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A trip to the zoo

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A trip to the zoo
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Ah, deer hunting! 'Tis the season for unshaven men, anxiety-ridden wives and mothers, new hunters bringing home their first kills (yay, Montana!), and trips to the zoo.

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The zoo, you ask, faces crinkled in puzzlement.

Yes, indeed: the zoo.

Back when I was an only child, in the days when I wore pink, didn't know how to cite scholarly articles in MLA format, and could sing all the words to "The Little Mermaid" and "101 Dalmatians" -- well, that last one's still valid -- hunting season meant Dad was off to deer camp and Mom and I were traveling south to the Cities for a girls' weekend.

Since I didn't know how to play MASH, preferred The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to chick flicks, and was yet innocent to the glamours of gossip, that meant the zoo.

And, actually, it sort of still does.

For opening weekend (it's so weird to write that and not be referring to something theatre-related), Mom and I drove down to the Cities, got lost about 27 times trying to find Snelling Avenue and our hotel, and finally made it to Como Park and -- da dad a da! -- the zoo.

Although Mom bemoaned the fact that I wasn't wearing an ounce of pink, it was, altogether, a very nice whiff of nostalgia.

Also, the shift from college campus to being surrounded by caged animals made for an interesting transition.

Controversial debates over animal rights aside, I find zoos enormously entertaining. In just a couple hours, the parallels between people and our furry/feathered/scaly cohabiters become overwhelming.

Take for example the chimpanzees, who we share about 96 percent of our DNA with. The itty-bitty baby chimp was hanging 50 feet over a bunch of rocks holding nothing but momma's hand, using a few random ropes as monkey bars (I hope they don't find that term offensive), and doing gymnastics stunts with an audacious "Look, Ma, no hands!" look on his face.

I don't know about you, but I definitely did that while driving with my mom after getting my license, and although I didn't do many mid-air somersaults, I definitely made some wicked awesome "vrrrroooom" noises.

The best part of the monkeys, however, was the family standing next to us. A little boy turned to his littler brother's stroller and pointed out, "Look, Henry, that baby can do more than you can!"

And then there was the tiny little girl who saw the gorilla, who, fatefully, stood facing away from her, and screamed "It's his butt!" about 70 times, much to the amusement of the elderly gentleman she had run up next to.

Kids say the darnedest things.

A little later on, after having an enlightening moment with an ostrich, Mom and I were nearly rammed by a mountain goat who, we theorized, really enjoyed getting a rise out of her audience: she'd begin at the farthest corner of her territory, gaze intently at her spectators, and gallop (do goats gallop?) toward us, veering to the side inches before she would have hit the fence separating us. She then sauntered off, content in having made an impression.

Who doesn't love an adoring audience?

Shortly after, we walked into the Big Cats building, looked down into the exhibit, and saw...two middle-aged men patching up some rubber apparatus.

Humans have an outrageous capacity to be extremely boring. Lions? Less so.

We walked out the opposite end's doors, and found Madame Colossal Kitten in the outdoor portion, where she was lounging right next to the fence...and glaring ravenously at the maintenance men in her living room.

She wore the exact same expression I do when there are cookies in the oven.

See? What's a few strands of DNA? We're practically the same.

Of course we also share about half our genes with the banana.

More to come on that next week -- I've got some grocery shopping to do, anyhow.

Thressa Johnson graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends Concordia College in Moorhead.

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