Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The International Wildlife Park

I took this job because I found out at the last minute that I would not be returning to school for the fall semester. If I had known that earlier, I would have spent the whole summer looking for a better job. But instead I wasted the summer working at Arby's, which I did because I thought it would be a good job to have while I was taking art classes.

So, no more school for a while, no more art for a while, and I had to get a full time job since I was no longer in school. I filled out lots of applications, went on some interviews, but nothing came of it. I ran out of time, and I had to take what I could get. And, if I'm going to settle for a minimum wage job, it might as well be at a place that sounds interesting.

So I answered an ad and went to the International Wildlife Park. The funny thing was this place was like two miles from my house, and I love animals, but I had never been to this place before. So I had no idea what they did or what kind of jobs they might have open or anything.

They wanted to hire me year round to do some job once school started, but if I wanted to work before then they would find something else for me to do. If I had understood what they wanted, I would have turned it down. Possibly, I would have turned down the whole thing, but for sure I wouldn't have worked that first week or two.

They said that they needed someone to fill in at souvenir books. I pictured working indoors, at a souvenir store. What I ended up doing was standing in this little grass hut thing that said Information, only when the cars pull up you don't really have any. You try to sell them a souvenir book with pictures of the animals in the park. Sometimes someone wants to buy the thing anyway, but most of the time the people are mad at the misdirection. Maybe they lost a few places in line to find out you were just selling a souvenir that they could buy later if they really wanted one. And even without the angry customers, it is a really bad job to have in Texas during August.

It got worse. For a few days they had me work either elephant rides or camel rides. At the time I did not even weigh a hundred pounds. There was no way I could lift even really small children on to either animal, but that's what everyone expected me to do. I should have left, but everyday someone would tell me that they would train me for my real job tomorrow, but then the next day I still ended up doing something else.

I had about had enough of this. I decided they had probably made up the whole thing just to get someone to do the jobs no one wanted right before everyone quit for the year and went back to school. And this was just too much work for minimum wage. At Arby's I didn't have a full time job, but I made a little more per hour, I had an employee discount at I place I liked to eat, and I got off early enough in the day that I could go on interviews while I was looking for another job.

But the next day I went to work, it rained. And they were sending people home, and I thought maybe they were closing the park for the day. No, just half of the park. And now that it wasn't so busy, it would be a good time to train me to work my real job selling tickets.

So that wasn't so bad. We didn't have to stand up all day, and the ticket booth did have an air-conditioner. But there were still angry customers. Why is half the park closed today? I heard that everyone in the car got in for one price. I heard that the tickets were five dollars on Fridays. Why do I have to pay full price if I don't want to go through the drive-thru? I've got a half-price coupon, so why can't I get a kid's ticket for half price? I heard it was free.

Dumb stuff like that, all day.

So finally I found out what my job was going to be like. Turns out that they keep the drive-thru park open all year, except for Christmas and New Year's, and in really bad weather. The girl that they'd planned to keep on all year got pregnant and didn't want to do the job anymore. You could bring a book, a radio, and maybe even a TV. Other than office people and maintenance workers and wildlife handlers, they only kept three or four people to work with the customers year round. One to sell the tickets, one or two to sell animal food and let people into the drive-thru, and one to sell them sodas and snacks in the middle of the drive-thru. Monday through Friday during the school year, everything else was closed. But there was no point in closing the drive-thru, since the animals were already there anyway. They might as well hire three or four people and try to make a little money.

It didn't pay anything to speak of, but it was a job. And I did like being around animals. And I liked my supervisor. Unfortunately, she was about the only one I liked. There was this lady in the office who was a year round employee, and she was in charge of food service. So why was that a year round job? During the summer, being in charge of food service was a full time job, but in fall and spring it was mainly on the weekends, and during the winter it was just the one girl selling sodas. So why was this woman in the office getting paid Monday through Friday for doing her nails? The owner and the manager both treated me like I was one of the high school kids, and not like a valued employee that kept the park open year round. The head of wildlife thought everyone outside his department was an idiot. A couple of the wildlife guys were nice, and a lot of the maintenance guys were helpful, but I didn't really work with them.

And since my supervisor was needed on Saturday's, she had off every Friday, which meant the idiot manager of food service with the long finger nails became my supervisor on Fridays. And her answer to everything seemed to be, I don't know, or that's not my job.

But, I liked the job Monday through Thursday, and then when it was Friday, it was Friday, and I tried not to let this idiot ruin it for me.

After a couple of months, they the girl selling sodas in the drive-thru said that she wouldn't work once it started to get cold. And the owner decided that they didn't need to pay a separate person just to sell tickets at the front of the park. The tickets could probably be sold just as well at the drive-thru entrance, and they would save money by letting one or two of us go or cutting all of our hours by half.

Well, probably the college students at the drive-thru entrance were just fine with that, but not me. I had to take this job because I had to give up school. The only reason I'm here is because this is a full time job. If this is not a full time job, I'll have to go somewhere else.

So then someone suggests that I can make up the hours on Saturday and Sunday.

So I'll never have a day off? No thanks.

Anyway, my schedule was changed from working about 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, to working about 9 to 5 on Tuesday and Thursday, and working from about 1 to 5 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And one of the college guys is going to work from 9 to 1 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. No one likes the other college guy, and he can either just work weekends or they might let him go.

So the night before the schedule change, I'm having this really long talk with my parents. My dad says I should take this opportunity to start looking for another job. They won't insist that I have a full time job for a while, if I use the extra time to look for a better job on those mornings I have off. Fine. My dad goes to bed, and my mom and I stay up talking. It's not like I have to get up early in the morning.

So, someone wakes me up after I've had about three hours sleep. The college guy didn't show, and I have to go in to work. He forgot what day it was and stayed out late drinking or something. I almost told them that they were out of luck, but I figured I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep, so I might as well go to work.

So, now that I didn't want the job full-time anymore, I had the job full-time, only I was no longer working in the nice ticket booth with the air-conditioner. We must have lost some costumers because we moved the ticket sales. People must have thought we were closed and left.

I didn't like the job as much. The dust from the animal food made me sneeze. And there was no bathroom. If I needed a bathroom, it was 1/4 mile away at the office. My supervisor came at 1 everyday to give me a break, and I had about ten minutes to microwave my lunch, get a soda, go to the bathroom, get my lunch out of the microwave, and then drive back to the drive-thru entrance. I didn't even get time off to eat the lunch, just time to go and get it from the refrigerator. But, most of the time there weren't that many customers, and I might as well eat my lunch on the clock there as eat it off the clock at the office.

So, it was mostly okay, until one Friday when the owner and the manager went out of town, and the secretary called in sick. Friday was my supervisor's day off, and that only left one person in the office.

The idiot food service manager with the long nails did not come to give me a break at 1, or at 2, or even at 3. I couldn't leave the place unattended. If I drove away and left the gate open, the animals would start walking out. If I closed the gate and drove away, a customer would need to get out and would either see the closed gate and think that they had gotten lost, or they might try to open the gate themselves and probably let some animals out and possibly even get hurt. So I couldn't leave unless another employee came to watch the gate. So I called this woman, and told her to come as soon as possible. She was the only one in the office, and she said that she couldn't leave the office empty because the safe was open. Finally, at just after 4, she drove to drive-thru entrance, not to give me a break, but to pick up the money. I jumped in the car anyway, and she had the nerve to tell me to hurry back, because she had dinner plans or some such thing.

If I had wasn't afraid that I would have an accident in the time it took me to put my TV and radio and such in the car, I would have left her there.

She could have gotten one of the wildlife guys to watch the gate for ten minutes while I took a break, but she wouldn't do that because the wildlife guys don't know how to sell tickets, and they might have missed a customer while I was in the bathroom. So she just left me there all day by myself. And then she was complaining that I took too long getting back because she had dinner plans?

She told me I should have known that she couldn't give me a break, and I should have used a bucket.

A bucket?

For the next few weekends, the other girls who worked in the park left buckets and tissue paper on this woman's desk. She never so much as apologized.

The owner and manager neglected to apologize as well.

My supervisor was just horrified, but there was nothing she could do about it. I said I could not work with this woman anymore. If she was going to be my supervisor on Friday, maybe I just wouldn't work on Friday.

I calmed down a bit. I told them that I was going back to school part-time. I would not be available until after 1 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That eliminated the need for this idiot woman to give me a break on Friday, and Friday was the only day that I usually had to deal with her.

So, rather than apologize, rather than fire this woman, they agreed that I didn't have to come in until after 1 on those days that I would be taking classes. For those twelve hours a week, they hired this high school drop-out.

And everyone knew that he was stealing. He wasn't even subtle about it. And he was really dumb. Everyday that he worked, he supposedly had a over-ring, for the same amount of money. And there was the receipt in the cash register. But it was the same amount every time. He wasn't even smart enough just to take the money and put it in his pocket, he left the evidence every day that he worked. He kept the price of two tickets, but it was like he couldn't remember how much two tickets cost, so he still had to ring up the sale. Dumb.

But, they would rather hire this idiot who stole money from them than admit they'd done anything wrong, so that's the way it was for that spring semester.

The park flooded a couple of times, and the park closed for a while. During that time I got a job at a movie theater. And, for the most of the summer, I had both jobs. But, I decided to try to take a few more courses at college, and I didn't need two jobs and school all at the same time. As soon as they said for sure that the tickets would be sold at the drive-thru entrance instead of the front of the park, I left. That idiot with the long nails was still there, and I was not going to go through another year with her.


textile_fetish said...

That was a great post! I was doing a search on this place, wondering what happened to it. The way you were treated sounds about as bad as the way the animals were treated. My job in high school (not college!) was at Penny Whistle Park in Dallas. All these entertainment venues have interesting "behind the scenes" stories. People don't think about the employees I guess. Wouldn't it be cool to have a book chronicling the dark side of the various amusement parks in the Dallas area?

Anonymous said...

I would like to know what years the person that wrote the narrative of their time at IWP. I worked there from 1977 to 1981 as one of the Rangers at the park. When I was there the entire park was closed. Both the Drive Thru and the Amusement Park. The drive thru was closed because a lot of the animals had to be put up for the winter because of the cold damp weather, particularly the primates, elephants, Rhinos, giraffe, etc.. The remainder of the animals at the park would shelter themselves in various shelters through out the park, so people driving thru would not be able to see the main collection of animals. The company that owned the park, at the time,was the biggest importer/exporter of exotic animals in the world. We were constantly using the park as a holding pen for orders of animals to be shipped around the world to other parks. During the fall and spring were the busy times for conditioning, capturing and shipping the animals off to there destinations. To accomplish this, the park (drive thru) had to be void of customers driving thru the park and possibly interfering with our job of capturing and crating various animals. As far as low pay goes, the owners of the animals and the park would spend millions of dollars feeding and caring for them. Thus the employees (including the Rangers) were low people, as importance to the park, because they could replace anybody in 1 days time. It didn't matter who your were, you came in second to the animals. So if this person was unhappy about the pay...TO BAD.
Flooding was always a problem at the park when the Trinity River up-stream from the park got developed in the 70's and 80's. The more development along the river banks, the worse the flooding became. Where the park was located, the Trinity River would rise during severe storms (especially in the Spring) 35 feet or more and could last a week in the springtime. I can tell you as one of the Rangers at the park that the only mistake the owners did there was not to get with the Corps of Engineers to help the problem and they stayed open too long knowing the flooding would only get worse. As far as the care of the animals, I can attest that the personnel hired to care for them were experienced, highly trained people that literally put their lives on the line everyday in dealing with flooding and capturing and shipping the animals from rabbits to elephants, not to mention the Bears and Big Cats. So the person that wrote the previous story sounds to me like a young kid (like 99% of the summer employees) that expected more from a job then was really there. Actually, the only full time employees that worked year round were the wildlife Rangers, the Veterinarians and front office personnel. Remember, I was there in the late 70's, so things may have changed in the 80's. The bottom line is at parks that have and display animals (exotic or domestic), they come first as far a monies goes. There was nothing inept about the care of the animals, just the bad decision not to fix the flooding (the race track across
Beltline Road Did) and to stay at that location several years too long. Peace...Out!!

laughingattheslut said...

Well, I just noticed this, so I guess I'll take a moment and answer.

The person who left the comment probably didn't read to much of what I wrote, or he would have noticed that I was complaining about the way I was treated, not how little I was payed. But now, let me take a moment to complain about the pay.

I applied at several places, saying that I needed about five dollars an hour for my share of the bills. Most of the places were honest and said that they either couldn't hire me, or that they wouldn't pay me that much. If the park had been honest like that, I would have kept looking. Instead they gave me some BS about hiring everyone to start at minimum wage, but that in three months I would have an evaluation and either be let go or given a raise. So I took the job. The evaluation didn't come in three months, they just kept putting it off, cause I would probably leave as soon as I realized I'd been lied misled. The evaluation probably was just them looking at how many sick days I took, cause no one even talked to me. The raise was fifteen cents, not the dollar and a half I was lead to believe. At that point I figured I might as well stay for a while, since I was going back to school and I didn't want to change anything in my schedule for that semester.

Also, they cheated everyone out of their time and a half overtime. They can do that cause they are seasonal entertainment or some such thing. They don't warn you, and you don't sign anything, you just get your check and realize that it's smaller than it's supposed to be, and then they refuse to fix it. And it's not like you have the option of leaving when you reach forty hours. If you leave early, something will happen to the animals.

The low pay had nothing to do with the animals. This was a business, not a charity. We didn't all volunteer or agree to low pay because because of a love of animals. The low pay is normal for entertainment, cause they just hire new people all the time, cause people think it is going to be so much fun getting in for free that it will make up for the money they aren't making.

And if this "highly trained" guy liked it so much and thought that it was worth it to help the animals, why didn't he stay? Why didn't he move into one of those trailers with the other people who worked there who couldn't afford a regular house?

And the park wasn't closed to take care of the animals. The park was only closed on those two holidays that no one would work (and probably no customers would come), and when it flooded.

I was hired for summer 1988 to summer 1989, about a year or two before they gave up and closed the place.

The place must have been really different in the 70's. When I worked there, about half of the stuff was closed. One of the restaurants was closed, the ice cream place was closed, the bumper boats didn't work, etc....

Whatever. The commenter doesn't know what he's talking about. The point is that they did a lot of stuff wrong (even to the point of doing some stuff that wasn't legal), and it didn't have anything to do needing to take care of animals. It was just the normal stuff like greed and being stupid.

Walter Tully said...

I never had a terrible experience when I worked part-time in a local wildlife park here in Denver, Colorado. Parks like these should have more staffs though, even in weekends and day-offs, especially the ones that have to deal with customers since they actually get the park's earnings from the visitors.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Wildlife Park in Grand Prairie for most of the 80's. I was the Nursery Supervisor and did a lot Public Relations work, cable shows, tv shows, commercials, and a few other things. This was along with my own duties in not only the Nursery area, but all the barns in the maintenance area (except the elephant barn), the animals in the Entertainmemt Village and a few pens in the drive thru. The people that worked for me did so because of the love of the animals. It was very hard work. When we were shipping animals to zoos and parks all over the world, there were many days that we were able to go home for around 3 hours and then right back to work. And this was 7 days a week. The pay, well it wasn't good. When I left, I was the highest paid hourly employee in the Wildlife Dept. And that was $5.65 an hour. No overtime pay...we were considered agricultural, under the supervision of the FDA. But once again, it went back to working with the animals and the special people that worked with us. We were all a team. That was the only way that you can survive working with the animals we had. Someone always had to have your back. The trailers on property were for the employees that were on call 24 hours a day. If there was a problem after hours, they were there to handle it.

The times we flooded while I was there were devastating. We lost animals that we had grown fond of. Plus, the people that were driving along the road outside the park were stopping and shooting the animals that we were trying to rescue. Putting not only the animals lives in jeopardy, but the employees that were already risking life and limb to help the animals without having to dodge the bullets coming their way.

We worked in the rain, snow, ice, extreme weather of all types. And we did it willingly. I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I raised a daughter on my pay. No one helped me. No parents to let me stay with them. It was all up to me. I chose to work the hours for the pay provided. My daughter ended up working in the Entertainment Village for one season also. We were family. No one can ever take away the memories, good and bad.

I am sorry that you had such a bad experience working the gate. But there were more people that would have loved to have your job. I hope that you have found something more to your liking.

Anyone that was there in the 80's knows who I am. I miss them all.

laughingattheslut said...

I haven't checked this in a while, so I'm responding late.

Walter gets it exactly. It can be a good experience, and when I didn't have to deal with certain people, it was. But they should have been honest about some things and I could have either declined to work there (cause it wasn't enough money, not what my parents had agreed to, and without enough money to get my own apartment and such I did have to stick to the agreement I had with my parents), or come to an agreement that it was temporary while they looked for someone else and I looked for other work.

To Anon--well, for some reason, you just don't get it. Yes, there's some loophole that says they don't have to pay overtime (found that out when my check was short), but there's no law that says that they can't pay overtime, or that they should not tell people that they won't be paid overtime, or that they should mislead people about how much money they would make in the future. If they want to hire people who love animals so much that they will work for cheap, then they should be upfront about it and hire those people, not trick other people into taking a job that isn't going to work out.

There were not people who would have loved to have my job. They couldn't find anyone or they would have hired them. Other than me, they ended up hiring a college guy that didn't show up for work, and a high-school dropout thief.

And there is no excuse for the other nonsense like trying to trick people into buying picture books from teenagers who stand under a sign that says "Information", and they usually didn't have any information, cause they were new hires who didn't know anything and just made up stuff to get the cars moving again. Guesses and outright lies sometimes. That sort of thing doesn't make for happy customers.

As for knowing who you are and your high pay and all of that--seems like the highest paid people (who did not in some way own part of the park) were my supervisor's ex (probably not old enough to have a daughter working in the park, and shame on him if he was that old and having sex with minors), some older guy who died on D's couch (and for all of D's love of animals he couldn't do what he does on the pay he earns without living with his mom), and R. R never so much as talked to me or even seen to smile at anyone other than on the day that Sterling was born, so I doubt that R was part of any "family".

But, you know, if you want to claim some great kindship with people who mislead and break laws and who'd rather hire someone to sit and do her nails than pay living wages to people who actually do the work, you go ahead and do that.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that after all the time that has passed, you still are so upset about your time at the park. I did work for a short while in the Entertainment Village for the Lady in the office, which was always very good to me. Maybe if you had treated her with more respect, you would have gotten more from her. I know who you are talking about when you mention your supervisor's ex. He worked very hard to keep up with his many duties. He was a salaried employee, as were a few others. We were a team in the Wildlife Dept. That may not have been how you and your fellow employees felt, but I did see quite a few come back year after year. So something drew them back. We worked hard. Nothing you can say will make me change my mind of all the good things I took away with me when I left. I would love to be able to go back and do it all over again. And "R", well that was his nature. You took him as he was because he knew what he was doing, what the animals needed and even with his abrupt nature, I learned to respect him. We had our 'disagreements' quite a few times. But you have that anywhere you work.

I have since lost my husband to cancer, left a job making $60,000.00 a year to take a position making half as much. But I hated where I was working because of the owner. Even though I have had to give up a lot of things, I am much happier with the position I have now. Maybe you should have left your position at the Wildlife Park earlier and then you could have found something else that you felt was more to your liking...

I hope that you are happy in what you are doing with your life and can leave the past where it belongs, in the past. Good luck with all you do and God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and fun read for me. For some reason sitting here it just hit me to google IWP to see what I could find out there on it.
I worked in Wildlife also. I know all the posters except maybe the original. That's about when I went to do other things with my life. I started in '79 and worked there on and off (mostly on)until the end pretty much except for just a few of the last years of the park. If anyone reads this, I had a little brother in maintenance. Now you know who I am.
I was one of the rangers that did live on property. Many pros and cons to that. The place was my backyard. The fishing was great. Love love loved it. That place holds some of my best memories. Yes, it was hard work. But I was young and learned so much and had so much fun there.
I have soo many great stories to tell my grandchildren when that time comes. We (wildlife guys)always had a payback coming from someone. Nursery supervisor, do you remember the time when I knocked ace or space off of the hay trailer as they were leaving the yard with a tomato from about forty yards? lmao. Right in the ear! lol
I never had any interest in going to High School reunions. But what fun it would be to get all of us from those times together. I have nothing to hide and had so many friends there so I don't mind leaving my number here incase someone I knew from then wants to call. 817 655 2719
Take Care

R said...

Hey Laughingatyouaretheslut ! Glad to see you are as miserable and incompetent today and still hate your life as years ago ! You knew nothing about the Wildlife Dept or anyone that worked in it so don't lie to everyone here like you ever did ! This was the best ensemble of talent ever put together in any facility in the World, let alone the USA ! I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to the success of this operation and congratulate them for their Dedication, Professionalism and loyalty.

Anonymous said...

I worked at International wildlife in 1979. I was hired to be manager of a small, (green brick exterior) restaurant. My supervisor told me the first day that the staff would be me and one girl helping me. But a restaurant that size needed at least 6 or 7 people. It was so overwhelming that I quit. Bad food and beverage department. Bad.

Anonymous said...

I worked in elephant barn for 2 years 1987,1988,loved it and miss it I helped train and cared for Bubbles,Kongo,also led the elephants around a track so people can enjoy the animals when I was there I gave it 110% all the time the only thing that was bad was all the poop in the morning from the elephants man it filled that old datsun pickup in no time..ahh the

Anonymous said...

I was hired in the summer of 1979 to manage a small restaurant at the park. It was small, brick painted green. A restaurant of that size and customer volume needed several people--at least 6 or 7--to function. However, the supervisor told me the day before the park opened that the entire staff would be me and one other person. Insane! I quit.

Anonymous said...

I have recently left 2 posts about working at the park in the summer of 1979, in a small green brick restaurant. Restaurant of that size needed at least 7 or 8 people to run properly. However, the food and beverage supervisors told me on opening day that it would be just me and 1 other person. Insane! I quit! Unreal food and beverage department!
I have been hoping that others would read my 2 posts and respond about that awful restaurant experience of just 2 people running that big place. If anyone reading this remembers that, please respond. It was the strangest thing I have ever encountered in my life. From former employees reading these posts, please respond.

KM-D said...

Just checked back in after to see the newer posts.

R- loved your post. It wrapped up how so many of us felt.

Laughingatyouaretheslut...please don't make charges of illegal doings or misleading employees. We knew what we were getting into when we started. If you didn't, then maybe you weren't asking the right questions or paying attention. I know who your boss was, she was awesome. Her ex was also, but it just didn't work for them.

The one that worked at the small green brick restaurant..I worked there too. It wasn't easy, but two of us handled it. And handled it well. The only reason I left there was to move to the Wildlife Department. It helped that I had extensive background in the food service industry and had a few tricks up my sleeve. Maybe a little more training with an experienced person would have helped you. I am sorry that the experience was so bad for you. Maybe you would have done better at Mount Kenya. Be glad that the alligator moat was not in your job description. After not having to clean it through the winter as they were in hibernation, the water was deep and black. To open the drain, someone had to actually put their face in the water, not knowing where the gators were, to unplug the drain...always a fun day. But it got done and we actually had a good time doing it.

Hey Ranger with the killer tomato...I am going to see if I can text you with the number you left. If I can't connect, and you check back on this blog, give me the new number if you don't mind.

I miss the park, miss the people and especially the animals. And George G...You were an inspiration to me. I hope that I made that clear to you before you passed. The training and trust have helped me in other aspects of my life.

Ray said...

I have had the pleasure, and good natured “pain” so to speak, of relocating
and transporting over 200 giraffe to facili-
ties in countries all over the world, from
South America and Europe to China, Tai-
wan, Korea, Japan, Thailand and through-
out Southeast Asia, to name a few. I have
also relocated and transported at least
that many or more giraffe here in the US
and throughout North America. I have al-
ways loved working with giraffe and the
many opportunities they have afforded
me to visit countries and facilities I would
never have been able to see otherwise. For those opportunities I will always be indebted to the animals and to the persevering and exceptionally talented and selfless crew I had the pleasure to work with in Ohio and Texas and around the country. They made it all possible. You guys and gals all know who you are. To Kurt Giesler, Ronnie Surratt, Craig Collvins, Mickey Hunt, Dr.John Maike, Dr. Joe Cannon, Dr. Marty Dinnes, Bill Coburn, Gary Druyor and a whole cast of others too numerous to mention
I offer my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your dedication, loyalty and Professionalism !

Ray said...

From Dr Joe Canon's book, "Safari Doctor"
A Wonderful book from one of my best friends !

For the next 10 years I devoted a large part of my life to caring for these wonderful wild animals. I will always consider it a great honor for them to have allowed me into their world. The park rangers and directors, who were an integral part of the day-to-day operation of this huge facility and are equally unforgettable, included characters such as Bill York, George Gray, James Ashe, Mickey Hunt, John Clay, Craig Collvins, Kurt Giesler, Vern McGran, Ron Surratt, and Ray Sutton. It is with special thanks and honor to them that I write this book. As you roam through the chapters, I hope you find these stories as fascinating as I do. International Wildlife Park-Grand Prairie ultimately closed for business after two major floods, but the animals will live forever in my heart. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I worked at the IWP somewhere around 1984, I did the spill on the train and ran the elephant ride for a while, did the bumper boats, and the dreaded paddle boats. It was a job to buy my first car, and it served it's purpose at the time, I met alot of people there and it was fun.

Unknown said...

This is really interesting to see how a thread in a blog became a big sub topic for IWP. My kids were asking me about what I did that was fun and I told them one of the best times in my life was working here. I went by the handle Aristotle and I worked the ranger side from 79 – 84. This has to be one of the most interesting jobs there ever was. Working for Ray and George looking back taught me the most important life lessons anyone could have.
Everyone driving through the park will remember the tower, that is where I started. Watching everyone else go by. Nothing like watching camels spit, elks roam and endless cars idling by. Graduating from that to the hay truck and then gradually doing everything. Does anyone else remember the Disney movie shoot? How about the floods? A rhino running off premises? There are a million stories on the animals and people. Fishing out in the compound after last car, cookouts and parties.
The park is gone but every time I go to the zoo or watch Doctari on tv I am back at IWP. If there ever is a reunion or someone wants to get together let’s hear about it!
I am horrible at names but working with everyone in the nursery, the Kurts, Randy, Ron, Ralph, Rod, Mark and Mel. Thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

How you doing these days? My snake catcher...don't know what I would have done without you. All the little tricks you taught me were so great! Back in Ohio again, just north of Dayton. Miss my days at IWP and all of the people that worked there. Best job ever. Kept in touch with Diane. She passed away a couple of months ago. Anyway, miss you and hope things are going well. Hugs! Kathy

Ron Hoofard said...

Kathy! Great to hear from you. My favorite nursery supervisor. Howzit? Do you do anything with animals any more? Way back in the day with you and Butch and some good times. Remembering the days when handling lions and tigers and bears was the norm. Being a star in tv commercials :). Anyone wanting to get ahold of Aristotle can drop me a note at

Robert Owens said...

The stories I could tell
Me and Darryl Moore those were the days I miss all you guys

Ray said...

Hey Aristotle !
How the hell are you ! Nice to hear from some of the old gang ! I know this will bring a smile to your face ! Remember that VIP Zoo dinner in Taiwan with Richard luck and I ?😂😱👍🏻
I'll never forget that one !
Hope all is well with you and your family !
I'm still traveling the world with wild animals & still love it ! You can all reach me at or on LInked In at

Anonymous said...

I worked at IWP briefly in 81 or 82.. One of the best and worst jobs I ever had. I liked all of the employees I met except. My supervisor. I think his problem was that he was burned out from too much responsibility. I was hired as nursery girl. That turned out to be a lie. I was not only supposed to feed all of the animals in the nursery, but the monkey barns and the the building with the rhesus monikers and the walk though part of the park. First day, I was put in the rhesus barn and had to clean all the cages that hadn't been cleaned in god knows how long. It was the most discusting thing I've seen in my life. Half of these animals had been tortured in lab experiments and would be recycled back to labs again. I took really good care of them and always talked to them and gave them extra fruit even though I wasn't supposed to.
I don't know who these other people met, but the owners had the mentality of slave traders. They didn't bother hiding their true selves in front of me. They used every trick in the book to get out of paying anything more than slave wages. I worked there for days before I finally cornered my supervisor and had him write down on a piece of paper the diets of the animals. Many went hungry because I was given no instruction. I worked long hours but didn't get obertime(loop hole in law). They totally took advantage of people's love of animals. Totally greed driven. They good part about it was the beautiful people I met who took care of the animals and of course the animals themselves . Every time I got a day off, my 4 year old son wanted to go ther. The one perk of the job..I got in for free.. On these days, we had some of the most memorable experiences of our lives. We rode elephants down to the river once with the elephant gut so they could play in the water. Snake guy took us fishing. Suddenly a hippo surfaced right in front of us...didn't know they were in there. They used to give a big paper cup full of feed at beginning of drive-through to liure animals to car. One smart ostrich would run up and snatch the whole thing as son as you entered. Once a giraffe stuck its head and neck in our car and let us pet it. One of the softest things I ever felt. Didn't work ther very long as I was having baby-sitter problems.

Unknown said...

Was your husband Bert? If so I enjoyed working with both of you