About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Africa in Arizona

My son has a great love for animals. He can be a bit of a loner when in groups of people, but he has a big heart. Every cat or dog he comes across is deserving of a hug. So it was no surprise that when we took him to the "Out of Africa" wildlife preserve, he literally jumped with joy. The first event was a trip on an open bus where we fed a giraffe carrots. The tall animal reached into the bus and licked the orange sticks out of our hands. Zane jumped, giggled, and squealed joyfully as the gentle giant took the carrot from his outreach hand.

Next we stopped to greet a tame ostrich who snapped treats, thrown by our guide, out of midair. Then the huge bird swallowed its food whole. The guide told us that ostriches swallow rocks along with their food. The rocks help the animal's digestion process. "She can have up to 25 pounds of rocks in her gut at any given time," said the guide as she gave the prehistoric bird a pat and hug. A zebra, who name was ironically prism, also came to get some treats. As the animals ate, Zane wiggled and reached as if he wanted to leap off the bus and give them hugs. Later on we came upon a mother zebra and her three month old baby. The guide explained that zebras have a 13 month gestation period and usually become pregnant as soon as they give birth."Females spend their entire adulthood pregnant," the guide explained. Then she asked us if zebras were white with black stripes or black with white stripes. After a pause, she explained that zebras have both white and black stripes of fur, so both answers are technically correct, but their skin is black. Tigers on the other hand are neither black or orange/white, they are pink (just look at their nose), and their hair contains the different pigments we see.

After the open bus safari adventure, we walked around the loop to view the different animals. The first few cages we came across contained sleeping or hiding animals that didn't spark the boys' interest. Then we came to a caged area marked "pet and feed." With two quarters, we fed a few fallow deer some feed. This sparked the boys attention again. Zane's cousin, Samuel, who was not too sure about the giants we saw on the bus, was very happy to feed the gentle deer. This is when Samuel began to really enjoy our trip and share in the excitement. The two boys, who are basically the same age, began feeding off each others' enthusiasm.  
As we walked the remainder of the park, we saw a majestic white tiger, two pacing orange tigers, a pride of lazy lions, and a pack of laughing hyenas. There were shows like "predator feed," "tiger splash," and "the giant snake show" that were happening later on, but the two year olds were hungry and sleepy so we headed back to the car. However, the car was on the other side of the park so we had to walk pass the giant tortoise cage, the tiny African monkeys, some parrots, a few huge snakes, and the lemurs. By the time the boys reached the car they were exhausted.
As we drove home they took long naps!
I hope my son never looses his love for animals and for all of nature.

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