An enormous grin alights Jeremy’s intense two year-old face as we step up the floor of the humid concrete cave to the indoor hippo house. There they are – right there: two four-thousand pound tubs of bristled plum gray blubber, four feet away. Jeremy stops his fidgeting, riveted by the weight, the bristles, the blubber. Jeremy will watch hippos sleep for half an hour straight.
Tonight, the hippos do tricks. They stand up; they clobber to the gateway like over-grown pot-bellied pigs on their short pug legs. Abe Lincoln is reputed as saying that you only have to be tall enough for your feet to reach the ground. For hippos, this is only applicable if it gives your tub belly at least a three inch clearance. These two are fine. They squeeze through the gate, one at a time, and lumber down the plank. See hippo swim.
A pair of arched eyes beckons at the horizon of the great gray greasy water, one glaring at me, the other glaring at her mate. The line of her gray back echoes the arch of her eyes. Her nostrils are flared like a mustang’s. A line of her graces the water’s edge – beneath it, she explores and reigns in a watery world that I don’t fathom despite the shallow depth.
This, my friends, is a water-horse: a mythical creature christened by those bizarre ancient Greek-people who thought in a world of which ours is only an echo.
“Throw apple at hippo!” says Jeremy suddenly, breaking the reverie. Foappo atippo! His two-year old talk is Greekling. “Hahahaha,” he chuckles. This is his latest and favorite joke. He repeats it several times a day in a tiny guttural voice, grinning wickedly. But now he stops, mesmerized again. There are two gigantic gray stallions rippling at the water’s edge, turning a watery turf in the concrete pad.
The moment just makes me think that we ought to consider what we know more as cryptozoology than to a closed coloring book left in preschool when you learned how to distinguish a hippo from a rhino – but please, please don’t relate this fancy to Sir Nikola Tesla or to too much yerba mate chatting in Manitou Springs! I only wish I had gotten the cam earlier to show you what I mean.