A very long time ago, I read a book by Charles A. Goodrum entitled “I’ll Trade You An Elk” about a small private zoo in Kansas in the 1930’s that quite simply made me laugh until I cried. It is odd how that book has stayed with me all those years. When I was reminded that there is a small private zoo only an hour or so from my home, I decided to take action on a couple of fronts – to order another copy of “I’ll Trade You An Elk,” and to go visit Plumpton Park. The book is on the way, but I visited the zoo today. (www.plumptonparkzoo.org)
Part petting zoo, part exotic animal collection, and, it would appear, part home for unwanted unusual pets (although I don’t know that for sure, but there were a LOT of potbellied pigs) Plumpton Park Zoo on this beautiful post earthquake, pre-hurricane day was a lovely place for mothers and grandparents to take the kiddies. The novelty of being somewhere with other people was very pleasant. This is the kind of place that needs families.
I asked about the animals’ reaction to yesterday’s earthquake. Seems the birds did quite a lot of talking about it, something I experienced at home – not while it was happening, but after it was over. So much for the million-times-more-sensitive-to-natural-phenomena theory of wild (well, wild-ish) animals. All they did was twitter about it after the fact. Actually, when we arrived, there was quite a lot of activity centered around the fact that sirens were sounding along the highway outside the park – howling wolves, braying donkeys, barking Arctic foxes. Cacophony. It was lovely. It was also feeding time. Animals less affected by sirens munched contentedly.
Everything in the zoo is done with materials that may not meet the standards of the San Diego Zoo, or the National Zoo, but I’ve always thought that old corn cribs would make spectacular and safe environments for animals that needed protection from even wilder animals, or toddlers. There is a lot of chicken wire, and chained link and heavy lumber, depending on the species, and often two rows of fencing designed to keep little fingers away from danger.
I have to admit that I was drawn to Plumpton Park Zoo when I heard they have a giraffe. I love these ungainly, impossibly balanced and serene animals, and this one they call Jimmie was no disappointment. Apparently, there are times when they let children feed him, but today he was contentedly munching on his hay. He is deservedly a feature, along with camels, black bear, exotic pheasants, and cats, including a Siberian Tiger (who was napping to the huge disappointment of the children.) But every bit as important are the petting animals, the goats and alpaca, the fallow deer and the donkeys – the toddlers and their mothers were captivated by their sweetness – in spite of signs about that reminded us that any animal can bite.