"I want Cracker Jacks!" I yelled as I jumped from the car. My cousins piled out after me. In front of us was the vista of Hampton Park. Green grass spread out before us to surround the pond filled with ducks. Midway along the body of water was a bridge leading to the center island. To the left was a tree-lined walkway covered with gravel that crunched beneath the feet leading to the zoo beyond. The camelia bushes were in full bloom. A riot of colors met our eyes as we surveyed what was to be our playground for the next hour or two. My mother and my aunt got out of the car and prepared the stroller for my cousin.
Under the shade of the near oaks sat a wooden stand. Inside a lady looked hopefully at us as she arranged the stacks of candies and cookies. A Cocola machine sat next to the window inviting us kids to take a Coke.
"We have bread crumbs," my mother said. "You don't need any Cracker Jacks. You'd just feed them to the ducks and that is a waste."
I pouted while my cousin was made comfortable in his stroller. Once he was settled I got behind him and pushed. His sisters carried the bread bags filled with stale bread bits. They would be tossed to the ducks on the pond. It was our favorite thing. Traveling on the grass with a stroller was rough going until we got to the fine gravel paths, then it was smooth sailing. As we neared the edge the ducks took notice and paddled over to us.
"Quack! Quack!" A chorus of duck calls greeted our arrival.
"QUACKQUACKQUACK!" We shouted back at them.
'Here you go, cuz," I handed him one of the bags of bread crumbs.
We tossed the bits to the ducks. They caught them in mid air half the time. I threw them beyond the huddled mass of quackers. The ones at the fringe would turn and paddle to them and duck their heads into the pond since the bread would be sinking by the time they got to it.
As our offerings grew less the ducks began to depart for other groups tossing bits of food into the water. Finally, as we tossed the remainder, the last duck gave a last quack and paddle away leaving a mild wake behind.
We rolled up our bags to be dropped into the litter cans along the path.
"Here we go." I pushed the stroller toward the main path heading away from the pond and toward the zoo. The sun was overhead in a cloudless sky. It was warm after a cold winter. The warmth had brought the bees out to walk upon the flowers throughout the park that day. Easter was coming up soon. It always came with the awaking of life all around. Birds sang above us in the oak limbs bedecked with Spanish moss gently moving with the breezes. The fragrance of the colorful blooms along both sides of the path filled us with the newness of spring. In the distance we could hear the roar of the lion interrupted by the chatter of monkeys.
"Did you hear that?" I asked. "The lion is awake."
"Is the snake house open this year?" asked my cousin.
"We'll have to see," I said.
We were far ahead of everyone else. My pace had increased due to the lion's roar. When we arrived at the small exhibit of caged animals we saw him pacing back and forth behind the iron bars. His space was just big enough to walk a few paces and turn around. We never thought of his captivity. We just gazed at his beauty and power while he walked to and fro.
"Look at his paws," I said. "Think of the claws he must have." Our cat had scratched me and I was comparing the two. He eyed us both in his pacing. It gave me chills as well as thrills as I thought how thankful I was to be on this side of the bars.
With a last look at those fangs we moved on to the reptile house. It was dark inside. The exhibit wasn't to our liking since we couldn't see much. The glass cases were too high for my cousin and I had problems as well even on tiptoe. So we vacated the snake room and followed the laughter outside to the monkey cage.
It was much bigger than the lion's cage and higher as well. Inside were tree limbs that rose toward the bars above and in those limbs sat monkeys who looked at us looking at them. They looked almost human. Their chatter seemed like laughter as they watched us from their purches. We disturbed their placid search for fleas on each other. One of the folks in front had tossed a few grapes through the bars. A couple of the primates swung down looping through the limbs to land on the ground to scuttle over to the grapes. They popped them into their mouths seeming to smile at the grape tossers.
When the grapes ran out the mischievous chimps began to put on a show.
"Yay!" we shouted as they ran around the cage along the bars. They climbed and flipped from bar to limb to bar climbing to the top and dropping limb by limb to the ground again. We were entranced by their antics until they settled in the limbs above. Those familiar with this show moved back a few paces almost in unison as the finale approached. All of a sudden they began to throw poo through the bars. We kids laughed because we knew. Some adults around didn't. Their clothes were spattered. Their curses were loud. The monkeys jabbered and chattered louder and louder. Their flinging fingers let loose barrage after barrage which sailed through those bars along with chimp laughter.
"Disgusting," said my mother and my aunt. "Every time we come it's the same thing."
"It's funny," we said.
"Come on," my mother said. "We're going back to the concession stand. We'll picnic at one of the tables. Everybody want a Cocola?"
"Yeah!" we all shouted.
Our stroll back to the car and coke was riddled with children's laughter recounting the monkey poo. Our laughter carried over the park. Adult visitors looked at us as we passed.
"They're going to see the monkeys," I said. That brought more laughter to us kids. My mother and my aunt just shook their heads as we walked along the path crunching stones beneath our feet.