An elephant for Amy

My wife Amy loves to read. She and her girlfriends have an informal book club, they don’t meet on any regular basis but whenever they are together they always manage to get around to discussing what books they are reading and offer each other recommendations on which ones they should read next. When “Water for Elephants” made the rounds it made such an impression on Amy that she got into an elephant theme in her choices. Next was “Hannah’s Dream” then “Modoc, The true story of the greatest elephant that ever lived.” then “An inconvenient elephant”. I guess like anything in popular culture, popularity creates a trend as there seems to be a rash of elephant themed novels out right now and my wife wants to read them all. She admits giddily that she is obsessed with elephants and wants to own one. The more she learns about their intelligence, loyalty and compassion the more obsessed she becomes. Amy isn’t serious about owning an elephant but she did conclude that she was determined at the very least to get a hug from an elephant, somehow, someway.

My sister Kathy is one of Amy’s confidants when it comes to books and as I have mentioned before, a true animal lover since a very early age. The old bit, “it followed me home, can I keep it” was never truer than with Kathy. Broken birds, abandoned cats and lost dogs were a regular part of her repertoire growing up. Kathy’s compassion is so great she has enough for people as well, I don’t know how she does it sometimes. So this compassion for others means my sister spends most of her time thinking of nice things to do for others “I saw this thing and it made me think of you so I bought it for you.” “I was remembering how much you like warm apple pie on a rainy day so I baked one for you and dropped it by.” If we could create a Kathy serum the world would be a better place.

So the other morning my sister is listening to the news and they mention a fundraiser at Vision Quest Ranch for E.A.R.S., Elephants of Africa Rescue Society,

http://www.wildthingsinc.com/html/e_a_r_s_.html

and they were giving away some free passes to the event. Vision Quest Ranch is a 50 acre compound in the western foothills of the Salinas valley and is a refuge for retired exotic animals from the entertainment industry. As well as a kennel and equestrian center. Kathy thought, “I have to win those tickets for Amy.” She raced to her computer and sure enough won 4 passes to the event. When I answered the phone my sister was so excited she was having trouble getting the words out. When I gave the phone to Amy I moved to the other room because I knew it was about to get loud. I was right, there was some serious squealing. When they calmed down enough to discuss the adventure in detail they realized they had 4 passes and had to determine two other elephant worthy attendees. No easy decision for such a exulted event. Kathy’s good friend April and I were the lucky ones to make the cut.

The event was on Sunday, July 3rd and started at 2 o’clock. The day could not have been prettier. July in central California does not always present itself at it’s best. It can foggy and cold along the coast and then blazing hot and miserable in the inland valleys. Not on this day. The coast was crystal clear when we left Aptos about 12:30 and Salinas was just as clear and bright with a cool breeze blowing across the hills. As we drove onto the ranch we almost immediately could see a large pen below us to the left and there they were, elephants! We quickly counted six elephants, a zebra, and a couple of water buffalo. Oh this was going to be a good day. We parked and were directed to a large white tent like enclosure to get our wrist bands and food and drink tickets. While I was waiting in line Amy had already zeroed in on a women showing off a beautiful red macaw. I had to call her away to get her wrist band attached. As this was a wine/beer tasting event we sampled a few items and quickly decided we best eat something if we wanted to survive the day. April, Amy and Kathy grabbed a salad, I got a sandwich and went and found a picnic table on the lawn. We excitedly talked while we ate when April suddenly starts pointing behind us and unable to find any other words just repeats, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”. We all turn around to see a woman strolling by about 30 feet away followed by a huge African elephant. My sister shouts for Amy to go but I think Amy had already left the bench. We all got up and watched this enormous animal meander through the parking lot. Now I should also mention that part of this event is called “Ears and Gears”, which is a display of classic cars, hot rods and modern sports cars. So here is the elephant walking right past all these very expensive toys, which made me a bit nervous. So they walk the elephant over to a grass area, set up a two foot high chain perimeter and start the meet and greet. By the time I made it over Amy was already engaged in conversation with the trainer and Butch the elephant. It really was magical the way this whole event played out for us. Amy getting to meet and elephant, Kathy getting to provide the introduction by way of winning the tickets and me getting to see my wife in utter bliss. We also got to meet a spider monkey, a kinkajou, a white cockatoo being shown by trainers. We then took a stroll and could see down on the pens where they have lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

An absolutely wonderful day and memorable experience. The ranch does two tours daily and we will definitely be making another visit.

Here are some photos of Butch and all his new fans, (click for full view)