cry’s. Scrapper remembered
Sumatra’s love for the father of the cubs, King David the great lion
and was sure the if he brought him to Sumatra that she may be
distracted for just the right amount of time for him to take them.
When Sumatra rose up to her feet to greet her love and friend King
David the lion Scrapper grabbed the three cubs and slipped away as
quickly as possible. He knew that he must dispose of them all so
he placed them in a basket and headed for the emerald waters of the
Greenbrier River where the current was swift enough to envelope the
cubs and carry them down river at a rapid rate. No one would ever
know of his dastardly deed.
But God had a different plan so unknown to the lion tamer the town
blacksmith, E. Bebout’s wife Mrs. Susan Bebout was taking her usual
evening stroll by the edge of the river with her friends Allison
Johnson and Katelyn Neshea Ward. Scrapper was in a hurry and very
nervous as he carried a small basket containing the three cubs, as
he walked nervously closer to the swift moving rivers edge, the
ladies noticed the basket in his arms and thought he was acting
quite suspicious. He tried to avoid them and look past their stares
but to no avail. Frantically they hurried down to his side at the
river bank and demanded to know what he had in the basket that he
was trying to throw into the river. The ladies first thought they
heard the sound of kittens meowing and knew his intentions toward
these tiny creatures was evil. Mrs. Bebout told Allie and Katelyn
that he must be going to drown the poor defenseless creatures.
Immediately Scrapper began to defend himself saying that he had no
other choice than to dispose of these recently born lion cubs, as
he uncovered the basket exposing these three beautiful defenseless
faces. “What?” Mrs. Bebout shouted, they are not kittens? How
could you?” Screamed Miss Johnson. Mrs. Bebout quickly grabbed
the basket from his hand and told him that she would take the cubs
and care for them. The lion tamer began to tell her that it would
be of no use, lions just do not live when raised in captivity, that
he had considered allowing Sumatra to raise her cubs but knew it
would be of no use. Mrs. Bebout would have none of that. There was
no way she would take NO for an answer, so reluctantly, Scrapper the
lion tamer gave way to her demands and allowed her to keep the
basket full of new precious life.
Little did she know how this would change not only her life but also
the life of the little town of Alderson, nestled in the mountains of
WV forever as the future tails of French the Alderson Lion and his
uncommon best friend Tabby would be roaming the streets of Alderson
for hundreds of years to come in the stories of those who
Mrs. Bebout, Katelyn and Allison were full of joy at the thoughts
of this new adventure. After all life can get pretty boring
sometimes in a small town. Little did they know the difficult task
ahead of them but even if they had nothing could have stopped them
or changed their minds.
They were going to attempt to raise three cubs that would soon be
three full grown lions with help from the good Lord above but for
some reason even the thoughts of them growing to maturity didn‘t
scare them. Mrs. Bebout decided to keep the lions at her home
because she new her husband would help as much as he could and
Allison would come over and help at feeding time. Mr. Bebout was the
town blacksmith so he had plenty of room in the barn for the cubs to
play as they grew and waxed strong.
One of the neighbors, Mr. Henry Cook noticed all of the excitement
around the home of the Bebouts so he decided to see what all of the
fuss was about. When he saw the lions he almost swallowed his false
teeth, he thought he had seen everything but this was a new one for
even a man his age. He was use to his wife bringing stray animals
and sometimes people home to feed but never a lion. He got so
excited and upset at first giving all the reasons why it would not
work yet after a bit he calmed down, even he wanted to help with the
feeding and care. Mr. Cook said he could help them much more by
taking one of the cubs home with him and this would help him as
well filling his lonely nights with the company of this beautiful
helpless cub. His wife, Ethel had recently passed away and he was
so lonely. Mrs. Bebout and Allison thought this would be a
wonderful idea as well so off he went with his new found friend.
Night after night the would cuddle together, romp and play.
Mrs. Bebout began to take charge, the lion cubs took to her as
though she was missing Mom. Mrs. Bebout would milk the cows and do
her daily chores always setting aside milk for the young cubs and
her cat Tabby who was rapidly becoming friends with one cub in
particular. Mrs. Bebout would have Jesse or Evan to step in and
watch the cubs whenever she had to run errands, this way all of the
cubs could play together.
Mrs. Bebouts two young playful lion cubs began to grow rapidly and
Tabby her precious cat loved the company. They would all sleep
together and romp around the barn like they were all kittens and
very best friends.
It wasn’t long though until one of the cubs became very ill and Mrs.
Bebout was frantic! How could she prevent the death of her precious
lion cubs? She believed there surely must be a way to raise them
to be healthy and strong even in captivity. Mrs. Bebout finally
decided to ask the family doctor to help. She sent for Dr. W. C.
Beard to come immediately. She knew she could trust Dr. Beard to do
everything possible to see these defenseless cubs make it to strong
healthy full grown lions, oh how she prayed they would live.
Dr. Beard prescribed them a daily dose of castor oil and his brother
Evan brought it to the Bebouts immediately. This dose of castor oil
was nasty indeed but helpful medicine and each day they seemed to
Mr. Cooks cub was not as strong as the other two but seemed to be
coming along when one day while playing outside, he was attacked by
a rat terrier and just simply could not ever recover. Mr. Evans
felt so guilty and was deeply saddened at the loss and felt so
responsible. The cub had filled so many of his lonely hours with
joy and now even he was gone, what would he do?
Mrs. Bebout quickly made him a part of helping with the surviving
two cubs but before long another cub began to get weaker for what
seem to be no reason and now they only had one cub left, Tabby‘s
Perhaps Scrapper the lion tamer was right, maybe they can not live
in captivity and perhaps it would have been more merciful to have
allowed him to put them in the watery grave as he desired so they
would not have to suffer.
As time would have it now there was only one lion cub left in
Alderson and he had always been the strongest of the three, maybe,
just maybe he will make it. Mrs. Bebout decided since he was doing
so well and developing in strength everyday that it was time to give
him a name.
After some thought she jumped to her feet and said I know, we will
name him FRENCH after the railroad circus his mother was traveling
with, his name will be FRENCH, THE ALDERSON LION. From this time on
he was known to all in the small town of WV as FRENCH, the Alderson
Lion. This lion would change the history of Alderson forever in
many ways and be one of the first things to put Alderson on the map.
French quickly became close to Mrs. Bebouts house cat Tabby when he
first began to grow and it wasn’t long till all knew them as
uncommon best friends. The two were inseparable and would continue
to change the lives of everyone they came in contact with then and
now or as long as the story is still told.
French immediately adapted to living in a small space in Tabby’s
cage and in the heart of Tabby. Each night the two cuddled together
sleeping safe and sound but when the sun would rise so did they
romping playfully outside. The two were always together and had so
much fun as the played, uncommon best friends indeed and much was
the mischief they would get into together as French followed Tabby
to all of his usual places.
French had the most wonderful personality, unlike his friend Tabby
the cat who could be pretty moody at times, French was quite
nurturing, gentle, loving and bashful. He would hide behind the
couch or if outside he would run if another cat or dog entered the
yard but Tabby on the other hand was very mischievous. Tabby wanted
to toughen French up so she began to take him with her on her many
adventures into the woods and into town.
Inseparable they certainly were so most townspeople were use to
seeing them as they wondered what seemed aimlessly through the city
streets. What they did not realize was that Tabby always had a
mischievous little scheme planned to have some fun with the citizens
of Alderson. Many a person was given a mighty start when French
reached maturity by simply turning a corner to find a full-mane,
four hundred pound lion running up to play. Fight or flight was a
usual response from new comers and most of the time it was flight!
One hot summer day the two of them went to the Cedar’s Farm in
Alderson. Behind the farm was a trail that many towns’ people travel
to look for Indian arrowheads in some of the well hidden caves.
There were many caves and a creek called Muddy Creek, such a
peaceful place I will never forget. The deer and animals of the
forest would go there to drink of the fresh water. It was even said
in that day the spring at the Cedars Farm was called “The Healing
Waters” and that people for miles around would come to drink from
the spring because of its healing qualities, many would tote a
bucket home. I find this easy to believe for Alderson was once a
part of the Caspian Sea; this information came from a writer in
Fayette County employed by the Fayette Tribune he would often write
of the town and The Cedars. But on this particular day going for a
drink of water or not French followed Tabby as usual down the near
mile long trail to the creek. They were running as fast as they
could go, jumping and tripping into piles of leaves as they tumbled
down the hill. As the best friends approached the creek every deer,
possum, raccoon and squirrel took off in a run seeing this fierce
looking beast. French just strolled on down wondering why they all
left so quick, he didn‘t realize how intimidating he was; after all
a lion is known as the KING OF THE JUNGLE but French thought he was
a cat like Tabby.
Just as French bent his head to get a cool drink, Tabby took a run
at him and sunk his claws in his rear, causing French to roar and
leap head first into the cold water. Tabby hit the ground rolling in
laughter as French rose from the water, bating his eyes trying to
focus on what went wrong. He shook his mane and covered Tabby with
water. She didn’t find this to funny though because almost all cats
hate water! When they got back home they were both wet and in
Then it was time for the annual big celebration for July 4th that
Alderson has had probably since it first became a town. No one can
put on a fourth celebration like the small town of Alderson even to
this day and the friendliness of town draws people from many
counties. The fireworks are usually put off right in the center of
the river, what a show!
The vendors were all out selling their wares ready for the train to
stop and catch those traveling through. the train brought many
people from areas all over the US to Alderson some staying at the
Victorian Boarding House.
This particular time a man called James Johnson and his sister Kim
and her daughter Ashley came in to Alderson by train for the big
fourth of July celebration. James had already begun his celebration
long before arriving to Alderson. The train station set near the
old hotel both being on the side of the river , the river being
directly behind the station and hotel.
James Johnson decided to take his bottle of whisky and go down to
the river edge and watch the festivities from a key location.
Of course Tabby noticed him right away and followed closely and
quietly behind him waiting until Mr. Johnson was situated and
comfortable, bottle in hand.
Then she eased up behind him, with French right by her side
wondering what she was up to this time. She crouched down beside
Mr. Johnson slowly stretching out as though she was going to take a
nap so French mimicking everything he saw her do slowly crawled up
close to other side of Mr. Johnson stretched out in the same
manner. Mr. Johnson was so intrigued in watching the river frolics
he didn‘t even notice that a lion had lain down close to his side.
He took his bottle up to have a drink and French raised up his head
Mrs. Bebout always gave him a drink of her soda pops so French
watched and waited patiently then French peered around at the man
and gave him a big lick across his mouth. Needless to say Mr.
Johnson then became the center of the July 4th celebration. He let
out a scream the whole town could hear and leaped into the river.
It wasn’t long until he had reached the other side. He swam from
one county to the next in record time. French looked at Tabby as if
to say, “What is wrong with him?”
After this serious turn of events it aroused the town’s people, even
though it was quite funny actually. On the return home Tabby
couldn’t resist going through the alley where all of the stray dogs
were digging in the trash cans. In the past the dogs would always
give her a hard time when she would go back to the cans to look for
some fish but she thought today would be different so Tabby decided
that today is a good day for some fish for her and a lesson for the
dogs. Of course she told French to wait on her and she would meow
loudly when it was time for him to come, they had grown up together
and had their own distinct way of understanding one another..
Tabby sit it up good and let the dogs chase her to the end of the
alley and then loudly “MEOW!”, French stepped around the corner and
she leaped to his back with a big smile, her teeth gleaming. The
dogs slid to a stop and then froze, they were so afraid they could
not move. Tabby was hysterical and could hardly wait until the next
Many were the adventures of the uncommon best friends. Late one
night the sound of Tabby’s meow awakened French. French hushed
Tabby, suddenly Tabby said “Wake up! Someone is in the house.”
French reluctantly followed Tabby. As they entered the room where a
burglar was loading up his empty bag full of Mrs. Bebouts
valuables. Tabby said, “French when I meow, you roar!”
Tabby waited until she was by the side of the robber before she
meowed softly. As the burglar turned to Tabby and said, “shut up
cat!”, French roared so loud the curtain waved in the air. The
robber dropped everything and made a hole where there was a window.
Needless to say it didn’t help at all because French leaped through
the opening and landed on top of the burglar . They both waited
until the police arrived.
French loved people so much, his beastly instincts just never took
over so he would walk around town like a stray cat, rubbing on the
legs as people passed by. This was great while he was a young
people loved him back but French had now grown into a mature lion,
and the towns folk were growing a little fearful of his size and had
began to wonder if he would one day awaken as the wild beast he
truly was inside and hurt those he had once been kind to as many can
and will do.
I know it sounds strange that Tabby would talk to French but animals
all have a way to communicate with one another and they certainly
had their way. One particular day Tabby talked French into going to
Wayne the barbers house at the neighboring town to play a trick on
his wife Brenda
Brenda loved Tabby and when she heard her outside her window she
always took her a bowl of warm milk but she had not seen French for
such a long time and did not know how much he had grown.
Tabby begin licking the milk then when Brenda went back into the
house she called for French to come out of hiding. After a while
Brenda stepped by out to get the bowl and French was licking it
dry. With a scream Brenda fainted on the spot and controversy begin
to once again
French and Tabby always visited the Alderson School play ground at
recess, the children would take turns riding on his back as their
teacher Heather followed along. They always missed the two if they
didn’t show up.
The little kids would chase French and corner him to tickle him and
hug his neck. But the people in the town and the Mothers and
Fathers were beginning to fear for their children and rightfully so,
could French or would French someday turn on their children.
People were beginning to make threats that if they ever saw French
out again, they would shoot him. Mrs. Bebout began to worry for his
safety. She had to stop him from freely roaming all over town.
She was broken hearted yet understood the towns fears for
themselves and their children.
One day Allison and Katelyn came to see her. Neither wanted to tell
her the things that had been said at the town meeting. They hated
to tell her the bad news but knew she had to be told. Katelyn began
to tell Mrs. Bebout that an emergency town meeting had been called
to make a decision concerning what to do with French. All the town
folk had forced the Mayor to adapt a town leash law for French so if
he was ever allowed to roam the streets of the town, he must be
attended by an adult, as if that would contain him but never the
less it was adapted into the law book. If he came into town any
more he must be tethered on a leash or he would be destroyed
This is what led the small town of Alderson to be the only town in
North America to have a leash law for lions as is recorded at
Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Unfortunately the small town has had
several floods since the law was written in their City Law Book and
one of the floods destroyed the book but is verified as truth.
Allison cried because she knew things would now quickly change
forever for French and Mrs. Bebout. The two women called Katelyn,
Mr. Bebout, and Mr. Evans and together they begin to look at
different ways to contain him but they wanted him to still feel like
he had plenty of freedom. They wanted him to be happy above all but
Evan and Mr. Bebout constructed a big bed for him in a special room
they built onto the back of the house. He even built a huge fence to
keep him on the grounds unless they took him to town themselves
He made a special leash to walk French to town. Evan even had Mr.
Bebout to help him build a small wagon and make a special harness so
French would enjoy the fun of pulling them into town for groceries
and leisure. This way he got a lot of exercise as he enjoyed the
outing, he also got to see many of the towns people who had missed
what had become their trademark, FRENCH, the Alderson Lion.
Once more the people just could not get use to his intimidating
presence so they continued to complain to the town council. Even
though French was a playful, lovable lion and had not ever been any
harm to people, which is rare the people just could not take the
chance that he could change at the drop of a hat and turn
violent. But French just could not stop being French and he
loved to travel with his friend Tabby, he didn’t know they were any
different; he believed he to was a house cat as well and he still
wanted the freedom to roam the town as he always did with Tabby so
he would get out of the fenced area built especially for him and
other than caging him completely, options were running out.
Some of the more wealthy people in Alderson began to feel they had
suffered enough because they were the object of literary snipers in
every state because of the new ordinance for lions on a leash, tired
of being laughed at they wanted him gone.
They did not want to be made fun of, not knowing they may someday be
famous for this incredible true story of love and a union of peace
between man and beast.
The towns folk believed that unless something was done soon it would
continue to worse until possibly someone was hurt.
If only they had realized that French added to the appeal of the
town then and now as the story is told again and again. The
Alderson Federal Prison Camp would later also bring much attention
to this little town due to the many famous and infamous people who
have been behind its gates for short or long term stays as Tokyo
Rose, Bobby Brown, Squeaky Frome and as late Martha Stewart to only
name a few but none have topped the story of French, The Alderson
Never the less the chairman of the city council, Ashley Johnson was
under more pressure every day to do something permanent about French
and as stated before though she had already proclaimed that hence
forth no lions were to be allowed to run loose on the public streets
and that whenever a lion made an appearance on public thoroughfares
he must have a collar and be tethered to a leash causing Alderson
to enter the annals as the only town in the Eastern Hemisphere to
have an anti-lion ordinance the town was furious, divided and
demanding that more be done.
After this serious turn of events, the Bebouts realized that no
matter how hard the decision one must be made to find a way to make
the town and French happy so the quest began to find a new home for
French and it may not be easy. They began to search for a buyer at
first, not just any buyer for this buyer must have adequate space,
knowledge of how to care and feed a lion and the love and compassion
that French so desperately needed to survive, so the hunt began.
Mrs. Bebout was very reluctant because they loved him so much but
now there was no longer a choice, she refused to cage her beautiful,
humble FRENCH but now that he was mature what if any would be their
options. The Bebouts had to do the right thing for all concerned
especially French. The joyful day of French coming to maturity soon
appeared to be a sad one, until fate stepped in just in time.
Mr. and Mrs. Bebout realized that the Greenbrier Fair at
Lewisburg-Ronceverte was getting ready to start so she decided to
enter FRENCH into the livestock show where he would obviously get
much attention and possibly a new home. Low and behold French took
a first premium in livestock and other honors.
It so happened that the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.
needed a tame, housebroke lion and of coarse the news of French
being in a livestock completion at the Greenbrier Fair spread fast
and for even to Washington, DC.
They contacted the Bebouts and made an offer. The National
Zoological Park purchased French for what was reported to be the
amount of $400.00. Mr. Bebout and Evan constructed an iron cage for
French to travel safely. This cage was quite larger than the one
that was once shared with his friend Tabby growing up so Tabby and
French knew something was seriously wrong. Tabby was feeling so
guilty that perhaps all of his pranks had been the cause of what
appeared to be trouble. French would consol his buddy and they got
to where they would not leave one another’s side for fear of what
was to happen next.
Then the day come when Tabby was taken and set in the cage to lure
French to come in with her. Tabby couldn’t understand what was
happening. As soon as she was set in the cage, French followed and
the decision was made to allow Tabby to travel with French in the
cage that French may remain calm. When they arrived at their
destination Mrs. Bebout then would remove Tabby from the cage
Mr. and Mrs. Bebout, Allison, Evan, Katelyn and Ashley were all
distraught but Mr. Bebout and his friend Evan took him on to the
train station reluctantly before they changed their minds.
While waiting at the train station a familiar feeling come over
French and he began to weep for his friend and mother like companion
Mrs. Bebout somehow he knew soon he may never see them again.
French had seen her tears and suddenly the sound of this train
seemed familiar and he had a slight recall of his real Mother whom
he had not seen since shortly after his birth.
In September 1891 French was brought back to make a command
appearance at the Greenbrier Valley Fair where he roared so
unhappily that Mrs. Bebout was called to come and see how well he
was doing. Quickly she came to French and brought Tabby with her,
Tabby wanted to get inside of French’s cage and much to his delight,
the old friends were reunited for a short while. Yet it is
said that French lived happily at the Zoological Park as the first
lion resident to ever live there.
But I myself will always believe the UNTHINKABLE did happen for it
was also told that French the Alderson lion became a star when he
was sold to Barnum & Bailey Traveling Circus in 1894. Performing
was an easy task for French, he had been the star attraction for
years in his hometown of Alderson. How could performing in a circus
act be any different? From pulling a wagon, to having a cat as his
best friend, or letting a child pet his head, these were all
everyday tasks to French. This natural act for French could be the
most stunning performance for a lion that Barnum and Bailey Circus
had ever seen. I understand that he even became a proud Father
himself having a little lioness called KYHANNA and son named
Could it be possible that by some divine intervention that French
now being himself in the razzle dazzle world of the circus find his
Mother and will she meet her surviving son and French’s daughter,
her own Granddaughter KYHANNA? Would a situation that seemed to be
for the worse, actually be turned for the better? Would French be
given precious time with his Mother who had grieved for him and his
brothers all of these many years? Would the lonely howl of French
arouse the senses of his own Mother under the same big top? I can
not help but believe that it is so, that dreams do come true and the
impossible does become possible.
But it is said for sure that the few years French was at the
Zoological Park that a Mrs. Susan Bebout would visit on a regular
basis with her cat named Tabby. It is also said that people nearly
had heart failure when she would stroll up to his cage and stroke
the big cat, rubbing his head as Tabby slipped through the bars of
his cage to snuggle with his old friend. Of coarse there was no
danger for her; they were old good friends.
One hundred and twenty years have passed since French first came to
Alderson, WV. The ordinance banning lions was not removed from
the old Council Minute Book, although as I said earlier a flood
destroyed the original ordinance book containing the law.
A new resident of Alderson in 1998 was when I first heard this true
story by someone thinking I lived in the historical home it all took
placed. I was so charmed by the story that I had to research and
find out everything I possibly could because I wanted everyone to
know about French. At the time we owned a local restaurant so I had
a French toy carved and coloring pages made for the children’s menu.
The story of French is still alive in my heart today and in the
hearts of all who read his story or perhaps watch it on the big
screen someday, this is where I believe French, The Alderson Lion is
meant to do his last performance.
I believe it adds a fantastic revelation of the love that can
develop between man and beast.
This is just one of the beautiful stories that tell of our lovely WV
Mountain State heritage.
The ordinance remains as one of the most ridiculous laws in the
archives of Ripley’s Believe It or Not to this day.
The good Lord willing French will now roam the world, traveling
through the hearts, imaginations and stories of children and adults
who read this story or hopefully one day see the movie dedicated to
the small town of Alderson.
It will once more come alive in the small country town that is
divided by the Greenbrier River, only minutes from the world famous
Greenbrier Hotel and the infamous Alderson Federal Prison Camp for
Women. As I stated before this camp has housed many residents
famous some infamous as Tokyo Rose, Squeaky Frome legendary blues
singer, Billy, and Martha Stewart and many, many more.
French’s life and escapades continue to live on and on in the
imagination of all who hear of him. Sit down, close your eyes and I
am sure you will sense the presence of French.
Weaving fact with fiction you can still see him today in your
imagination walking up to you on a street in Alderson nudging your
hand for a scratch on the head or strolling down to the riverside to
watch the fourth of July fireworks. You can see him pulling a
wagon full of straw and children pilled up in the hay. Well if you
really look closely you will see him looking at you.
He has touched my heart and continues to touch it and I believe he
will touch the hearts of millions and be in the room of many
children just as my grandchildren for when I told them the story of
French the girls had to have a stuffed lion to name French and a
stuffed cat named Tabby so he would never be alone again!