No, that's two separate events, reunion and zoo visit (with dinosaurs). The family reunion was okay - tho it could have been a party with any random group of strangers. They seemed like nice people, however, and reasonable.
Well, there was one relative (connection uncertain, at least to me) who had a bee in his bonnet - wants to track down the original of some kind of 'contract' given to United Empire Loyalists that promised them and their descendants 40 acres and a mule, um, I mean 100 acres (or something),$10,000 (or something), together with full all-season hunting and trapping rights. And all this preceded Indian treaties, so we descendants could "take it away from those no-good Indians." Ah - did I mention that a lot of my relatives are rednecks? Rednecks who don't like redskins? Or any other variation from nice Scots pasty-white? (Personally, I'm content with the 99.9 per cent we've taken from the Indians...) (Irony alert.)
Someone had brought a 30-foot scroll showing the family tree (of one paternal grandfather - how about maternal lines, anyway?), so one could determine who was who if one wanted. Corrections were solicited, so I left a post-it complaining that the chart showed one of my daughters married to one of my husbands (we ain't THAT backwoodsy).
Alberta - "Wild Rose Country"
Anyway, afterwards I had half a day in Calgary before flying home, and spent it at the zoo. It was a hang-out for me when I was a kid. It was free then, had a few small cages with sad animals, and a lot of woods, and sometimes a ferris wheel. We went there unsupervised, day or evening, even after a small girl had been raped and murdered. We didn't understand quite what that was all about, but it didn't worry us much - nor, evidently, our parents.
The zoo has changed a whole lot. In fact, there was only one thing left that I recognized, and it was something I sought out: Dinny, the dinosaur.
Dinny's one of the reasons I lost my religion at an early age. Like, how did dinosaurs fit into the 6000-year thing, let alone the ark? This was dinosaur country, with lots of bones sticking out of the ground east of the city - let's see, what to believe, actual (colossal) bones, or an invisible sky-god? (Plus - which was more fun? A kid's always going to pick dinosaurs.)
Also, I had a rebellious streak. Quiet, internal rebellion, hardly any acting out, but whatever the Grown-Ups said, I took the opposite view. (That put me on the side of the Indians and, often, the angels.)
Poor Dinny was left with bushes growing up around him in a corner of the grounds. In another area, a whole lot of snazzy new (but smaller) dinosaur models were set up. Pretty cool.
The zoo had the usual remarkable beasts - hippos, giraffes, elephants, gorillas...
Every compound had its own aroma (despite an army of young people cleaning up). I just was registering undifferentiated *shit-stink*, until I came to the wild Asian horses - yup, that was horse all right...
I was especially taken by the tiger. Well, not literally, tho he was willing. It's scary being sized up by one of these guys from three feet away. He had a large compound and splashed in the pool and ripped branches off trees to toss into the air, but mostly he went round and round the perimeter, with that odd loose-jointed gait, his mouth always open and at the ready. The perimeter was partly concealed by bushes, with occasional gaps. When you stand in a gap, you can see glimpses of orange down the line and you know he's coming - but when he suddenly comes into full view right in front of you, whew, you're hit by some kind of atavistic horror. We ain't the top of the food chain! And this is just a moment in time when we feeble creatures, with our laughable teeth and claws, our pitiful two-legged waddle-running, can imprison a beast like this and bring our juicy tidbits of children to gawp at him. Tiger stops and stares...for maybe a minute...face to face, eye to eye. Damn if the camera battery didn't die at that moment... Well, better the battery than me. Did get a lesser shot earlier...
Here's the lions. When I was a child, living a few blocks away, I used to be wakened by the sound of lions roaring for their breakfast. (Probably not these ones.)
Here's the bridge over to St. George's Island, where the zoo is.
Unremarkable to you, no doubt, but this bridge used to feature in my dreams a lot. It was much longer and the water beneath more formidable (you can wade across the actual river), and there was always some problem so that I couldn't get across, or had to jump over a gap, or something. The bridge in real life looks fine...but, as I drove over it, it trembled. It might really be dangerous these days, being very old, and not built for the rush-hour traffic now crossing it...
Drove by the house I grew up in.
Cruised around the neighborhood. Cottonwood seeds all over the street, like summer snow. The old brewery, that used to have a nice little park with goldfish ponds, perhaps to make up for the clouds of beer-smelling foam it periodically belched out, is now a boring storage unit. My old middle school is still there, and operating, with a few add-ons.
The elementary school, which had been right beside the petroleum tank farm, is no more to be seen - nor the tanks.
Tried to feel nostalgia. Hey, here's the railway lines where we kids sometimes ducked between the cars of the stopped trains (I shudder at the memory). Over here there used to be a greenhouse, and we'd root in the waste bins for discarded roses. And across the street was some kind of deserted depot where we'd take a short-cut home and admire the rainbows in the puddles from spilled oil...
There was bush down by the river - probably also dangerous, but we played there, chasing butterflies, watching birds, making forts. Now it's all parkified for the joggers and women with baby carriages.
Up on the hill, just out of town, there was a big slough (pronounced 'sloo'), where we used to go looking for frogs and water snakes, and where the meadowlarks sang. Now it's a 'lake', with fancy waterfront houses ringing it. And the old neighborhood up there, very poor, has been replaced with the spillover from the river valley. That's why my old house and a lot of other even lesser places, are still there despite local real estate prices - Calgary can expand indefinitely. Anyway, up there now, on the long road down the hill, where we used to coast on our bikes, it's all built up with businesses. Thai and Ethiopian restaurants, my goodness - when I was a kid, there was no Thailand (part of Indochina, no?), and the most exotic food to be had was Chinese and Italian ... and I didn't have any of either until I was an adult. (I've done my best to make up for lost time ... tho I really don't like Ethiopian...)
Got home to Ontario, my home now. Tigers may no longer be at the top of the food chain, but their small cousins, the housecats, seem somehow to have become a dominant life-form in the modern world. I immediately resumed my feeding and bed-warmer duties.