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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

For The Kids!
Madison Bush, Contributing writer • November 28, 2023
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Yak tongues and zedonks

Yak tongues and zedonks

By: Elaine Best, Editor

The tunnel of flashing Christmas lights dazed me and my fellow travel companions as we slowly drove down the muddy road.

“I feel like I’m in a Sonic game,” said Aubrey Knight, my roommate and our dauntless driver.

The four of us – seniors Aubrey Knight and Maggie Sessoms, as well as sophomore Kim Arjune – trekked off of campus that rainy November night to experience the Holiday Lights Safari Benefit at Hollywild. None of us were prepared for the adventure ahead.

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At the beginning of our journey, we were the only ones in the park, driving slowly in the pitch dark save for the light displays that only faintly showed us the way. There were many confusing moments where we questioned where we were supposed to turn (successfully avoiding a dip in the pond at the last second). Christmas music echoed eerily around us, interjected by the occasional recorded animal sound. If the Manhattan Project had held a Christmas party, I assume that’s the playlist they would have used.

Perilously, Aubrey steered us into the Enchanted Deer Forest. This magical experience would allow us to hand feed deer from the comfort of our car. I felt like Snow White, except that I had a sweet ride and an aversion to apples.

No lights surrounded us now. Ahead of us a minivan was crowded by an army of deer. Glancing at one another, my companions and I hesitantly rolled down our windows.

It was feeding time.

The deer rushed us. Tiny noses pressed eagerly into my palms. We laughed as we rushed to grab more crackers for our woodland friends. We were jubilant, naively thinking this small brigade of deer was all that was in store for us.

It’s important to note that right as we rolled down our windows, Kim told us, with a big smile on her face, that she had a mild fear of feeding animals, all stemming back from some traumatic experience as a child where a goat chased her. Yet our brave sophomore had decided to face this fear head on with dignity and grace.

So naturally when a surprise giant bull popped his head in her window, she screamed and practically jumped in my lap. Crackers went everywhere (mostly in my boots). The quartet of deer I had been feeding nudged me with their snouts, one even licking my arm. Maggie was able to guide the bull away, and Kim darted to the window to shut it before the bull could return.

The Enchanted Deer Forest was proving to have a wide variety of animals and not just deer. Aubrey had befriended a zebra and zedonk (a zebra-donkey hybrid). I found myself stroking the big nose of a yak at one point. Before I could ask the yak if it have ever yikked, it ran away along with the zebra, the zedonk and a deer with one antler.

I assumed they had run because they had decided they hated me, but when I turned my head the other direction, I came face to face with the bull.

“Nope,” I said, furiously rolling up the window. “Nope, nope, nope.”

It’s hard to furiously roll up a window in this day and age when cars no longer have crank windows. To be clearer, I aggressively pushed the up-window button while making a strange face at the bull – like I was screaming but no sound came out.

Yet curiosity overtook me. I left a crack for the bull to put his snout in. I grabbed a cracker from my boot and cautiously held it out to the bull.

The creepiest, longest purple tongue came out, assumedly to entrap my hand and take it for his own. We all screamed, I lost the cracker and the bull drooled all over me.

With that, it was time to move on.

Through the next lighted archway was the true Christmas light display. An impressively lit whale sat in the pond surrounded by other lit animal friends and the “Sonic” light tunnel. We rolled into the final leg of our journey at Santa’s Village, where we could walk around and experience the animals up close.

Stepping out of the car was a small task within itself – my boots were filled with crackers and the door was covered in saliva. The village was filled with pens of different animals ranging from goats to bison. A man guided us to the back of the village to show us “the best animal in the entire park.”

“Is it a dragon?” I thought to myself. I figured if any place would have a dragon, it would be Hollywild.

“Wednesday,” the man yelled. “Come here, baby girl!”

A baby camel trotted out from the back. I was instantly suspicious – first, because Wednesday was not a dragon and second, because Wednesday could be bad news. Camels are notorious for their spitting and poor smoking habits, after all.

“She’ll give you kisses,” he told me. I imagined he would have said the same thing if Wednesday were a dragon, but I gave it a go.

Pressing my hand gently to her nose, her lips wobbled, tickling my palm. Kim had the next go, giggling as Wednesday gave her little camel kisses. The four of us quickly became obsessed with the camel. What kind of camel kisses people? I daydreamed of camelnapping Wednesday and using her as transportation across campus.

“Take that scooter kids,” I thought wickedly.

The merriment of Santa’s Village was contagious. Maggie ran over to a pen filled with piglets and baby goats and beckoned us over to bottle feed them. We all filed in only to discover that the piglets were snoring and the goats were bored. Had I walked into an FYI class by mistake?

After a while, I decided I was done feeding the only goat who seemed to care. The worker told me I couldn’t leave though. Apparently my goat friend was an escape artist, and while he was with me, I was stuck in the pen with him.

After a few unsuccessful moves –  circling the pen, trying to use other goats as a protective wall, etc .- I made my getaway, crunching with each step as the crackers in my boots became even more refined.

I sighed, glancing to my right at the llamas. One glared at me with intense hatred. I quickly looked down and walked toward the white bison for protection.

We ended up shutting down the park, the workers telling us to come back soon. Kim wailed her goodbyes to Wednesday as we piled in the car. We were sure to fall asleep that night with sugar plum deer dancing in our heads. Perhaps even some of us would have nightmares about giant purple tongues.

Hollywild hours and pricing are listed at  http://hollywild.net/.

Wednesday, an affectionate six-month old camel at Hollywild, kisses Elaine Best’s hand.
Wednesday, an affectionate six-month old camel at Hollywild, kisses Elaine Best’s hand.

 

An eager deer from the Enchanted Deer Forrest waits for a scrumptious cracker.
An eager deer from the Enchanted Deer Forrest waits for a scrumptious cracker.

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