Today I read Tori's account of going to the zoo where she and her family live in Croatia. Her opening paragraph included the details that this was a small zoo and everything was very open. That triggered a memory of quite a harrowing trip we took to the zoo once. It's really kind of funny now, but it wasn't then . . .
We were visiting my parents in SC. We had our baby, Samuel, who was about 6 months old, and my youngest brother and sister were about 6 and 4 years old, I think. My other brother was there, too. One day Mother told us about this little zoo nearby that was really neat; although the animals were in pens, they weren't behind tall fences and all that, so it was like being up close and personal with them. So we decided to go. Wes and I took Samuel in our car, and Mother took Benji, Jason, and Rebekah with her in their car.
Our visit to the zoo was uneventful. I remember getting close to all the critters, and seeing these animals for the first time through my baby's eyes. What fun! We noticed that the monkey area was a little separate from the rest of the zoo, on a little island in the middle of a small lake. How cute they were out there in their own little paradise, and how safe we felt, because they were separated from us by all that water! We finished up our little visit in the afternoon, and as we were walking toward the front entrance, we heard a little commotion. Now, with animals kind of living loose like that, I was pretty concerned right away. My first thought was for my baby, so I took off with the stroller in the direction of the car. Then I heard people shouting to "get in your cars!" They didn't have to tell me twice! LOL
Wes shouted for Mother and all the kids to get in our car, a little Ford Escort station wagon. I buckled Samuel in with trembling hands, because by now we had learned that the loose animal was an orangutan. A good-sized one. With a shovel. These things walk around like we do, and this one was wreaking havoc with that shovel. Everywhere he went, he was taking whacks at buildings, tables, fences . . . whatever struck his fancy. And he wasn't happy.
Well. Mother and I got all the kids in the car, and I was waiting to see what to do. Wes was wildly waving from my parents' car to go . . . just GO! The monkey was coming. In the process of waving me out of the parking lot, Wes somehow hit the horn. Just a quick little beep, but enough to get that monkey's attention. It swung around and headed straight for Wes and the car, and it was mad. Now Wes was really waving wildly for me to leave, while I'm sitting in my car screaming that "the monkey's coming and it's jumping on your car, Mother!" She was screaming too. I don't remember what the kids were doing, but they were probably screaming. Seems like Samuel was crying. Sheer pandemonium. My brain finally kicked into gear and I backed the car out and took off down the road. The last thing I saw in the rear-view mirror was that monkey up on the back of my parents' car beating on it with that shovel, and my husband charging out of that parking lot! He really burned some rubber that day! LOL
Mr. Monkey got in a few good whacks, enough to leave dents in the trunk, before he was dumped off the back as Wes sped away. We went down the road a bit before pulling off into a little country store parking lot to gather our wits and check out the damage on the car. You should have seen us all pile out at the house. Daddy had just gotten home from work and was probably enjoying the peace and quiet, then we come in, every one of us talking at once, trying to tell him what had happened. Pandemonium set in again. We finally got through to him that his trunk was damaged by a shovel-wielding orangutan, and he just stood and shook his head. You see, we've had our share of adventures in our family, both before that day and since that day, and Daddy just wasn't all that surprised, although he was a bit dazed by it all (he was dazed?!). Just imagine what he went through the next day explaining to the insurance adjuster that a monkey had jumped on the back of his car and beat it in with a shovel . . .
We found out later that the keeper of the monkeys had rowed his little boat out to their little island to feed them. When he got out, the orangutan jumped in, and the momentum of his jump carried him back across the lake and to the shore - remember, it was a small lake. From there he had taken matters into his own hands, in the form of a shovel. Meanwhile, the keeper stood helplessly on the island, watching it all unfold.
Fast forward several years, to Abilene, Texas, where Wes is stationed in the Air Force. We were listening to the radio one Wednesday night as we got ready for church when the news came on. One of the stories was about a little zoo in Inman, SC, where an orangutan had escaped that day from its little island. We looked at each other in disbelief! It had to be the same zoo, but could it be the same monkey??? The announcer went on to say that the monkey had slightly injured a lady in her home near the zoo, and that this was not the first time this monkey had managed to escape. We're pretty sure it was the same one, and we were pretty amazed that we just happened to hear that little story way out in Texas. Seems like they either made the island more secure or put that monkey down. I hope so, anyway.
And that was our last visit to a little zoo where you can meet the animals up close and personal.