Saturday, December 17, 2011

Did I See a Lion in That Cattle Truck?

I grew up in Western Kansas, where, according the state song, "the deer and the antelope play".  However, I can't remember having ever seen the deer or the antelope at play or anywhere for that matter around Garden City, Kansas.  Those are not the animals I remember from my childhood!  What I remember, though, are the polar bears, the elephants, the anteater, and of course, the lions!  Wait!  In the far southwest corner of Kansas?

A "Kansas" lion
Yes, the town of Garden City had within its borders an amazing zoo and my family often took long Sunday afternoon drives through this oasis on the plains.  I think I knew more about elephants, polar bears, anteaters and lions then I did about the native Kansas deer, prairie dogs and feared rattlesnakes.  The Lee Richardson Zoo provided all of us with a window to the world and I loved it!

Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas

The Zoo was, however, along the banks of the Arkansas River and one summer after days of rain in the Rocky Mountains not too far to the West, that slow-moving nearly dry river became a mad rushing torrent of water!  The Zoo and all its animals was directly in the path of the flood threatening the city.  As sandbags were being piled along the banks to save the town, intrepid folk determined to save the animals.

Cattle truck
Owners of cattle trucks were pressed into service.  Their cattle trucks, plentiful in Garden City due to the feed lots and packing plants in the vicinity, became the new home to all sorts of wild animals.  Photos in the Garden City newspaper ran of a lion roaring its displeasure at its temporary home.  To me, that photo depicted the depth and anguish caused not only for the wild and exotic animals of the Lee Richardson Zoo but for the inhabitants of one western Kansas town due to the Arkansas River flood of 1965!

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