I went to Alabama in the middle of September, and while I was there Andrew and I headed just outside of Troy, Ala. to a place called McClelland’s Critters. I had heard about this place, this strange little zoo in the middle of the Alabama wilderness, and I demanded a visit, because there were tigers and lions and bears and camels and it sounded like a sort of Snow White paradise.
The place is down some winding Alabama back roads, but, once you arrive, and once you start exploring, it’s like a magical wonderland. It’s $9 to wander around the place, and for $5 you can get an actual bucket of food and you can hand feed buffalo, goats, sheep, a camel, some big ass birds, tiny little horses and a handful of funky little deer friends, among others.
I was freaking out a little, because I get crazy excited about feeding goats at a petting zoo and here I was handing alfalfa pellets to a camel and, better yet, a buffalo. I love all the little and big critters, in true Snow White fashion, but there was just something about feeding the buffalo that was sort of magical. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t ever gotten to do that before, or what, but standing there, gazing into the eyes of a big ass lady buffalo, while Andrew entertained the REALLY BIG gentleman buffalo, was incredible.
We wandered around some more, after we had exhausted our food bucket, and said hello to tigers and bears and raccoons and monkeys and then we saw that Mike, the owner, along with some other visitors were actually IN the cage with the lion cub, and so we wandered over, me probably sticking my head out like a curious little bird, then Mike invited us into the lion pen, with Thor, the 5-month-old lion cub, and he told me to pet him, on his belly, and so I handed the camera off to Andrew and I got down on the ground, right next to this little lion guy and I pet his little belly and it was a crazy and terrifying because he might be little, but he’s still a fucking LION.
And then he bit me. Just a little.
Not aggressively, but mostly playfully, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. He put his little lion mouth around my knee and nibbled, just a little bit, and it reminded me so much of the way my terrible little orange cat would nibble me when she was just a little thing, except for that she was like three pounds and this lion guy was like 50 pounds and there’s a real big difference between my house cat and that lion cat. It was a little bit terrifying because there was an instant where the most logical and life-protecting part of my brain was like, YOU JUST GOT BIT BY A LION HOLY FUCKING SHIT, RUN!! and then the other part of me that was all like, oh, this lion nibbled on me! How cute!
Andrew also got in on the lion-petting action, but only because I told him he had to, because really, how many chances are there going to be in life to pet a baby lion? Andrew is far more cautious than I am, in a lot of ways, including lion-petting ways. He is the steady state of calm to my pandemonium.
Incidentally, the day I got bit by a lion was also the day I got snakes put on my head.
I always think I’m afraid of snakes, but then when I actually get to meet them, I really don’t mind. I don’t think I’d be a very good Snow White if I was all weirded out by snakes, especially snakes like these, who seemed quite content to slither around on my face. Also, that python gives one hell of a neck massage.
Just before we had to leave the zoo, so I could catch my plane back to Virginia, this happened: