The Great Hippo Calamity
With just a few minutes remaining until 12-22 rolls across Texas I am reminded of a spectacle I witnessed many years ago at the zoo in Chester, England.
It was a warm summer’s day in Chester, about as warm as it is here in Houston only a few days before Christmas, nearly 80 degrees warm. Unlike Houston where 80 degrees is nearly considered a cool spell, in Chester it seemed downright hot.
We decided to take a day trip to see the zoo partly because of the weather, and we’re always looking for something educational (cheap) to entertain the kids for a few microseconds. The zoo met all criteria.
Once in the zoo we noticed that all the animals were on break. I guess it was the lunch hour because all the critters were either asleep in the shade or moseying to the shade to go to sleep.
Not much was happening at the zoo.
The other patrons were also pretty lethargic and we chalked it up to the unseasonably warm, although not by Houston standards, weather.
Then we rounded a bend and joined a huge throng of people gathered around a large, round pit surrounded by a tall, wrought iron fence.
What’s that, we thought? Let’s go see!
It was the hippopotamus pit, oh, and what a pit it was. The pit was about 50 feet across and 10 feet deep. There was a muddy pond in the middle inhabited by a couple of dirty, bored-looking hippos, a large trough of food, a couple of scraggly trees and about an acre of mud. I guess it was a penthouse to a hippo, but it looked pretty disgusting and smelled even worse. We joined the crowd huddled under a nearby tree for shade and we were immediately assaulted by the smell blowing downwind towards us. The stench was gaggingly strong. We were so surprised by the sudden blast of Eau d’Hippo that we nearly fainted.
Beating a hasty retreat to the sunny, upwind, side of the pit seemed the best course of action. Thus, we did and found ourselves alone in the sun but at least not having to cover our noses with handkerchiefs as were the folks opposite us.
No sooner had we taken up our observation post, the largest hippo in the pond hauled himself out, shook himself a bit which caused all the children to squeal with delight, and sauntered over to one of the scraggly trees nearest the crowd.
The crowd cheered as the hippo moved closer, they got out their cameras and snapped photos and, we thought, the hippo was enjoying all the attention.
When the hippo reached the wall directly under the great crowd, he turned around as if to return to the pond, but backed up into the wall and started to rub his rear end back and forth.
The crowd went wild.
Children squealed. Parents snapped photos and it was all glorious.
Then the hippo closed his eyes very tightly. We could see this because he was facing us but the crowd was unaware. The hippo squeeze his eyes and squeezed and squeezed and we thought we could see tears dropping out when suddenly
It. Let. Loose.
If you have a mental image of a fire hydrant that has been knocked over where a large stream of water is shooting upwards...
If you have a mental image of a waterfall, falling up...
If you can take those two images and replace the clear, white water spray with GREEN...
Then you have some idea of what we saw occur.
Looking back, we think the hippo had been eating All Day Long and was possibly plugged up, if you get my drift.
He was ready to go.
He wanted to go.
And he went. With a vengeance and lots of pressure.
The spray of liquid hippo poop propelled out of his rear end hit the wall with such force that it shot upwards about 20 feet. The crowd watching this spectacle went quiet instantly and was in awe of the green fountain shooting upwards.
However, awe soon became horror as the realization set in that What goes Up, Comes Down.
Alas, it was too late to do anything about it.
Within a second or so a great arcing sheet of green liquid hippo poo rained down upon the crowd with a thunderous splatter that was terrible to behold, much less hear. Unfortunately for the crowd the instinct was to scream which left the mouth open and during a hippo poo shower that’s probably the last thing you want to do.
The panic was short lived, though, as people fled in all directions, screaming, wiping hippo poo out of their eyes and mouths, slipping and falling; all covered in green slime. Children in strollers were either horrified and crying or gleeful and laughing at the debacle. Parents scurried for refuge.
After the screams subsided and the zoo crew showed up to hose down the walkway and tend to the distressed I turned to the family and asked the obvious question,
“Who’s ready for lunch?”