I had my youngest grandchildren here for a day and a half last week. One is almost 4 years old, and the other is 19 months old. The youngest doesn’t ask any questions. She just observes and smiles a lot.
The 4-year-old has lots of questions.
I drove him past a big yard on Morro Road just west of Atascadero Lake and pointed out all the dinosaurs on the property.
I thought he’d be impressed. I think he was, but the questions came from my daughter: “What’s with the dinosaurs?” His mom wanted to know where they came from. Who made them?
I didn’t know.
I took him to the zoo on that unbelievably hot Thursday afternoon, when the people and animals were wilting from the 100-plus-degree weather.
The only animal he wanted to see was a vulture.
I’m not sure why that topped his list, but it did. Fortunately, we found a turkey vulture sharing a pen with an owl. There were lots of questions about animals and birds that I didn’t know.
As we exited the zoo, he wanted to know why there wasn’t a lion in our zoo. I was going to explain that Chuck Paddock began with a couple of lions, then they had died of old age, and we just hadn’t replaced them, but I figured he didn’t care about such details.
He just wondered why we didn’t have one now. I didn’t know if he’d understand about budget constraints and new guidelines on enclosures for such large animals.
The zoo’s original lions lived on concrete in a cage not much larger than a pen for a big domestic dog.
Being a city kid, I thought I’d impress him by showing him some “wild” animals up in the hills around Atascadero such as deer, turkeys and quail.
Fortunately, we found one out of the three (deer), much to his and my pleasure. I didn’t want to promise and not be able to deliver.
Early the next morning, he and I struck out in my ’46 Willy’s Jeep for a little trip behind the high school campus. There, we encountered a female deer with its baby that still had all its white spots.
We came to a stop and got to take a long, slow look at the mother and baby for a full minute before they both trotted up the hillside into the brush.
Am I a good tour guide or what?
With grown children, I’d forgotten what a delightful place Atascadero is for visiting grandchildren.
But I’m going to have to brush up on my Atascadero facts before their next visit.
And I’m going to find out something about those dinosaurs out on Morro Road. Maybe I’ll share that information with all of you, too.
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.