Today’s post by Sherrilee was first published in 2010.
Most of my growing up years were spent in a big city in the Midwest, where the wildlife consisted mostly of squirrels and sparrows. So it was a big deal when we vacationed every summer in the northern part of Wisconsin at the family homestead. We saw deer from the car windows and even the occasional black bear at the town dump. When I was seven, an animal park opened up in St. Croix Falls, which was along the route my family always drove to get to Wisconsin.
Fawn Doe Rosa was (and still is) a place where you can feed and pet a variety of animals, from deer to ponies to geese and ducks. Always looking for a way to break up the long drive to and from up north, I’m sure my parents were delighted to find anything to get us girls out of the car and out of their hair for awhile.
That first year, when I was seven, my sister and I wandered all over the park. Except for dogs and cats, I had never had any interaction with an animal before and was a little leery of the deer, some of whom were bigger than I was. So I opted for the smaller and safer geese and ducks that abounded at the park. At one point, as I was feeding some geese along the little pond, a young elk spotted me.
Clearly understanding that I was the repository of food, he headed right for me, although I didn’t notice him, so intent was I on my task. My father, who was capturing our day with the camera, snapped a shot as the elk approached me, but didn’t feel the need to warn me. Of course, even though the elk was quite small (as elk go), he did scare me out of my wits and I stepped into the pond and got my feet wet.
It took my mother several minutes to get me to approach the poor elk, who was probably as scared by my antics as I was by his, but was willing to forgive me for my outburst, since I still had food. Within a little bit, I was petting him and feeding him, like he was no more different than the family dog.
I think about this day often, as the teenager and I still visit Fawn Doe Rosa at least once a summer. What would have been a scarring experience that scared me off animals for a lifetime, turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong love of creatures great and small. We trek out to our two zoos here several times a year, love the Wolf Center in Ely, visit any animal park we find along the way and I believe my love of animals may have rubbed off; the teenager has expressed an interest for a career with animals, although it’s still a little too early to tell.
What memorable childhood experience was captured on film?