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Monkey Island

Disclaimer: If you were expecting droll, dry RV blog type stuff like what I ate for supper last night and who stopped by for cinnamon rolls, you missed the boat this week. You best go run your traps elsewhere if you are cravin’ some ‘o’ that.   The following contains no RV content.

Just sayin’………

I have tried every way I can think of to explain to my personal millenials just how it was growing up in rural West Tennessee in the early 60’s.  Before the internet of things you know;  when everything you knew or did happened within a 20 mile radius and 2 TV channels.  I was more likely to eat mountain oysters or pork barbecue than shrimp or eggs benedict.  Matter of fact, I distinctly remember the first time I ate those two fancy things… or the first time I ate spaghetti that had the sauce separate and on top.  Who knew?  Our first car with air conditioning was still years in the future and I wouldn’t know  anybody with a pool in their backyard until the end of the decade.

Needless to say when you are such an un-worldly rhubarb, small things stick in your brain  – and so it was with me and monkeys.  The Flying Monkeys on Wizard of Oz got me all worked up early on with their wicked blue faces and their evil little monkey hands. I still can’t look a bellhop in the eye if he is wearin’ one of those funky round flying monkey hats.  I had mucho nightmares from that forest scene where the little bastards scattered the poor Scarecrow all to hell and back and that monkey flying music still gives me the willies to this day.  So early on monkeys enthralled, captivated and scared me all at the same time.  I wrote about Winged Monkeys (the correct nomenclature) once before back in 2012.  It is good to re-visit that post as my gone buddy Fat Boy Scott figures in it and makes an appearance in the comments section. He says ‘Funny — while I was writing that post, I was thinking of exactly those flying monkeys. They ruined many nights when I was a child. Those little SOBs were unbelievably scary. I still don’t know what it was that was so frightening, but somebody somewhere deserves a medal / ass-whipping.’  So it looks like I am not the only one that those monkeys scared the bejesus out of.

The way we lived back before I attained my first decade,  any trip outside Dyer County, TN was just pure epic adventure.  I mean, come on!  Eating in restaurants, staying in motels with swimming pools, buildings over 3 stories tall; it was just eye gogglin’ – pure and simple.

Monkey Island. Memphis,TN

One of the epic road trips was travelin’ 80 something miles south to the Memphis Zoo.  Walkin’ through the gates I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was a bona fide BIG DEAL!   It was really all over for me the first time I saw Monkey Island.  Monkeys on an island???  How outrageous!  I reckon I saw kudus and hippos and such but the place they could not tear me away from was Monkey Island.  It was huge! and there musta been a million monkeys rompin’ around!  To an eight year old anyhow;  looking back at the pics now the island looks small and the monkeys were actually pretty sparse.  Good thing probably that they did away with Monkey Island at some point so I can’t re-visit my past for a rude reality check.  I get to remember the vast expanse of Monkey Island populated with a million happy monkeys.   I like it better that way.

South Texas is home to free thinkin’ independent folks  and some that has just been out in the sun too long so nothin’ much surprises me down this way.  Remember back last fall when I saw that aoudad?   I was afraid to report it for about a week or more since I figgered they would accuse me of wearin’ my Jim Beam glasses during the sighting.  Turned out I was seein’ just fine and during the ensuing and predictable discussion of more strange animals around these parts somebody mentioned a friend of a friend who saw some monkeys over on the Frio which is just a few miles to the west.  I waited until my Devine, TX born and raised service guy showed up and asked him about it and he gave me the straight skinny ‘Yep, Snow Monkeys from Japan.  Down at the Fowlerton store, they got a picture of a dozen of them sittin’  on the railroad bridge just outside of town.’    After that I just sorta forgot all about it.

South Texas Snow Monkey

Well sir, just this past week, a friend sent me a WTF is This?? video about a story National Geographic did on Snow Monkeys in Dilley,TX which is just the next county over and a few miles up the road.  I recall seein’ stories about the Japanese Snow Monkeys that swim around in those hot springs at some fancy Japanese Resort Hotel.  Turns out these are the same-same critters. Seems as how back in the 70’s they had a buncha these Japan Monkeys that just got plumb unruly and they kicked ’em out of the country and they ended up in Seattle or Portland or somewhere.  Those folks couldn’t handle them either so they finally landed here in South Texas.  Info from here…….

This particular troop began as about 150 in number, previously evicted from the encroaching suburbs of Kyoto, Japan. They had been brought to the South Texas Primate Observatory in 1972, in the first attempt at the relocation of an entire primate population. The observatory’s ranch near Dilley, in Frio County, was much hotter than the macaques’ Japanese home, and at first many perished. But South Texas eventually provided the conditions the monkeys needed to thrive: a wild setting, water tanks, plenty of mesquite beans, cactus fruits, and lots of tall brush to climb around in. Things went very well – at least for the first couple of decades.

The troop grew and evolved, retaining some wild traits while expanding their human-adapted behavior. They took advantage of man-made perches, row crops, and food provided to them, as well as feed pilfered from local farms and ranches. They learned to defeat fences, locks, and gates. Much like farm animals, they became semidependent on the proximity of humans. They multiplied, to an estimated 600 by 1995.

Twenty years of success opened the door to one legendary failure.

First, a bobcat or cougar killed the troop’s leader among his companions. The frightened survivors began, understandably, to hang more closely around the roofs, fences, and compounds of both their own home and the neighboring ranches. Someone called authorities to complain. Surely it wasn’t acceptable to set loose a bunch of foreign primates on a quiet rural county? Not that they were as bad as fire ants or salt cedar, but still, there had to be rules about these things, right?

Well, there had been. Until 1994, the monkeys had been protected officially as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act, and unofficially by observatory neighbors who felt protective of them, and would call the observatory if one escaped. But as the troop grew, so did the nuisance, and with the observatory short of maintenance funds, nearby ranchers increasingly complained of escaped monkeys stealing food, damaging trees, or just being where they didn’t belong. In June of 1994, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ruled that this particular troop of macaques was not a protected species.

I had to watch this video twice because the first time I really didn’t completely believe it.  I got the distinct impression I was watchin’ the trailer for a new Quentin Tarantino flick – it is just that bizarre.  Roll all this up and smoke it and you will see what I am sayin’………

  • Japanese SNOW Monkeys in the Puckerbrush where it ain’t ever gonna snow
  • Fat girls with blow guns – WTF is that????
  • Monkeys eatin’ watermelon
  • Monkeys gettin out of hand jumpin’ on Suburbans
  • Monkeys actin’ raucous in a stock tank
  • Slo-mo monkey leg bite attack ‘That will take some stitches.’
  • Wayne Newton – the Las Vegas one
  • Nolan Ryan -the baseball one-  as the Official Texas Snow Monkey Ambassador

So you gotta watch the video because I cannot begin to describe the weirdness therein.  And then listen to the audio clip on sports radio where Nolan Ryan explains how he became the Snow Monkey Ambassador. Pay attention to the part about Hershey Kisses.



Nolan Ryan audio clip


You know I cannot make this stuff up even if I was smokin’ crack.

The good news is the Snow Monkeys found a decent home and are still there to this day minus the ones, of course, that made a break for it and apparently are my neighbors over yonder on the Frio. I filled BFF Cait in on all this and her take was ‘Look at it this way Pops. Now if you see one you will know what it is and not pee your pants.’   OK, she has a point.

End Note: Tube Snake Boogie by ZZ Top from the El Loco album.

I watched Billy Gibbons get interviewed by Dan Rather last night ’cause I get 400 channels on the DISH.  Hard to believe these 3 ol’ boys from Texas are still kickin’ ass and takin’ names 40 years gone past.

“I might be old but I got to see all the cool bands.”

Ummmmm, ZZ Top 2X back in the day!

This youtube is from 1980 and it rocks – before the ever present sunglasses and Billy Gibbons’ African headgear.  This is how you do it folks — a 3 piece band is all it takes if you got it together.

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1 comment to Monkey Island

  • Brenda Baar

    Unbelieveable all this monkeying around! Who knew?? Lol. Thanks for the entertainment!

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