|September 1, 1999
SAGINAW - Well, I finally got to see Mike at work last week. The fam and I went up to the zoo and were there just in time to catch our own version of Jim Fowler giving the live animal presentation to about 50 people or so. Funny, he didn't even see me for quite some time even though I had my glasses on upside down. I wanted to heckle him so badly, but Eileen was there and she said not to, so I was good. (Imagine!)
In all honesty, Mike was quite impressive. He is surprisingly knowledgeable when it comes to these animals, and I was left afterwards with the feeling that once again he had been hiding something from me. At the end of the presentation, he asked if anyone had any questions. Instinctively, I raised my hand, thinking to ask how it is that he came to be so smart, but Eileen must have read my mind because both she and Rose punched me into submission and I was rendered physically unable to lift my arms for the next hour. Which was ok, because Joe wanted to ride the train anyway.
Later, I asked Mike how it is that he came to be so informed about animals and the whole zoology subject. He explained that he had picked most of it up from the other zoo staff members as well as the actual animal caretakers and their staff. In addition, he said, he also did some private research. This answer still did not satisfy me however. I mean, he was spouting off some really obscure things about sub-species of tarantulas, this was not the sort of information you get in casual conversation with the guy who sweeps the rabbit hutch!
I knew that he was holding out on me again, and I can't stand it when he does that!! So I pried further, asking him just how long this "private research" had been going on. He said that he had had an increasing interest in zoology for the last 10 years or so. Ten years!! And me, his best friend, had no idea!! How utterly embarrassing!! Anyway, that aside for the moment, I continued my questioning. "Just what sort of research is involved here? Do you just read books on these things, or is it more active? Do you go to other zoos or zoo guy conferences??", I asked. He said that he did and does all of these things fairly regularly, and has for several years. I was astounded, and accused him of lying and attempting to make me look like an idiot (as if I need any help doing that), at which he replied in all seriousness that he was honestly being staightforward with me.
Recovering my composure, I continued my inquiry. "Well, you don't just remember this stuff", I challenged, "where are your notes and stuff?" (This will catch him, I thought). He simply shrugged his shoulders and began walking back into the house. "Upstairs", he said, "C'mon". Well, he wasn't kidding, that is for sure! He has a large closet full of nothing but (no not pancakes, the OTHER closet!!) really heady studies, analyses, charts, articles, letters, etc. all about any and every zoology related thing you can imagine. He even qualmed my disbelief by showing me letters written to him personally by various organizations and schools, as well as animal societies and zoos. All very technical discussions and all very amazing to see! I was stunned once again.
At this point Eileen called up the stairs wanting Mike to go pick up Winston from a birthday party he was attending. He asked if I wanted to go, but I declined, asking instead if I could continue looking through this amazing heap of material. He smiled and assented, I think because he knew that I was so impressed. After he had gone, I noticed a box with about 20 magazines in it. When I pulled them out I could not help but laugh, and if they were in any place other than a closet full of zoo stuff, I would have been very worried. As I began replacing them in the box, one got caught and slid under the rest of them, preventing the stack from going in neatly. I hate when that happens. I set the stack down and removed the stray magazine from the bottom of the box, placing it on the top of the pile. I had just picked the stck up again, when the cover caught my eye. As you can see below, here is positive proof that Mike was not lying! The fall 1995 issue of Sheep Breeder Magazine, with "Junior Jack Hanna" right there on the cover.
As I said, were this in any other place than a closet full of zoo stuff, it would look rather incriminating for our friend Mike. And I know that you all realize that certain portions of these monthly ramblings are fictionalized, and that certain portions are not. The question is would I concoct that whole thing about Mike having a closet ful of zoo stuff just to prevent him from appearing to be some sort of deviant? I mean, look at the guys he is standing there with!! One looks like a pro wrestler, and the other looks like a 50 year old version of Tim Riordan!! Hey wait a minute.....no, couldn't be. Anyway, I will leave it up to you to figure out what goes on with Mike and his animal friends. What kind of friend would I be otherwise?!?!?!?