San Antonio Zoo

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A brief recollection from my life. To anyone else, an impossible story.

Submitted: January 01, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 01, 2012



I am reminded of the movie Big Fish.


My recollections are of a similar nature, so impossible they cannot be true.  I remember, I may embelish - but they ARE true.  Perhaps not as you would perceive them, but this is how I remember it.


I had joined the Army to recuse myself from a recent paramour.  It seemed the thing to do, given her ardor and my tarnished view of our tawdry affair.  After living with her for six months my parents didn't have a strong desire for me to return home, and I was just out of college with no money to my name.  In fact, the ledgers would show I was in significant debt.I wasn't a big fan of the Armed Forces back then, I'd been to a liberal college and had liberal beliefs, as did the vast majority of our youth back then.  Besides, the Army was actually willing to guarantee me a job, something which the other branches would not do.  The recruiters would show you videos of different jobs, and I picked the only one that the servicemembers never donned a green uniform in. 

Basic training, however, was quite a shock.  We wore the green uniform there.  Fort Bliss Texas in July and August.  The desert training was done in 100F+ heat during the day, and sub-freezing temperatures at night.  Standing in formation on the hot tarmac, I often wondered if the black puddles were of melting asphalt or the melted rubber from the soles of my boots.  I do know that those boots had no tread on them after Basic.  I'm sure you can imagine how this might make one look back on his decision to leave a home where your greatest concern was whether or not she was going to make you filet mignon after she has had her way with you!  (When you are with someone who wants you constantly, it can get tiring.  But in Basic training looking back, they all seemed like fond memories.)  Being with Lynn was definitely better than running from the quansit hut CS chamber to the bivy with snot running from my nose to my toes!

When Lynn showed up at Basic and took me out for a night in El Paso, it was a Godsend.  My grandfather had passed away while I was there, and somehow she was able to convince that immovable machine that is the US ARMY to allow me a night and a day to grieve.  We did grieve.  Well, it was rather more of a celebration of life to be honest.  I can't tell you how great it really was, just that coming from where I was (hell) dwelling constantly on the fact I wasn't able to be there for my grandfather - I didn't even know until he had been buried, such is the Red Cross' ability to notify our servicemen.  That one night was enough to help me go on.

We didn't write much, Lynn and I.  But she sent me limitless photos of the outside world.  She'd used her time in El Paso to photograph many of the unique and significant historical buildings, as well as herself.  These and her brief notes helped me to forget the tough parts of Basic, and remember only cameos of good memories.  I still knew I wouldn't be with Lynn for long, but I was grateful.  I felt I had to express my gratitude to her the best way I knew how: by allowing her to see me again!  After all, I thought I was some sort of Cassanova or perhaps just God's gift to women?  I was young, cut me some slack on being such a prick!

My MOS (military occupational skill - if memory serves) training was done in San Antonio, Texas.  THIS was what I joined the Army for!  I already knew most of the material they were teaching me, having been to college as pre-med, the basic medic training they gave us was redundant.  I could sleep all day in class (Basic training taught me how to sleep standing up, doing so sitting was no problem at all.)  That left me every night, weekend, and holiday to party!  After a couple weeks, I called Lynn up and she was glad to join me - rent a resort hotel room, and resume our nocturnal activities.  Wasn't that kind of me?  (Don't worry life has a way of balancing the scales, I have a son who is now just as I was - I've paid in worry, anger and tears for my past hubris.)

Well you can't survive on bread alone,  Lynn and I needed to walk around a bit and see the sites after a few days.  The zoo in San Antonio was supposed to be spectacular, and I needed to keep Lynn away from my usual haunts to avoid unlucky interaction with other acquaintances - it seemed like a 'natural' choice.  We strolled through the cool morning air enjoying the singular luxury of being in a zoo before beleagured parents can awaken their noisesome litters and deliver them into the gated and fenced pathways for a brief respite from constant parenting.  Many of the creatures there were still asleep, the reptile house was not yet open.  Lions and Zebra still asleep in their pens.  We didn't mind.  Still, we were at a zoo.  We felt the need to see at least some animals. 

Lynn and I stopped at a fenced pond to discuss our dilemma, when I noticed something on the far side.  Not a crocodile, floating in the water, all I could see were two nostrils.  They were too far apart.  What were they?  I caught Lynn's attention and as we both stared, a huge blast of steam arose from them and up came the head of a HUGE hippopotamus!  I'd never seen one before.  After some searching we found the label on the pen, and this was a female being kept aside until she could deliver her baby.  Apparently the hippo bulls can be aggressive toward the young.

I've told you I thought I was quite a ladies man back then, I'm afraid that doesn't quite do the extent of my egotism justice.  I thought I was attractive to ALL females!  This in mind, I told Lynn: "Watch this, I'm going to show you something."  I then proceeded to call the hippo in a sweet voice, as close to a tenor as I could manage, "here hippo, c'mere hippo, cluck cluck, comeon girl!"  and to our amazement she heard me.  She not only heard me, she swam to us!

We were both amazed, and I was feeling pretty full of myself.  Here I was taking pics of lady hippo with my kodak disc camera - the kind that makes what's close seem far so you can fit it all on a tiny piece of film.  The chest high fence was in the way of a good shot though, lady hippo was right under us and I couldn't get a clear shot.  I wanted to memorialize my victory over the entire animal kingdom.  What else could I do?  I climbed atop the stonework base into which the iron fence was set, I couldn't get my eye to the viewfinder and reach over the fence.  Both hands on the camera, I hike my waist up on top of the flat rail, but I'm too far away to get the shot now.  I had to bend forward. 

I asked Lynn to hold my legs, and I bent slowly forward, cicking and advancing the film as I went.  Lady hippo opened her mouth, THE SIZE OF THOSE MOLARS!  I could barely see them in the viewfinder, but they were HUGE.  I squirmed just a little closer.Lynn's grip slipped!  As I fall, I'm obsessed... CLICK.... turn the wheel ... CLICK ...  (I think that if I die now at least it's a good shot) ... I'm still sliding forward, how can she hold her mouth open so wide?... CLICK  (her breath smells sweet, what is that?  Hay.) ... CLICK  ...  (she's going to have to close her mouth soon, and I'm in it!)  "LYNN, I'm FALLING!"

And Lynn's grip is once again secure as they latch on my ankles.  She's climbed atop the stonework and has my feet pinned between the rails of the iron fence.  CLICK.

Somehow she managed to pull the "hippo tamer" from the jaws of death.  We colapsed on the ground, laugh, and decide we've had enough of the zoo.  We returned to that resort hotel room and celebrated life with renewed vigor.

Many of these photos were lost over the years, jealousy, marriage, and multiple moves.  Lynn's photos of El Paso and San Antonio are gone, as are her risque self portraits.  The pics of the hippo - although they made her look farther away than she actually was, they are gone too.  I still have that disc though.  Know anyone who can develop some new prints for me?





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