Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Animal House

When I was a kid my dad and mom took us to the Brookfield Zoo just about every summer. I really didn't like zoos when I was a little boy. It wasn't the animals fault, they did their best to amuse me, but I just couldn't get past the smell. Somehow the antics of the monkey house just weren't that much fun when my eyes were watering from the acrid smell of primate urine. My dad tried to help entertain me and my siblings, by giving us a bag of marshmallows to throw to the undernourished beasts, but I think that only added to the smell of the place. Back then zookeepers thought it was a good idea to allow visitors to throw any kind of edible crap to the animals. Another reason I didn't like going to the zoo is that we seemed to always go on the hottest day of the year, and the zoo exhibits were spaced quite far apart. It was like a safari in deepest, tropical Africa, as we trudged from the pachyderm house to the lion house in ninety five degree heat.
When I got older and moved into Chicago, I discovered the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was the opposite of Brookfield Zoo, it was small, free to get into, and easy to visit in the cool months. It still had the odor problem though, vaguely like a Chicago taxi cab. The fact is that animals stink, but if you avoided the enclosed exhibits, you could have an enjoyable time.

On my first trip to South Florida, my friend Rudy took Garet and me to a place called Lion Country Safari. This seems to be the perfect Zoo because the animals roam freely over many acres and the way you see the animals is to drive your air-conditioned auto down a winding road directly through the animals habitat. The lions, and all the other animals can come right up to the car and say hello. I don't remember what kept the lions from attacking the gazelles, but they seemed to co-exist just fine. The zoo brochure says that they feed the lions just before the place opens so that they aren't looking to eat you. Maybe it makes the gazelles less appetizing.

Now what I found most interesting, was what was at the end of the hour and a half ride through the wild animal exhibit, a petting zoo. Here in the petting zoo, you could get out of your car and mingle with all the non-lethal animals. The animals most prominent in the petting zoo were the baby goats. Probably a hundred baby goats that you could feed by dropping a quarter into a gumball machine that dispensed goat chow. They were so cute, they'd come right up to you and nuzzle you until you gave them their goat chow. It took me a few minutes, but then I noticed, no adult goats. Where were the adult goats? Finally it dawned on me. I was paying twenty five cents a handful for goat chow, to fatten up these baby goats. I have a sneaking suspicion that I know what Lion Country Safari feeds the lions before the place opens.


  1. I remember going to Lion Country with Rudy. I think we drove through at about 40 mph. You always had to look (or drink) quickly when you're out with him.

  2. Yes, I remember going out to bars with Rudy. He would buy a round, then decide he wanted to leave and you would have to either suck your drink down fast or leave a full glass. I remember, sometimes I used to be such a slow drinker that many times after everyone bought a round, I would have 4 full drinks in front of me and then we would have to leave. Geesh, what a waste. Oh course I lost that reputation fast after I met Alan. hehe

  3. Does this place still exist? Where is it?

  4. Palm Beach County, west, way out on Southern Boulevard. Past civilization.