Yesterday, The Narrator’s Pre-School class took a trip to the Adirondack Animal Land zoo. A 1.5 hour drive that had it all.
– The cliche old “Are we there yet?”
– Mommy and daddy desperately searching for coffee on the way.
– Daddy driving like a madman to get there by our 9:30 arrival time.
We survived the drive, although I wasn’t really very keen on the trip to be honest. The place’s web site made it sound like a low end collection of various deer and sheep, with a few llamas and a giraffe as their centerpiece.
Turns out the site undersold it, and I was very impressed. The safari ride you go on is a short tractor loop in an open wagon where the ostriches and llamas have free reign. So free in fact that they have a fondness for the loose hair and hats of the riders on the outsides. This is made worse by the fact that the tour guide keeps a bucket of feed, so they’ve been trained to follow along in anticipation of a snack. Hilariously, the guide will dump some of the feed on an unsuspecting rider, prompting a giant, liver-lipped camel to all but slobber the daylights out of the poor kid. Thankfully, I sat in the middle, with Mini-Me strapped to my chest. The trepidations Narrator sat next to me in the middle, not about to make himself a ready snack for the beasts.
We spent most of the day doing zoo-things. Checking out various animals, feeding them treats from the little vending machines near each pen, and snapping photographs. Well, the wife snapped photos. I only managed this one:
Most of the time, I had Mini-Me on my back, and I spent the day twisting around so he could see everything, and the only camera I had was on my phone, and I didn’t feel like being ‘Cell-phone guy’ again. Momma got a whole lot of pictures.
The place even had two wolves which were very awesome to see.
The high point of the trip for me though, was the deer pen. For $2 you could get a packet of crackers and hand-feed the deer There were no fences, just a little trail that wound through the woods where the animals lived. In the right conditions, they would walk right up to you and eat what you offered them.
I say “Right conditions” because the entire point was to walk quietly in and follow the signs that said “Please stay on the path” – this would prevent scaring the animals, and they would come up to you. Yesterday, however, there were three little boys bout The Narrator’s age who were tear-assing through the woods chasing the herd of deer all over the place while their parents stayed ON THE PATH and yelled through the woods at their kids.
“Connor! Get back here or I’ll be mad!”
“BILLY! STOP RUNNING OR I’LL YELL AT YOU!”
….mostly empty threats that were completely ignored and the deer got their workout as they ran around the enclosure at a panic.
In the typical “Monkey-see, monkey-do” fashion, several other kids, seeing the crazy little ringleaders get away with ignoring their parents, either broke ranks and joined them in the woods, or devolved into a simpering whine when they realized they weren’t allowed to wreak havoc on the wildlife.
The Narrator though- did something that damn near made me want to weep with pride. I told him to remember how we walked in the woods when we hiked or hunted. Slowly and quietly. He understood it immediately, and amazingly, stayed on the path the whole time, holding his crackers out for the animals that escaped the panic to see.
His patience was rewarded. At one point, amid all the chaos, a small deer realized there was an opportunity to eat, and came over to him. Of the 8 or so kids in the enclosure, he was the only one feeding a deer. A few exasperated parents saw this and called to their kids to “Look at that little boy, do what he’s doing.”
Eventually, the two little monsters were dragged away and things settled down. As we got ready to leave, The Narrator even gave a few of his remaining crackers to a little girl who didn’t have any. Despite the insanity of the pen, he never got excited or went crazy, and it paid off.
To me, as cool as the animals all were to watch, the few minutes in the deer pen when he was able to calm himself down, listen completely, and be patient was so much better than any of that- including the joey hanging out in the mother kangaroo’s pouch, head out, almost cartoonishly. And those few moments were absolutely worth spending three hours in the car.
….Of course, as I write this, he and Min-Me are running in circles around the living room, wearing my sunglasses and their pajamas, and screaming about something happening on Jungle Junction, So don’t make the false assumption that he is always so composed and quiet.