Monday, January 18, 2010
Don't feed the animals
The kids were out of school today, so after three days of rain and “Mom, she’s staring at me!” I decided we needed to get out of the house. The Yellow River Game Ranch, near Stone Mountain, had advertised $1 day, perfect for my budget, so off we went.
Before we left, I made sure I packed a few treats for the animals. I can recall spending $4 on bear food when my oldest daughter was young. It came in a brown paper bag. I remember ripping it open expecting to see raw meat only to find four marshmallows. Apparently bears have a sweet tooth. Just not everybody realizes it, I would soon learn.
The park entrance was hard to miss. It was the one with 10,000 cars lined up to get inside, and they were all filled with women drivers. Now, I really hate those kinds of stereotypes, but these women were not doing my sex any favors – backing up when they should be going forward, stopping in the middle of the road and not moving, texting while driving. At one point, my friend (who followed us there) rolled down her window at a woman who was clearly driving in the wrong direction, and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m having a problem,” she said, as she pounded a message into her cell phone. I guess my friend (and I) should have asked if we could help her, but we had wild animals to see. And, once inside, we were not disappointed. The park was full of them. I just didn’t realize they’d all be from the suburbs.
As we entered the park, which is filled with hundreds of deer that roam freely, we saw a small deer being fed a carrot by a lady. Needless to say, my children were excited. They ran up to the deer and stuck out their own carrots on which the deer promptly nibbled, delighting them far beyond their $1 admission price.
“Well, that’s just rude!” said the woman who’d made friends with the deer. I looked around. Yep, she was talking about us.
“Let’s go somewhere else where there’s not so much rudeness!” she said to her friend, giving my innocently eager children a dirty look. Apparently, she and the deer had become more than friends, and she wanted more one-on-one time with him. To each his own.
We then navigated amongst strollers and parents who, to my amazement, warned their kids, “Don’t touch the animals.”
“That’s like taking your kids to a pool and telling them not to swim,” said my friend, Heather.
We finally reached the bear cage where the big bear was lumbering below.
“Mom, quick, hand me a marshmallow,” said my son, looking down on the compost pile of uneaten lettuce, carrots, saltine crackers, and peanuts that the store sold.
The woman in front of me turned to her husband and said loudly, enunciating every syllable, “They do not even allow marshmallows in the park!”
I looked at my friend, a bit embarrassed, and asked, “Did I miss the ‘No marshmallows allowed’ sign?”
My friend assured me I did not.
I could tell these good people were really upset about it, so I frantically tried to cram what my friend called “a lifetime supply of marshmallows” down into my already full back pack. It didn’t matter because my son continued to yell, “Come on, bear, eat your marshmallow! There’s your marshmallow. Mom, can I have another marshmallow? Why won’t he eat his marshmallow?”
At this point, the uptight man looked at him and said, “BECAUSE BEARS DON’T EAT MARSHMALLOWS!”
I wanted to say, Well, tell that to the brown, hairy guy with sticky white goo on his face because, lo and behold, he ate it. And then he licked his lips and sniffed around for more.
I don’t know what that family had against marshmallows, but I quickly guided the kids away from the bear cage and down to the petting zoo. I was starting to get a little bit of a sick feeling in my stomach over human behavior – pushing, shoving, yelling, screaming, and arguing. Which group really belonged in a zoo?
I watched as a little girl tried to feed a small chicken in a cage.
“No, don’t touch it! It will bite! It will bite you!” screamed the girl’s mother as the parents yanked her hand back. I’m no country girl, but this was surreal. I mean, I haven’t heard of anyone who was maimed by a chicken, especially one in a cage.
As I stood there thinking that this was not what nature was all about, something miraculous happened.
“Look!” Heather said, pointing to a quiet corner of the corral. “A mother sheep just had a baby.”
And sure enough, we spotted it, just about the time it stood up and took its first few tentative steps. Without fanfare or attention from the mobs of mankind, a little lamb was born. We stood and watched in quiet awe as its mother licked and then nursed it, all the while throngs of noisy people passed by totally unaware.
When they saw their first deer, my children had declared it the best animal park ever, and, suddenly, I had to agree.