Saturday, November 19, 2005

Don't Feed The Animals

I remember going to the zoo with my brother.  Our parents would drop us off there with a couple of bucks for popcorn and then leave.  The zoo was kind of like a county provided daycare for my brother and me.  We had our favorite animals to visit, the train to ride, and mischief to perform.  I think all the animals moved to the backs of their cages when they heard we were on the premises.  

First stop was always Monkey Island.  In the winter the monkeys were confined to their glass monkey house.  The smell coming off that house was enough to knock a buzzard off a shit wagon at 30 paces. The rest of the year they were pretty much free range monkeys, exploring their little island, running around trying to hump each other and attempting to “swing for the fence” when slinging their feces towards the audience.

Come to think of it, those monkeys were the perfect entertainers.  They worked cheap – you just had to pitch them a marshmallow and they didn’t feel obligated to express their political views as though since they are stars it is their God given right like human entertainers.  It was fun to toss the marshmallow into the water and make them swim out to get it.  Looking back I now wonder why, if they could swim well enough to get the marshmallow, they didn’t just swim the rest of the way and escape.    It wasn’t like the Musky pond at Aqualand where you could buy a frog and toss it into the pond – he thought he was getting away until a Musky reared up and devoured it.  No Musky in the monkey lagoon.  The way that water looked I doubt even a carp could have coped.  The only challenge was when someone put a stone in the middle of the marshmallow, so it would sink, leaving the monkey paddling around in silly little circles looking for its treat.  

Bear in mind this was the good old days when you could feed the animals.  Hell, the grizzlies would do tricks for ice cream bars.  I saw one old dude with a whole box of Eskimo Pies chucking one after another to grizzlies who were sitting up, rolling over, and playing dead (most of the bears did that really well, as the slept a lot – even hitting them in the head with a few well thrown peanuts wouldn’t rouse ‘em).  You could hold a piece of popcorn up in the bird house and these gray and white birds would swoop down and grab it out of your fingers. Pretty cool.  Almost as much fun as ducking down in your zoo train car and tying to hit pedestrians with a nice juicy lunger as you went over the bridge.

The conversation that brought all this back was one my brother and I had about a flock of Emus that were killed by a mountain lion out here.  If there was a Noble type prize in the bird world, the Emu would get the one for stupidest bird ever.  Ok, they have a bird brain, so you can’t expect much from the onset, but Emus must have one the size of a chick pea.  I can guarantee that while that mountain lion was killing one Emu, the rest of the birds were waiting in line to be next.  The ones at the zoo were no different.  They would come up to the glass to look at us, at which time we’d hold up our arm, put our index finger and thumb together to resemble a beak and start a “pecking” at the glass.  The Emu would become enraged and try to peck its “rival”.  This resulted in a rather large bang from Emu noggins impacting some pretty sturdy glass.  The fun thing is you could get them to do it over and over again.

Speaking of banging glass, Sampson the gorilla was the champ.  There were kids that brought teasing the animals to the next level.  They teased the snakes in their cases to the point where if the snakes could get out they would bite them.  But they teased Sampson until he wanted to pecker-slap them and he would hit the glass of his enclosure so hard it made the glass shatter.  Fortunately it was safety glass so it didn’t give way.  

It has been a long time since I have been to the zoo and things have changed – you can no longer feed the animals, but I’ll bet you could still get the Emus to bash their gourds into the glass…