wherein we fed saltines to a bear
Since it was a long weekend that gave us a little breathing room from the non-stop game of catch-up that comprises our usual weekend schedule, I decided that we should take a little family day trip, so long as it was neither too far, too expensive, nor too red-neck-y. So we decided to go to the Yellow River Game Ranch, which bills itself "Like a zoo...but BETTER." (This claim on its roadside billboard is, inexplicably, backed up by a giant picture of a squirrel, which, animal it may be, speaks to me far less of zoo and far more of vermin.)
The "BETTER" part of the equation is that you could feed most of the animals, and pet a selected non-carnivorous subset. It was pretty fun. The animals ranged from the standard petting zoo menagerie (goats, chickens, rabbits) to some more exotic though still essentially commonplace animals (there were deer wandering all over the paths sticking their faces into unattended stroller bags in search of food) as well as some animals that I did not really expect. There were bears, for instance, in cages, but which you could feed via a long, sloped pipe through which you could thrust peanuts and other delectables. (There was a bear parked at the base of the pipe basically with his mouth on it, like Barney Gumble.) Also there were a variety of wild big cats, like cougars (don't start) and bobcats and such, though those we were instructed not to feed for obvious reasons, and whose small enclosures and listless lolling were more depressing than awe-inspiring. They did not, however, have a cage containing the world's most dangerous game. (They had this exhibit at the Bronx Zoo when I was a kid, consisting of a mirror with bars over it. Because MAN is the world's most dangerous animal, don't you know. Hoo! EDITORIALIZING!)
Even though there was a certain grimness to the whole thing, as there always is to non-government funded zoos, the animals looked for the most part healthy and, with the exception of the man-eaters, most had a lot of space to move around and whatnot. And the kids had a good time, though there was a fair amount of walking for those who deigned to walk, so some of us were kind of tired by the end.
(Above: Mack, still entertained by the bunnies. Cal, meanwhile, totally over it.)
Anyway, despite appearance to the contrary, a good time was had by all. And now, back to work.
(Full picture set here.)