Samson becomes KC

The story of KC, the Little Rock Zoo lion, continues here from the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week. Click here to see the first part of the story if you missed it. KC, first known as Samson, a lion cub, became a part of the Cliff Cheatwood family just in time for Christmas in 1982.

Samson, under the Christmas tree, 1982.

Samson, under the Christmas tree, 1982.

Samson grew up, not knowing that he was a feared predator. He believed he was a part of the Cheatwood family with all pertinent rights and privileges. The small, cuddly cub did not stay small. He became substantially more than a lap full, but still did his best to stay cuddly.

“We learned that when he was in his most playful mode, his greatest delight was to sneakup behind you, then pounce and demand attention,” Cliff Cheatwood said.

Samson and Cliff

Samson and Cliff. The lion is overexposed, but you get the drift of Samson's brand of lion playfulness.

Once Samson started to make his presence known in the Cheatwood’s yard, stray dogs would get one whiff of him, immediately vacate the area and not come back. “Apparently their noses told them they were coming into the presence of the King of Beasts,” Cliff observed. “Even the alleged meanest Pit Bulls would run the other way.”

Samson and Kayla Cheatwood. Good-hearted Samson is a year old here.

Samson and Kayla Cheatwood. Good-hearted Samson, eyeing Kayla's lap is a year old here.

Along the way, Samson was declawed, a defensive move to preserve home furnishings and bodily integrity. Even kitties with the best intentions can give you an occasional scratch. In Samson’s case, this would have probably resulted in a world class laceration requiring a new indoor record of sutures.

After Samson was a bit over a year old and showing some size, one of Cliff’s friends approached him with an unusual request. The friend wanted to borrow the Cheatwood’s lion.

It seems the friend was having some recurring burglary problems in his building supply store. He believed the presence of a live male lion might discourage further foraging by miscreants. Cliff agreed to the request, Proper lion quarters were installed at the store, Samson took up temporary residence and the burglary problems came to a screeching halt. It is indeed a really good friend who will loan you his pet lion.

As time went on, the looming, inevitable decision had to be made. The obvious solution was the nearby Little Rock Zoo. When zoo officials learned that Samson was declawed, they politely turned down the Cheatwoods largess with their beloved lion. It seems the other big cats would figure out Samson had no claws and it would be impossible for him to eat in a crowd. Then, the zoo conditions changed. The zoo would accept Samson and he would be the sole lion of the zoo. He became KC, short for Kitty Cat.

He was a resident of a zoo “cat house cage,” for 14 years. Then for his final two years, Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock underwrote construction of an outdoor natural enclosure just for KC. It was a fitting tribute to an uncommon beast who delighted thousands of people during his life. Photos courtesy of the Cheatwood family archives and may not be copied or reproduced without express, written permission of the family.

Samson at about six months old, with his favorite (deflated) toy.

Samson at about six months old, with his favorite, well- masticated and deflated basketball toy.

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