It was one bad thing on top of another for the circus elephant handler in Easton. He fell into a manure pit and then, to make matters worse, one of his elephants fell on top of him.

Ina, the 3,000-pound elephant, was not the slightest bit hurt. The handler was rushed to a local hospital where he was treated for two broken ribs after the accident Monday.

"That's show business," said Gertrude Hanneford, who runs the Hanneford Circus with her husband Tommy. She said Thursday's two shows, with 35 performers, will go on as scheduled although "it's not a heck of a good start."

The hapless handler, 43-year-old Harry Michael Fried of Sarasota, Fla., was tending the three circus elephants in a makeshift corral at the Talbot Community Center grounds when the accident occurred. The elephants had been digging holes in the ground with their trunks, Hanneford said, and hurling the soil on their backs to knock off flies and mosquitoes.

Fried began filling in the two-foot-deep hole with manure -- which elephants produce in prodigious quantities, Hanneford observed -- on the theory it would stop the elephants from digging deeper. But Fried slipped on the muck and fell into the pit.

Ina, who had been cavorting beside Fried, slipped, too, and fell down on her side on top of Fried. Fortunately, Ina didn't score a direct hit, Hanneford said, which probably spared Fried serious or even fatal injuries.

Ina quickly got to her feet, but Fried lay pressed in the manure. "He lay there and said, 'Oh, ouch,' " Hanneford said, and an ambulance was called.

"He's up and running now," she said yesterday afternoon after Fried had been released from Easton Memorial Hospital. Fried could not be reached for comment.

He's taking a good deal of ribbing, Hanneford added: "He's been around elephants right many times. It wasn't the elephant's fault. The elephant wasn't the clumsy one . . . . Certainly he's not going to live that one down."