Cheyenne Mountain Zoo opened its gates to the public in 1926, thanks to Spencer Penrose. The zoo has cared for its creatures and provided educational opportunities to the people of the Pikes Peak area for ninety years. The zoo is on 140 acres on the side of Cheyenne Mountain of which forty acres is occupied by the zoo itself. It is laid out in such a way that one hikes up the side of the mountain as he observes the creatures in their individual habitats, then continuing onward, turns down again toward the exit.
Now a memory from the mid-40s when I was perhaps 11 or 12 years of age. We lived no more than twelve miles from the zoo so it was an easy day-excursion. My Aunt Bill and three of her children, then in their teens, were visiting us from Kansas, that magical Land of Oz. On this day Mom, having prepared sack lunches for the gang, and Dad having insured sufficient gas for the outing, crammed the gang into the car, and off to the adventure!
The details of the day have naturally been largely lost in the mists of time, but a vivid episode imprinted itself upon my memory such that virtually every step for a few hundred yards, every word spoken as we made those steps, are still in my mind. We had probably eaten our lunches in a rest area midway through the trek. We no doubt oohed and aahed over the antics of the gibbons and monkeys, admired the plumage and overall beauty of the creatures in the aviary, were satisfyingly repulsed by the creatures that creep and crawl on the earth without benefit of external appendages. Now we had made the turn, headed down hill, the enclosures for the beasts over the wall to our left as we descended.
We were almost within sight of the parking lot, but for a remaining turn in the road, when we came to a display representative of an African veldt which was populated with animals indigenous to that far-distant part of the world. This included a few spotted hyenas, one of which seemed as curious about us as we were interested in it. Here Cousin Ward said, "Make him laugh, Uncle Delbert."
Now my father was noted for his uproarious laughter when he was in a jovial mood. Dad liked the idea and burst forth with his trademark roar, which did indeed resemble the call of the hyena. "Now, Delbert, you ornery thing," my mother said as she headed on down the hill, insisting that the rest of us come along. Ward and Dad stayed with the canids. As we were rounding the last curve we could hear from behind not only Dad's laughter, but a response from the hyena. What an uproar when its companions started barking as well. Father's laughter turned from teasing to genuine out-and-out hilarity, the cacophony increased as the other inhabitants of the zoo joined in-- the screaming of the monkeys, the squawking of the macaws, the roar of the lion, and by the time the elephant trumpeting began Dad and his nephew had caught up with the women and children. We all hastened to the car, somehow again fitting eight people into a vehicle designed to transport five, six at most, and departed the premises.