WEST WITH GIRAFFES
by LYNDA RUTLEDGE
…and so, the journey continues, in the Fall of 1938, for Wild Boy and Wild Girl, two East African giraffes who miraculously survived a killer hurricane on their sea voyage to New York. They traveled aboard a freighter from (present day) Kenya, arriving in New York harbor in a sorry state!! WEST WITH GIRAFFES is based on a true story, with some fiction filling in the blanks.
After spending some time in quarantine, Boy’s and Girl’s cross-country road trip to the San Diego Zoo commenced, as evidenced by all the press coverage along the way.
This is one of those books that’s different and a bit quirky…but one that touches your heart with it’s wit and charm. Woodrow Wilson Nickel (Woody,) age 105, feels his life ebbing away when he hears a television report about the possible extinction of giraffes. He has a story that he feels MUST be told! He offers…”I could’ve lived my entire life in the shadow of Dust Bowl miseries and Hitler horrors. Instead, such times hold less pain because of two animals I once knew.” “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…” And so began his story…
The animal lover in me delighted in this story about Old Man , Woody Nickel, and Red, as they struggled across the U.S.A. to deliver two of nature’s most beautiful, fragile, and at that time…rare creatures 3200 miles in a flimsy rig, to their ultimate destination…the San Diego Zoo. (It’s hard to imagine a time when most people had never seen a giraffe other than in pictures.) Woody, a 17 year old orphaned teenager who’d had a tough life thus far, convinced Old Man (Riley Jones) to let him drive the rig transporting the two tall guests across the multiple thousand miles. Red, a dreamy-eyed girl and would-be photographer/reporter, became part of the group as she followed, uninvited, to get the story for LIFE Magazine …her ambitious goal. They struggled over the mountains, across Dust Bowl territory, overcoming daunting obstacles like hairpin turns, single lane unpaved pothole-ridden roads, underpasses, tunnels, dust storms, floods and encounters with scoundrels.
This was a lovely, emotion-filled story combining history, fiction and love for animals. Inspired by true events, WEST WITH GIRAFFES explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, respect for all life, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time and a story told before it’s too late. It’s a true testament to the beauty of animals and human nature…and the bonds between man and animal.
Highly recommended…especially if you’re an animal lover!