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On safari in Winston

I desperately needed a respite from valley smoke, so I thought scooting a few miles northwest would answer the call.

Winston, just south of Roseburg, became our destination, because the Wildlife Safari wild animal park makes a fascinating day trip, and it had been too long since I’d seen a common cape eland.

As we approached the entrance on Highway 42, I heard growling, but it was my stomach. We detoured to the McMenamins Roseburg Station for burgers and hard cider — make mine blackberry. Located inside a historic railroad station, it offers indoor and outdoor seating. We chose the latter, sidled up to the tracks, but no trains lumbered past, darn it.

Onward to Asia, Africa and zebras! The great thing about Wildlife Safari is that most of the birds and animals are running around loose, though not the ones who like their meat rare.

Lane and I were gawking all over the hills. First, he would spot a guanaco, then I would see Canada geese. He saw an ostrich, and I spotted turkeys. Hey, what gives? I have those in my yard. I saw huge boulders, and Lane pointed out that they were actually rhinoceroses sleeping and referred to them as Rob Rhinos. Man, they looked huge. They thought they were pulling one over on us by not moving.

Then we saw the zebras, way up on a hilltop. They were pretty far away. I thought maybe one of them looked like a person in a zebra suit. Maybe they did that to make sure folks got the thrill of seeing one. With the extreme labor shortage, one might be in danger of seeing half a zebra romping around not acting like a true zebra. Don’t take me too seriously. You know better.

There were few cars in this first area, so we took our time, read the signs and enjoyed bird watching — planning to extract our $20 ($40 for both) worth all over the 600-acre park. There was a western wood peewee flying out for bugs from a perch. I snapped a nice great blue herring (another Laneism). We saw movement under the pond water and figured it for fish. I made note of the “no swimming” sign. No problem, we had forgotten our suits and snorkels.

As we cruised along at a slug’s pace, we craned our necks and saw oryx and kudus grazing while other cars drove around us not reading the informative signage.

They’d given us a handy map at the start, and I kept asking Lane, “What animals are we driving through?” The thing is, the creatures were not actually stationed where they showed on the map, since they were moseyers, like the buffalo roaming the range — a nice herd, with a baby buffalo (reminds me of a song) grazing right next to our car and mama buffalo eyeing us as she munched.

A gorgeous Roosevelt elk buck stood near the road guarding his harem. Giraffes towered over us, seemingly undisturbed by the line of gas emitting creepers. The cars, that is. Not the bison.

When we arrived at the feeding station, we slowed way down — stopped, actually. None of us could wait to hand over five dollars for a cup of what looked like large cocoa puffs. Lane sniffed the contents and decided to pass. This attraction took a while, but I was darned if I was going to pass up a chance to have the cup knocked out of my hand by an exuberant fallow deer. A yak stood nearby that looked like he’d be fun to ride. One lady was so slow, I tried to drive around her, which she took as a challenge. She sped up as I passed but then I was headed off by an emu.

Wildlife Images has the most prolific cheetah breeding program in America, which became apparent as we rolled past the cheetah enclosure. A couple of youngsters gnawed away on a rack of ribs.

There are too many animals to mention here. Take your curious mind to Wildlife Safari. It’s recommended for children of all ages.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.