Feather Beast

Greg loves the zoo. I took him to the zoo a few weeks ago and he's been going on about peacocks ever since. With Julie running a 20 miler this morning, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to take Greg for some father and son zoo time.

My plan did not unfold as smoothly as I'd hoped.

After promising Greg peacocks, we arrived at the zoo more than 30 minutes prior to opening. As I listened to cries of "Peacock!" give way to "Peacock?" and finally "PEACOCK?!?!?!", I told Greg we were going to play in the park to burn some time. A few minutes later, plans changed again.

The entire park was roped off. Children in swimming suits were riding bicycles. The riders had greasy black numbers written on their upper arms. They were probably triathletes. I saw lots of dads standing on the sidewalk, cheering. They all were in noticeably better shape than me.

I sighed and diverted to K-State's campus. Squirrel chasing, I thought, should be a reliable Saturday morning activity.

Respectfully. We very reverently chased the squirrels.

And it was. Greg wasn't into it though. As his thoughts quickly returned to the promise of peacocks, I created a diversion by mentioning there was a fountain in the music building. We went in. The fountain was filled in and capped with a wooden "floor". Greg asked when we would reach the fountain I'd promised. A decorative carpet suggested people now perform music or dance there. Or something. It doesn't matter. The zoo would be open soon.

We returned to the zoo. There were 4-6 families waiting to get in. A zookeeper opened a gate and prepared to collect entrance fees. Someone's 4 year old busted loose and chased a peacock around the entrance area. The kid was soon captured, but for a few short minutes he lived the dream. I was excited. Everything was going to be okay.

As we walked in to the zoo, we had a great view overlooking the cheetah. Greg was enthusiastic and zoo was off to a great start. Then we descended a long stairway that serves as an entrance to the bulk of the zoo.

Sitting near a bush, near the bottom of the stairs, was a giant awesome peacock. Perfect I thought, as I directed Greg's attention to the peacock.

Just as we drew to a polite distance, that feather beast blasted us with an incredible howl. Greg was frightened. We diverted. Peacocks around the zoo answered. Greg thought he was in a war zone.

I found us safe haven between the cheetahs and the hyena. Moving beyond the hyena, we came to the emu. It's reptilian eyes met Greg's and he realized that peacocks were not the only avian zoo residents. His old fears returned. "It's okay Greg," I said, "we can see the small birds." I gestured to the nearby ducks. Ducks have always been a steadfast friends and allies to my family.

As we approached the ducks, a goose glided quietly to a position near the fence. It was subtle and avoided calling the attention of the ducks to it's curious approach. Just as Greg and I neared the fence, this goose leans forward and blasts us with a baleful honk.

I diverted once more, taking Greg to the safety of the tiger while the ducks covered our retreat.

The tiger was calmly active and actually went really well, but the subsequent rambunctious sloth bear experience pretty much finished Greg off. Along my chosen route to the exit, I showed Greg the red pandas where the following exchange took place.

I said, "These are Red Pandas. Look at that one's big fuzzy tail."

Greg shivers a bit in the heat. He's barely holding it together.

"There's a big version called 'Giant Panda' bears. They are black and white."

Nope. Greg is done with the crap. "NO!!! No big bears!", he cries. "No big bears!"

Having accomplished a horrifying anti-goal - causing Greg to fear even the idea of pandas - I made haste to the exit. Cries for "Home" and "Mama" were coming rapid fire from my favorite little guy. Two turns later, I looked through the narrow path I was about to take and saw, waiting for us, a big peacock.

I diverted. We cut through a seating area and neared a road leading to that big entrance stairway. As I rounded a corner I saw that there were now two peacocks standing at the side of the road.

"It's okay Greg. I've got you. Be cool. We'll just walk by."

Greg was cool. We walked right by. I didn't know it at the time, but those two peacocks shared an evil grin. I had walked Greg right into a trap. The original peacock was waiting for us at the base of the stairway and I didn't see him until it was too late.


Greg, riding on my shoulders, responded instantly - stiffening and belting out a surprisingly similar sound. He was done before. Now he was freaked out. He started repeating, "Bye bye, peacock. Bye bye, peacock." I felt awful.

Passing by the cheetah overlook, a docent offered to let us pet a furry cheetah skin. Frightened, Greg turned away. "It's not alive," the docent offered.

I mentioned that Greg was a little upset following a bad experience with a peacock. Offended, the docent replied, "The peacocks only talk to each other. They don't call to people."

"Cool," I responded, already turning away from the 16 year old docent.

*     *     *

Safely at home, Greg ran to Julie and gave her a big hug. The first thing she asked was, "What did you see at the zoo?"

Bright-eyed and proud, Greg quickly responded, "Peacocks!"

Nature Trail

Later, the entire family joined forces to check out a trail we recently learned about.

The trail was curiously undeveloped.

Unfamiliar with this particular nook of our home town of 15 years, we took a wrong turn and soon decided that the thing we were following was either a gully or the key element in a fraternity hazing ritual.

Carrying Greg up a gully is less easy than you might think.

Before long, we turned back and found the real trail.

Blindingly reflective sign says, "Trail." It may have been gloating.

There were mosquitoes on the trail. But the relatively stable surface meant we could spare some attention to cleaning off the ticks that hopped on board during the washed-out-ditch phase of the hike.

The top!

Ultimately, it was a very pleasant trail. Good length. Lots of trees. It was maintained well enough that you weren't going to fall down, but it was worn enough that it didn't feel too city-trail fancy. Greg enjoyed looking down on the tiny cars.


Grandma said…
What a well told story about Greg's trip to the zoo! Hopefully, at his next zoo visit, he will get to encounter calm peacocks.

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