We packed up the family car and drove into the wilds of Corn country, to visit a place called Greenview Aviaries and Zoo. Like most cynical parents, I had a few assumptions about the place before I even laid eyes on it. I was sure it was going to be a little run-down, very expensive, and full of poorly maintained and sad animals. Boy, was I wrong.
First, it was clean. No litter, no broken playground equipment. In addition to the zoo (more on that in a bit) there was a large picnic and playground area, and they were not fooling around when they set up the playground. There were 3 full-size trampolines. Yes you heard me, a plethora of trampolines.And the big sandbox was full of at least 15 toy dump trucks and dozens of plastic shovels. it was almost as if the proprietors of this establishment actually knew what kids liked to play with.
It also impressed me that the picnic area was interlaced with the playground, so the kids could keep running around like lunatics while the adults finished eating their lunches. The picnic and playground area was also a sort of libertarian dreamland: not a staff member in sight. The trampolines had signs beside them pointing out the rules, which were routinely ignored. All children were left in the responsibility of their parents or caregivers. I don’t know if this is in any way an accurate representation of a Libertarian’s dream, but I do know that there were a series of minor injuries taking place during our visit. There was a girl around the age of 9 or 10 who suddenly discovered on the zip line that her grip strength wasn’t quite as good as she had guessed. Her mom ran over to the prostrate girl, and after a moment, she got up and walked it off. All in all, most injuries were walked or cried off with no permanent damage, and we escaped with no wounds (other than bug bites).
But on to the animals! I had assumed that the zoo would be an anemic collection of a few slightly exotic animals, a pack of donkeys and maybe a peacock or two. Surprisingly, this zoo in the middle of corn fields and wind turbines is full of exotic creatures. It blew my mind that they had 4 lions, a tiger, 2 cougars, a pack of alpacas, a black bear, a horde of different monkeys, 2 surly buffalos, and a camel. My fondness for an animal is based around its similarity to a dog, and I didn’t think that a camel would meet that criteria, what with all the stubbornness and spitting. But this fellow was agreeable and approachable. I gave him a pet on the nose, and when he didn’t immediately attack me, I started to give him a hearty scratch behind the ear. And after a moment or two, I swear that one of his back legs started to kick reflexively, just like a giant dog when you find their itchy sweet spot. You cannot believe how much I enjoyed this. I had hoped to give the buffalo a pet too, but he was disinclined to allow such nonsense, and when a buffalo slams his massive head against the fence between you and him, you back off.