Blog theme change, folks. I will be tweaking it as I have time. Meantime, please bear with me.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. – Inigo Montoya
I’m pretty sure I mis-used the word “chagrin” in a recent post. It was only almost the right word. I think I should have used “consternation,” but then I would have lost the alliteration. Maybe you should mark this paragraph for obliteration.
Fort Worth Zoo
This zoo is “worth” the money. Photos appear throughout the text. Click to enlarge.
The show put on by the parking lot attendant guy alone earns my $5 parking fee. He had the kind of personality that I imagine one would want in a job like that. He makes himself laugh so much that folks in the cars laugh, too. Whether they’re laughing at him or with him is up for debate, but he’s so nice and goofy that he probably remains oblivious.
Just the day before our visit, the zoo unveiled its life-size DinoRoars exhibit. Ben loves dinosaurs, so we figured he would get an extra thrill from the trip.
At first glance, however, it didn’t come out that way.
The first dinosaur appeared just a minute after we entered the front gates. He was nestled in the woods a few feet from the sidewalk, and he roared and moved his head occasionally.
Did I mention it was only a mechanical dinosaur? My hopes were dashed. No T-rex ripping up a goat that day.
The sheer size and the noise scared Ben. He backed up and asked us to hold him. We explained that it was just like his toy dinosaurs, but bigger, and that it could not hurt him. It didn’t seem to pierce his consternation (notice how I slipped that in there?).
Click any photo throughout post to enlarge
Chimpanzees were the first living animals we saw. Ben showed no spark of interest until we entered Primate World’s indoor section (I was going to say “inner sanctum,” but there is none for animals in a zoo). We could see from floor to ceiling throughout the domed building, a moat and a high wall separating us from our distant cousins.
Only the silverback male gorilla moved about the habitat. The females lay there sleeping. What else must one do when there are regular feeding times and a big burly male to fight off any rogue humans?
Don’t kid yourself. You wouldn’t even get a punch in.
We watched through windows as a group of three chimps groomed each other in a small room. They did the usual pick, munch, pick, pick, munch, munch. One chimp between the other two seemed to be getting a good working over. Perhaps he shared a jacket with the lice-infested kid in homeroom.
Next we saw more monkeys. Gibbons, I believe. Ben liked to watch them swing.
Moving down the intelligence ladder, we came to the Cheetos Cheetahs. Yes, you read that right. The sign called them by that name. Never in any other zoo had I seen that kind of corporate sponsorship, and did not see it anywhere else in the Fort Worth Zoo. The cheetahs ran back and forth behind a cane thicket, affording paying customers only fleeting glimpses of their svelte bodies.
Until someone started throwing them thick, juicy steaks.
One of the big cats emerged from the thicket carrying a slab of meat that would intimidate even the hungriest patron at Outback. I suddenly wanted beef. I already had backed off to let others in the crowd take a turn at the front, so I didn’t get a shot of the eating cheetahs.
Next we did some moving back and forth to keep the group together. There were about 20 of us, including the children, from my wife’s Mom’s group. Husbands were included, and I got along pretty well with them. We shortly splintered off into two groups, but only because we were going too slow for one of the mom’s. I admit, it was the slowest pace I’ve ever taken through a zoo, but it also was the best time I’ve had watching caged animals.
Though I’m more easily entertained than many adults I know, feelings of awe and wonder long repressed come back to me when I watch things through my boy’s innocent eyes. His sheer joy and excitement at the sights generate an infectious enthusiasm.
Amazingly, he spent most of the seven-hour stay on his own tiny feet. He asked several times for us to hold him, and after his mommy’s arms tired of that (didn’t take long at 33 pounds and I played bad cop in my utter refusal to tote), finally I told him he could either walk or get in his stroller. Mostly he chose to walk, but a few times I strapped him in the stroller. He fussed for about twenty seconds each time, then just enjoyed the ride.
During one of our extended stops, I sat on a wooden barrel chair with a metal massaging foot rest. It resembled an old shoe-shiner’s chair. Only a quarter got me a foot massage, it said, so I slipped a coin in. The chair roared into life, and everybody in the crowded food patio looked at me. Choices: 1) Stay there in the face of their stares, 2) Jump off like I had no idea why that chair had done that.
I paid my quarter, and no amount of gawking was taking this away from me.
It was a rough ride. I felt like my feet were going to vibrate right off my ankles, and my whole body shook. A few in our group mouthed words, but I could not hear a thing. Had the zoo any water buffalo or wildebeests, I’m quite sure they would have stampeded.
Restaurants in the zoo included Grandy’s and a cafe with three different food vendors. There were several ice cream parlors and a fudge shop in a mockup of an old west town that led into the Texas Wild! section. I never understood the attraction to zoo exhibits featuring local fauna. I didn’t pay to observe animals I can see in a local lake or beside the road. Not everybody who visits the Fort Worth Zoo lives in Texas, so maybe they see something of interest.
This brings up a point I mentioned at the zoo. Can you imagine living in a place where your neighbors say things like, “Man, I wish those freakin’ kookaburras would stop laughing already!” Or, “The gubment says I can’t cut no more trees on account of I got red lemurs.”
“What’s that have to do with trees? I had red lemurs once. Got a shot, cleared it right up.”
On an unrelated note (really, I swear), we met a man who lives in the same small town as my brother. I had an Arkansas Razorback shirt on, and he struck up a conversation.
We saw meerkats, which inspired my corny joke of the day: “They’re nothing special. They’re mere cats.” We saw elephants, who gave themselves dirt baths and ate leaves from the indigenous trees. We saw the zoo’s baby giraffe, ostriches, a sea turtle, kangaroos, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). You knew that was coming. We saw fish and birds, but somehow skipped the herpetarium, one of the country’s largest reptile collections. I can’t tell you everything we saw. Get thee to the zoo.
The male lion lay on a rock outcropping up so high that we could just barely see some of his fur. The big cats sleep are sleepers, in the wild and in the zoo, so finding them walking around doing anything is pretty rare.
Did you know that every white Bengal tiger in captivity descended from one found in 1959? He was named Mohan, and he was bred to his own daughter. Ew.
At first, Ben called the rhinoceros a triceratops. We worked on him all day, and on Sunday he still remembered that the two were not the same.
Speaking of the triceratops… we saw an array of mechanical mesozoics dotted here and there in the woods around the zoo. Two of Ben’s favorites are the triceratops and the pterodactyl, which were nowhere to be found. Finally, after we left the zoo’s front doors, we saw the triceratops. Ben got a little excited, but by that time he had sat in his stroller as we all rested for about 15 minutes, and was barely hanging on in zombie mode.
From the parking lot, we saw a mysterious dot in the sky. I aimed my zoom lens at it and still could not tell more. Helicopters don’t fly that high. Not a plane. After I zoomed and cropped it, I saw it was a bunch of balloons.
Ben fell asleep within 5 minutes of our departure, and slept for a solid 45 minutes. L and R, our friends who brought their 21-month-old son, N, along for the ride with us, asked him a few times to stop telling Ben to wake up. Ben was so out that it didn’t make a difference.
And, the baby boy of our friends, J & J, just for kicks. There was a large sand-covered play area for the kids.