Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had this fascination with the Old American West. I blame my father. Whether it was his vast collection of Louis L’amour books cluttering his massive bookshelves or the times after school we would binge watch classic Clint Eastwood movies or Tombstone (Doc Holiday is every woman’s fantasy, I’m positive) – it clearly had an effect. To this day I still romanticize the American frontier.
On my recent trip to the mothership, I was lucky enough to visit one of my old childhood haunts. When my parents started taking me to Bonnie Springs all those years ago, it was this tiny 50 square foot cell with a donkey roaming around. But ya know, I still got a kick out of it. Petting zoos are sort of my jam. They had one feeder station hooked up to a wooden post, where you dutifully deposited a quarter and about a third of a cup of hard green pellets piled into your hand. I have no idea what it is about feeding animals from my hands, but I internally squeal with delight whenever I get the chance to do so. I think it may stem from the deep seated yearning of wanting to be a farmer but the fact I hate really hard work and bugs deprives me of this dream.
With so many fond memories hoarded into my memory palace, I’m glad to know that not only are they surviving, but they are thriving. The petting zoo is now a decent sized arena where you can walk [small] laps to look at various animals.
Not only is the donkey still roaming (oh jesus, is it the same donkey from 30 years ago?!), but you have wandering chickens, lazing goats and prowling deer. And make no mistake, these freaking deer are on a mission, they have no fear of humans nor do they experience shame in any capacity. No matter what feeder station you’re at, as soon as that quarter hits home they sidle right up next to you and physically push you out of the way before the pellets come out, lift the metal flaps up and eat straight out of the dispenser.
Honestly, they’ve become quite the bullies now, I tried my hardest to stand my ground, but these deer have some crazy secret Hulk strength no one is talking about. My step mom was the only who had success heading the deer off, but she’s like old school Albanian who grew up in some crazy rural European village where they subsisted on well water and caught wild squirrels for supper. Think coal miner’s daughter with lots of feta cheese and you get the idea. (I love you Vic).
But I digress. Naughty deer and all, I had the best time. I think part of it is just The Spring’s mystical powers of transformation. Being there with my parents, I truly felt like a kid again. Bonnie Springs has put some decent effort in improving and expanding by adding new attractions like interactive exhibits, karaoke nights and zombie paintball.
In the afternoon they have a cute melodrama performed by two quirky cowboys. We didn’t catch it this trip but I did last time I visited and it was spectacular, it was even entertaining to a 7 year old.
For me, the king of all activities here has always been and will always be the petting zoo. But if greedy forest & farm animals aren’t your thing or gunfights in the streets don’t quite turn you on (you loser), it’s still worth the visit to dine at their restaurant. The waitresses are always attentive (its pure magic how my Arnold Palmer never quite emptied), the food delicious and rustic ambience is pleasantly creepy. Afterwards you can kill half an hour by the tranquil lake right outside.
Highlight of this outing? Hands down was getting my cards read by the ol’ miner. So wise!
In closing I’d like to wish my dad Happy Father’s Day (you actually better be reading this, old man). Thank you so much for influencing my tastes and for introducing me to many of my great loves – reading, star trek and obliterating things with shot guns.
You’re a man with a generous heart, wonderful sense of humor and compassion that knows no bounds. Your kindness towards others is the benchmark I measure all my actions against. I will always look up to you. I love you, dad!