Milwaukee’s King Kong

One of my favorite places, when I was young, was the Milwaukee Zoo.  It was almost guaranteed that every year of school brought a field trip to the zoo.  I loved it and looked forward to the last week of school when we would usually go.

I had my favorite parts like the bears (man, could they eat marshmallows), the monkey house (man, could they fling, um, stuff), the otters (just cool), and the main attraction, Samson the gorilla.  Every kid within a hundred miles knew who Samson was.  He was larger than life…like a wrestler.  Anyway, he truly was the main attraction.

The first time I can remember ever going to the zoo, I was all pumped up to see him.  The other animals intrigued me, but all the other kids always talked about Samson.  Some of them even had Samson t-shirts.  He looked like King Kong on them.  This was something I had to see.

We went through half the attractions before we reached Samson.  He was sleeping.  We waited until it was obvious he wasn’t getting up.  We yelled.  He didn’t budge.  That was it.

The next year I went to the zoo he was awake.  He was just sitting there looking at us.  That was it.

Year after year it was the same story.  He was either sleeping or sitting there looking around.  Sometimes he would eat.  I have to admit; it was amazing to watch a creature as big as Samson be so delicate and dainty when he ate.  He was easily 500 pounds or more and he ate little morsels of fruit like they were delicacies.  He was so dainty that I expected him to reach back and pull out some cross-stitching or something like that.  It wasn’t until he yawned that I finally understood how truly impressive he was.  Those jaws were enormous and held some pretty enormous teeth.  The canines alone must’ve been two or three inches long.

I still, however, wasn’t completely sold on Samson.  I guess I had put my expectations so high, he had a lot to live up to.  It wasn’t until my fifth or sixth visit that I truly gained a new respect for Milwaukee’s King Kong.

He was sitting again, looking around at all of us.  Then he made eye contact with me.  Time froze.  He squinted one eye.  I had seen this move before, but didn’t fear him.  Of course, the enclosure helped.  I squinted my eye.  Samson looked surprised and quit squinting.  Now his eyes seemed to smile at me.  He lifted his humongous hand towards his face.  I lifted my puny hand towards mine.  I was ready to match him, move for move.  He didn’t intimidate me.  Then he did it.  He shoved his enormous finger up his nose.

There are times in your life when you have to back down.  I could’ve stood up to his challenge, but then I would have faced the ridicule of all my classmates around me.  I dropped my hand.  Samson grunted and looked away.  He was finished with me.

I look back on that time and realized how cool that gorilla was.  He knew everyone was there just to see him and he didn’t have to do anything.  Another thing was brazenly picking your nose in public without a care about what anyone thinks.  Now that’s cool.  That was one cool gorilla.  King Kong never picked his nose in public.  I guess maybe he had some self-esteem issues or something.


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