It’s been so hot that we haven’t ventured outdoors together for over a month. Finally a cold front (sort of) moved in on Thursday with the day’s high reaching a moderate 76. We decided to go to the zoo. We stopped by the fitness center first, and Katja did a pretty strenuous workout with her personal trainer. When we arrived at the zoo, we got about the last parking place. It looked like everybody else had the same idea.
The zoo was looking very pretty with all the plants and flowers at their peak despite the prolonged drought. The walking route is arranged in a big circle, and we did the whole thing. First we saw the sleeping black bears, then the sleeping spectacle bears, then the sleeping polar bears, the sleeping white lions, the sleeping alligator, etc. Even the flamingos were sound asleep, standing on a single leg. Katja wondered if the zoo tranquilizes its animals. I said I didn’t think so, but you have to catch them at the right time, like just before lunch. The black rhinoceros was awake, but he was standing immobile in the shadow of his cave. (When we saw him forty minutes later he was in the same spot in the same pose, apparently having not moved a fraction of an inch in the interim.) The Bactrian Camel was sitting in a Sphinx-like pose, and until I saw his eyes blink I was unsure if he were stuffed. The two giraffes were out and nibbling from the trees. It was sad because their recently born offspring had had to be euthanized after breaking his leg in his pen. A little boy kept asking his parents where the baby giraffe was, but they didn’t say anything.
Near the end of our tour the effects of Katja’s fitness center workout were starting to catch up with her. I wanted to take some photos of the Red River Hogs down in the Wildlife Canyon, so she chose to wait for me on a nearby bench. Not many people were down there. One of the Red River Hogs was rooting around, so I took a couple of pictures of him. As I moved further down the path a fortyish man with his family held his finger up to his lips and whispered to me that there was a snake in the path ahead. He cautioned me to be quiet and not disturb it. I saw it about 15 feet ahead of me. It was a medium-sized snake, multi-colored, coiled up in a perfect circle. It had sort of exotic markings, and I wondered if it had escaped from the nearby Reptile House. Then I wondered if it were poisonous. A little boy was crouched down at the edge of the path, watching the snake intently. He seemed pretty fearless. The snake didn’t move at all, apparently asleep like all the other animals. I tiptoed slowly and carefully along the path on the opposite side from the boy. I had my camera out, so when I got directly next to the snake I took a picture of it. I think my hands were trembling since the picture wound up out of focus.
Behind me the boy’s mother said, “Oh look. He’s taking a picture of the snake.” Then she suggested to her son that he pick up the snake. I couldn’t believe she actually told him that, but, before I knew it, the boy had the snake resting in his hands. It stayed wrapped in its perfect circular coil. Then it hit me. It was a plastic snake. I burst into impromptu laughter, and the man, woman, and boy started laughing too. I had been taken in by an entire team of family pranksters. I did feel sort of silly. But it was so amusing to the perpetrators that it was funny to me too. I wondered how many other gullible passersby they’d fooled. I felt pretty sure that nobody else went to the extreme of taking a picture of the mysterious snake. “That’s really great,” I said and went on my way to track down Katja.
It was enjoyable to be back at the zoo. It was a perfect day, and there’s a nice feeling that comes with being out and about in a crowd of people enjoying themselves. And I had given one kid and his parents a moment of fun. That was worth the price of admission in itself. Next time, though, I’ll probably check out any escaped reptiles more carefully.
-Jennifer M (8-13): What a great story!