While claims of the Free-Ride offspring's telepathy are in doubt, there is no question of the younger offspring's telephonic prowess (which is to say, the younger offspring can remember all the digits necessary and sufficient to place a call to either parents or grandparents with no adult assistance; the long distance carrier is thrilled). This telephonic prowess was lately deployed while the sprogs were staying with the Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment.
Dr. Free-Ride: (answering the phone) Hello?
Younger offspring: Hello!
Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, what are you guys up to?
Younger offspring: I wanted to tell you that we went to the Wild Animal Park.
Dr. Free-Ride: Cool! Did you see any wild animals?
Younger offspring: Of course we did! It was a wild animal park!
Dr. Free-Ride: So what did you see?
Younger offspring: I saw gorillas, and lions, and cheetahs, and some other animals too.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, I saw some wild animals yesterday.
Younger offspring: Did you go to a wild animal park also?
Dr. Free-Ride: No, it was just a county park. But I saw some deer and some wild turkeys.
Younger offspring: I think we saw deer at the park we went to in Virginia with Duke and Super Sally and our cousins.
Dr. Free-Ride: You have a good memory -- that was a couple years ago. We didn't see any bears, though.
Younger offspring: Except in the movie about bears that explained how black bears are different from grizzly bears.
Dr. Free-Ride: You really liked that movie.
Dr. Free-Ride: I think we saw deer.
Younger offspring: Did you see any salamanders?
Dr. Free-Ride: No. But we didn't see any of the wild pigs that eat the salamanders, either.
Younger offspring: At the Wild Animal Park, I got a hat and a panda.
Dr. Free-Ride: A panda? Oh dear, we don't have any bamboo planted -- what's the panda going to eat?
Younger offspring: Not a real panda, a toy panda!
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh.
Younger offspring: I thought you'd be happy it wasn't a real panda.
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, I'm happy, but you know how [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] feels about the explosion of the population of stuffed animals in the house.
* * * * *
Reports of Giant Texas Desert Squid and Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus notwithstanding, younger offspring assures me that none of the creatures encountered in the Wild Animal Park resembled these squids. (Judging by the balloons, it seems possible that the squids may be on their way back from some family attraction.)
If you come to visit us in Montgomery County Maryland now, you might catch a glimpse of the black bear that has been sighted by 3 different people and is still on the prowl as it has not been apprehended - yet! With Aunt Molly here, we haven't had time to join the search - yet!
Ask them if they saw any ground squirrels and jack-rabbits at the Wild Animal Park. A variety of native animals joined the park back when it first opened to take advantage of human largess.
And here's a story for the kids when they get older...
This is the story of how the Wgasa Bush Line got its name. It's 3 am in the morning after a long, and contentious meeting of the board of directors for the San Diego Zoological Society. Everybody was exhausted, testy, and more than a tad fed up with the whole proceeding. Now they were discussing what to call the monorail that would take people around the park. Proposal after suggestion had been made, and none had found favor. Finally the then director of the zoo's reptile program looked around the room and asked, "Who give a s--- anyway?"
We tried to stop the inflow of stuffed animals but grandparents will not listen. Good luck with that one. And as the kids get older they remember where each one came from and can't give them up.
For the record, Uncle Fishy and I saw bears on the previous trip to the Smokey Mountains in 2003. A momma bear and a cub crossed the Skyline Drive right in front of our car. But the Offspring weren't there b/c we were on a mission to eat non-vegetarian fried chicken.