You still belong in a zoo

October 18, 2009 was a good day to visit the Little Rock Zoo. It was a spectacular early fall day and the critters were, in the inimitable words of  Lester “Road Hog” Moran, “on their best behav-yer.”

I feel compelled to digress for those of you who are culturally deprived in the legend of Lester “Road Hog” Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys. They are (were) in actuality, the Statler Brothers who were masters of musical parody. They recorded  two Lester “Road Hog” Moran albums which still bring the house down. Strangely enough, fellow musicians were the greatest fans of the routine which parodied a small backwoods country band. Lester always admonished “Witchita,” his guitarist to be on his best “behav-yer.”

Back to the Zoo

Lemurs in the Little Rock Zoo

Click on the Lemurs for the original oCT. 2009 post.

Seems like we were originally talking about a trip to the zoo when we flew off on the music tangent. It was indeed a good, if nto perfect day, to visit the zoo. Click here for the original post.

We managed to shoot tigers, apes, antelopes, giraffes and more, not all of which we are showing. On the cute scale, there were Lemurs, always interesting. On the ferocious scale, we got a good shot of a Malaysian Tiger, a rare species.

Along with the Tiger, we shot a tiny antelope, a “Kirk’s Dik dik,” who tops out at 15 pounds when fully mature. Seeing both ends of the critter spectrum gave me pause to think about how we look at critters and perhaps at ourselves.

Tiger at Little Rick Zoo

Click on the tiger for more story and pix.

I expanded on those thoughts on the companion story to this epistle on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where you will see pictures of the tiger and the antelope. The story titled “It ain’t Tony.” takes a realistic look at the magnificent beast and her place in the balance of nature, which as of late, is teetering a tad too much.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.


You belong in a zoo II

bears having a spat in a pond

This pair of grizzlies in the new Memphis Zoo Teton Track exhibit were feeling frisky. The huge enclosure area looks like more area than a football field to me. It has rocks, streams, a pond, and miscellaneous other appurtenances to make grizzlies feel right at home. This bear family, there are three, like a lot of other families, was showing a difference of opinion on some thorny matter.

A great day for bears

Memphis Zoo panda

See panda pictures >>>

Per chance it was something in the water or air, but It was a great day for bears at the Memphis Zoo. Much to the delight of a respectable size crowd, a rare panda, three grizzlies, and a polar bear were all strutting their stuff on a steamy mid-south afternoon. A short rainfall also invigorated some otherwise sleepy critters.

You can see a couple of panda pictures, a shaking polar bear, and a big tiger “making a face,” all on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, where this story started. Click here to go there, a very cool thing to do. We’ll wait while you look. The click is worth the trip.

Support your local meerkat

Much less ferocious and high on the “… awwwwww … ” scale, the Memphis Meerkat family was on its best behavior, calmly standing for endless portraits. Social in nature, if you see one, others are certain to be nearby.

Meerkats at Memphis Zoo

These small critters were welcomed to the Memphis Zoo with giant city-wide fanfare in the early nineties. The meerkat display continues to be one of the most popular exhibits in the zoo.

Unlike his cousin at the Little Rock Zoo who has shown a profound personal dislike for me, this lowland gorilla was gracious enough to strike a good pose. His generosity was short lived. A few seconds after this shot, he turned his back to me. Must be a karma thing.

lowland gorilla at memphis zoo

This big boy is king of all he sees. It’s a good thing to be the 800 pound gorilla.

After the short rain which interrupted this trip to the zoo, several of the critters showed renewed vigor and movement. Though this tiger remained where he (or she) was, he (or she) showed a great deal of interest watching the other tiger in the enclosure cavort and show off. You can see the tiger making a face on the Corndancer Photo of the Weekpage or in our consolidated weekly gallery.

Memphis zoo tiger

This huge kitty looks a bit disgusted observing the other tiger in the enclosure emit a substantial roar and then “make a face” at surprised onlookers.

The Memphis Zoo has a pair of good looking Cheetahs. They were at rest for the most part during my visit. As I arrived at the Cheetah enclosure, the Cheetah below was pacing and showing off her body made for speed. It was just after the rain and by the time I had removed the Nikon from the bag, the cat had showed her catness, and taken her place of rest. As a long-time cat owner, I am painfully experienced at seeing photo ops instantly vanish once the camera is in hand.

reclining cheetah

The speed demon rests. Seconds before I brought the camera to bear, she was strolling the Cheetah stroll. Typical cat. Wait until the camera is in hand and stop doing what you are doing!

Despite a persnickety cat, a great visit to the zoo. This zoo points out that recent surveys place it as the nation’s number one zoo in popularity. They’ve got me convinced. Tired and sweaty, I still did not want to leave. Finally temporal needs overwhelmed unsatisfied curiosity and quite simply, “I split for the crib.”


Mother duck and ducklings

Click on the ducks for more critters

Every week we shoot more than there is room to display on this blog and the Corndancer Photo of the Week page. This week there is a bumper crop of additional 17 panda pictures, 11 more grizzly pictures, a couple of ape, polar bears, and ducks. Click here to see those cool shots. You’ll see larger, higher quality pictures of everything. Some not published any where else.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

You belong in a Zoo


One American River Otter seems to be whispering "sweet nothings" to his or her mate. The otters, residents of the Little Rock Zoo, put on a good show, swimming and cavorting as otters do.

Most of us, yours truly for certain, have had that mild curse tossed in our directions. However pointed, the encouragement could not be more appropriate in this day and time. While the world around us seems to reinvent itself on a daily basis, the critters at the zoo are still tigers, they are still giraffes, and they are still otters and antelopes, you get the drift. Before we venture further, this zoo adventure started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to see a fine tiger and a 15-pound antelope with a suspicious name and get in on the start of the story.

Affectionate giraffes

Two giraffes at the Little Rock Zoo seem to enjoy each others company. While observing the gentle giants glide-walk around their compound, one thinks of ballet on steroids.

If for no other reason than to put ourselves in the company of creatures unconcerned about memory upgrades, car payments, tanning beds, liposuction, dripping faucets, expired car tags, and pizza coupons, there is great value to a zoo visit. You get an instant reminder that Mother Nature’s forces are running in the background, 24/7/365. And, your visit helps keep the zoo in business, so others and succeeding generations may receive the same gentle reminder.


Ring tailed lemurs at the zoo seem to be turning the tables on zoo visitors. At the Little Rock Zoo, lemurs have their own private island which is viewable from two sides and one end, a good thing, since these little critters like to stay on the move, Or at least that's been my observation.

The value of the reminder, is that it helps us, at least temporarily until mental contamination mutates again, to put things in proper perspective. To see the immensity of an elephant, the elegance of a giraffe, the frightening beauty of a big cat, should, if we allow it to sink in,  give some relief to creeping feelings of self importance and the dreaded woe is me syndrome. Then when the wind shifts, and we get a olfactory reminder that these are fully functioning creatures with which we have a systemic similarity. The zoo educates us in all sensory areas, no senses left behind.

african spotted otters

On the cute scale, these African Spotted Neck Otters are stiff competitors. They are smaller than sea or river otters. This pair seemed to enjoy having an audience. Short legged like Basset Hounds, on land, their gracefulness as swimmers quickly goes to the nether regions in a hand basket. On terra firma, they are hopeless waddlers.

On the other hand, some critters are well, cute, despite my railings on cuteness. Since they are, you might as well enjoy this dessert of genetic appearance. On the flip side of that, remind yourself that they are predators and consume other living things. For those of us who savor raw oysters, or just about anything else that won’t eat us first, that is no big deal.


This Malaysian Siamang is displaying some very human like emotions. Perhaps news of the old 401k tanking just arrived. In reality, not. But the look is surely there.

Bottom line, a trip to the zoo can be therapeutic. For this therapy to work, there are two requirements. First, go to the zoo. Second, let the therapy work. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

This is the 57th edition of Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind which means that five weeks ago, our first anniversary passed sans fanfare and hoopla. Fortunately, we survived this self-imposed ignominy to shoot and write again.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

PS: The Little Rock Zoo, of which we are obviously fans, uses “You belong in a Zoo” as one of their slogans. We could not agree more.

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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