Topsey Exotic Ranch
Wildlife Safari Park
The weekend started off at 9 am Saturday morning. Plans have not been made; we are going to shoot from the hip if you will. I have spent all week working from 0430 to 1800 everyday. That’s 4:30 A.M. to 6 P.M. for you civilian minded folks. My wife has wanted to get out of the house all week so today is the day. After breakfast and everything else it was time to figure out what to do. My friend at work suggested going to Topsey’s exotic ranch. He said it was a zoo you drive through.
To be perfectly honest with you, having kids it becomes more about what the children would like to do or see than what you want. I believe each parent wants their children to experience the same things they got to experience when they were kids. I loved zoo’s as a kid and still do (I think all kids love zoo’s and animals). So I made the recommendation to my wife, she agreed, and we started to load up.
At this juncture in life I owned a beautiful and well maintained Ford Taurus. I am a mechanic so of course it’s in good condition. Plus I had just put new tires on this fantastic piece of Ford engineering. With the kids in the backseat, one daughter in a car seat (as per the law), and my wife in the front next to me we headed out to Topsey.
The Trip to Topsey
Now Topsey is about thirty miles outside of the town I live in so it was going to be a short trip to get there. Think about a quintessential Sunday afternoon drive. The sun is out, the weather is warm, the air smells like sweet jasmine, and all the planets are aligned to bring peace and tranquility. Outside temperature was a cool and moderate 75 degrees, and at 60 miles an hour it provides a great air conditioning tool. I rolled down my window all the way and lazily hung my arm out the window, shoot I even had a slight lean going on. I was happy, at ease, and completely relaxed. Not so much that I wasn’t paying attention but tranquil.
The radio was tuned in to our favorite radio station. My wife and I sang along with the song, I may have been a little bit too exuberant in my rendition of that song but who cares. As we rounded a curve and came out to a straight-away I saw something in the road, a stick most likely but thought nothing of it. This particular “stick” was from the ditch all the way to the centerline.
Thinking nothing of this I continued down the road. As I was about on top of the stick it started to cross the road. It was a snake, cottonmouth or copperhead I don’t know which. I screamed (in a manly fashion mind you), swerved almost off the road to miss it, sped up, and reflectively pulled my arm inside the window and rolled it up. My Lord, this snake scared the breath right out of me. My heart is racing, my ears started to get really hot, and my skin crawled. There were goose bumps on top of goose bumps on my arms.
Of course when I hollered I scared my kids and my wife. That fear, unlike mine, was quickly replaced with laughter. They had the audacity to laugh at me. By the way, I am absolutely terrified by snakes. There is something about them that petrifies me. We continued our day trip to the safari zoo, but I kept my window up.
Once we got there the snake was all but forgotten. We pulled into the parking lot, paid our tour dues, bought one bag of food, and were told to go anytime we wanted. My daughters saw a petting pen with baby deer in it so we petted them and gave them some food. They were very sweet deer, but an entire park of cool and exotic animals awaited us. We began our journey in high spirits.
To give you a visual, the park operates like a huge circle spanning about twenty acres of land. When you start the expedition you go to the right and work around the circle in a counter clockwise manner. I cannot describe all the animals within the park but suffice it to say there are a lot. The first animal we came across is the ostrich or emu. I am not sure which one it was because they are like the same thing. If you have ever seen one of these creatures you know how spooky they look. Anyway we saw it, let it come up to the car, and threw out some food.
I forgot to mention you have to drive five miles per hour in this park. So not even five minutes into the park we had ostriches by the car eating some food. We then proceeded further into the park. Well, one ostrich was not happy that we threw food for his friends but not for him. He chased us down like a little kid chases an ice cream truck. I stopped for the poor creature and gave him some food. As I was looking at this bird through my window I didn’t notice the one coming around the front of the car. I looked up, spotted it, thought “geez”, it moved out of the way, and I continued on. This little bugger decided to follow us on my side. Imagine the excitement inside the car. The kids are beside themselves with excitement and screaming in joy, and my wife is looking out the window fascinated.
Well, I am paying attention to the ostrich, it went out of sight of the side mirror so I told my wife, who naturally looked out my side of the car. When I looked at her I noticed the ostrich in hot pursuit on her side of the car.
“There he is.” I said and pointed at it. By the time she looked it was right beside her window and it scared the hell out of her. Needless to say she urged me violently to get moving. I exceeded the posted speed limit and got away from the ostrich.
Continuing on the voyage we visited goats, gazelles, big horn sheep, deer, zebras, buffalo, a couple cows, and numerous other critters. The whole time we are feeding them and letting my daughters pet them. While visiting the goats we ran out of food so we pretty much just drove through the park slowly to just look at the rest of the animals. Then we got to the end of the tour and incidentally the camel.
At this point in my life I had never been to the Middle East and have never seen a camel before. I had no idea what to expect from them. So we pull up to the camel that is standing directly in front of my car and we stop. We sit there for a good five minutes—the camel never moves. I have heard of them spitting at you when they are upset. I am now starting to get mad, so I decided to back up and go around the camel. Each inch I backed up it moved forward.
I am not a stupid person but sometimes we all do some pretty stupid stuff, especially when flustered. I rolled down my window while holding an imaginary morsel of food between thumb and forefinger. Lo and behold the camel noticed it. “Yes”, I thought. The camel moved around the front of my car, kicking it in the process. I started to move forward but I was not fast enough. Next thing I know the stupid camel sticks its head inside the car. I am now eyeball to eyeball with a camel. In case you don’t know, a camels head is pretty big. It took up the entire free area of the driver’s view space. The camel wanted some food and was sniffing around my wife for one little piece of food. Unfortunately, we wasted the last of the food on a little, harmless goat.
“Honey, get me something to give this thing!!!” I hollered while having a face full of camel.
“What do you want to give him?” She asked while flustered. Now you have to picture the hysteria in the car at this point. For crying out loud there is a camel in the car with us, directly in my face. I’m thinking he’s going to spit on me or my wife and I am not happy at all. Of course the camel is in best spitting range of my wife so she is probably thinking and worrying about the same thing. But, what if the camel looked to its right?
Finally, my wife gave me an old cracker she had found. I waved it in front of the camel’s eyes and enticed the camel to get out of my face by acting like I was throwing it out the window. This was doing the trick as the camel face was receding from my view. Once the camels head was out my window I chucked the cracker as far away as I could get it and quickly rolled up my window. That window has never been rolled up faster before or since that day. I peeled out getting out of there. I didn’t know this but you really can peel out on a dirt road.
I can only imagine what this must have looked like from a birds eye view; a car sitting on a dirt road with a camel’s hind end sticking out of it, and rocking back and forth. I look back on it now and laugh so hard about the probability of that happening. They do say that fact is stranger than fiction though.
Copyright 2009 by Wesley Cox