Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: JAM (02/09/17)
- TITLE: God Loves Boneheads Too
By Phillip Cimei
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“Don’t forget to get some frozen chicken legs to feed the lions and tigers, dad,” reminded my son, Mark, as we arrived at the entrance.
“Yes,” added the ticket attendant overhearing us. “Just stick them through the fence and they will grab them; keep the fingers on the outside,” She warned.
Just as we entered the park, a bellowing roar, unlike any roar of a lion we had ever expected to hear stopped us in our tracks. “Didn’t I tell you?” asked Mark. “That’s the Liger.”
The Liger was the main attraction at this sanctuary. It is a hybrid mix between a male lion and a female tiger.
“Yeah, dad,” added my daughter, Kristi. “Let’s feed the Liger.”
“Okay, but if it’s as big as Mark said, this little chicken leg won’t satisfy that monster. “
We anxiously walked to the fenced enclosure. A massive cat and his handler greeted us. He said, “you will be able to get a good idea of how large he is if you stand on your tiptoes and hold the chicken leg as high as you can through the fence.” I reached up over seven feet high. The Liger stood on its hind legs towering eight feet tall. He gently accepted the little treat.
We continued feeding the other lions, panthers and mountain lions until we reached the last exhibit. Three of the most beautiful, yet terrifying, Bengal tigers caught our attention. Four men were in there with them. A woman next to me said, “that’s my husband in there with the three handlers. They let visitors interact with the tigers.”
“Come on dad,” said Kristi, “Chicken?”
“Okay, if you will go in there with me,” I said jokingly.
“Let’s go Papsi,” said Kristi.
I hate that nickname. “Kristi, I...I…was only…” She headed to the entrance to this sixteen-by-sixteen chain-link enclosure.
“Can we come in?” yelled Kristi to the handlers.
“Sure, but listen to our instructions.”
“Hold it. Kristi,” I said, “let me go in first. You stay behind me.” I walked in slowly, staying real close to the gate. Kristi was to my right. Two tigers paced at the back of the enclosure with the handlers. The other visitor was to our right.
“See if you can pet one,” prompted Kristi.
“Are you nuts?”
The handler overheard Kristi and ignored me. He said to me, “walk slowly over to that one lying down. Gently stroke his hind leg. He will just lie there.”
He lied! My hand trembled. Beads of sweat dripped from my brow. My hand must have seemed like a cattle prod to this feline. His nature changed from passive chuffing, a tiger’s purr, to aroused, growl. My stroking of his coarse fur had transmitted my suppressed fear. Agitated, he leaped to his feet. The other tigers immediately became anxious. Their excited state telegraphed a volatile situation to the handlers.
A verse immediately came to me, “But the Lord stood by me...so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” 2 Timothy 4:17 ESV A prayer soon followed.
“Back slowly to the gate. do not turn around and do not run,” ordered the handler knowing that tigers attack from the back.
My daughter and I inched our way to the gate and opened it. We were spared to see another day.
I’m a slow learner. Many more pickles would follow. Would this be the last tiger I would interact with? Not if I listened to my scuba instructor that certified me. I now live in Hawaii and there is a tiger shark on the other side of the Big Island. He wants me go with him to find and swim with it.
I have put that on hold. Why? Not because of the reoccurring nightmares of this incident, but because of those whisperings in my ears. “Stupid is as stupid does,” was this God or Forrest Gump’s mother pleading sound decision making? No. It was my wife warning me. She told me, “it is a good thing God loves boneheads. One of these days you will find yourself in a pickle that will turn you into relish.”
Non-fiction: Three years later the Liger mauled and killed a handler at this park. 760 incidents in the U.S. of tigers mauling, injuring, or killing individuals have occurred since 1990.
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