Niabi, and elephant story, matter to Q-C


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Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2013, 5:53 pm
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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
ROCK ISLAND — It's a shade past noon on a way-too-cold-for-October Wednesday.

As I nestle into my lunch seat at a local thirst-aid station, a holler the entire joint can hear comes from a corner of the crowded room.

"Hey (cannot write the word because it's a family newspaper), shouldn't you be out covering the elephants?" the obnoxious sort said, hitting his mouth with every third handful of free popcorn.

"Geez, you'd think the president was moving to Arkansas the way you guys covered it. It's in the paper, it's on TV, the radio. It's everywhere. Dude, it's elephants moving."

I thanked the man for reading and handed him a much-needed napkin (I did not have a bib), because if he was as accurate with his burger and fries as he was with the popcorn, he was going to be an afternoon mess.

"What's the big deal?" he asked, referring to stories about the relocation of the two elephants, Babe and Sophie, from Niabi Zoo, to the Little Rock Zoo. "Who cares?"

"I do," I said. "I like the zoo."

I'm no Marlin Perkins. For you youngsters, Marlin was the host of TV's "Wild Kingdom" in the 1960s and '70s. Perkins took us on safaris to far away lands and then stayed in the safety of the truck and narrated while his assistant, Jim, did all the work.

Anyone who had an affection for the wild while I was growing up was dubbed "Marlin Perkins." I do not have an affection for the wild. Truth-be-told, I never paid Sophie and Babe much mind, but I dig the zoo they used to call home.

I have never been to a big-time big-city zoo, so I don't have much to compare Niabi to. That said, for a community our size, Niabi holds its own and has come leaps and bounds since I first visited more than 25 years ago.

And though my zoo-going days have dwindled since my son has advanced in age, I find Niabi Zoo to be fun, economical, and an educational, neat way to spend an afternoon.

As far as Sophie and Babe go, I was a Kathy Sh-Boom supporter, she of early zoo fame. It was commonplace around our newsroom to cover her birthday every year and to mark other milestones about the zoo. Kathy Sh-Boom was cool, had an entertaining flare and ruled the joint for years.

Kathy was so cool I once took a date — a girlfriend who grew up in San Diego — to Niabi. All my date did was make fun of the place. It was too small. The train, my favorite part of the zoo, was cornballish and homespun. Whatever good I said about Niabi, she countered with something Southern-Cal-like that shot it down.

The young lady was placed on waivers shortly after visiting the zoo and given her unconditional release.

I get that two elephants being shipped to a zoo in Arkansas because it's a better place for them to live is not hard news. It's not even as hard-biting as two fools getting a sailboat stuck in the Mississippi River, but it's worth sharing with the public.

Plus, Niabi Zoo rocks. Especially the train.


Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757-8388 or Jmarx@qconline.com


















 



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  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.






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