Yep, my baby is NINE today! Nine. As in, one year away from ten, as in four years away from being a teenager, as in I’m getting old. It’s hard to believe that nine years ago, DWW underwent 50 hours of labor in order to deliver (via C-section, finally) the child who now tells me that he should have a cell phone because technically, “[he] can afford it” because he got $100 for his birthday. It’s bizarre, really. People tell you that kids grow up fast, but you don’t ever really notice until one day they’re asking you for help on their homework, or to go sleep over at a friend’s house, or to borrow the car. It’s not like me to get all maudlin, so instead I’ll do what I do best:

Make myself laugh.

9YO (it’s so WEIRD writing that) had an official birthday party last month, when we went to South Carolina. He got his cake, all his presents, and an endless supply of focused attention at that time, so we opted against having another party here in Texas, because let’s face it – he’s not THAT good year-round. Instead, I came up with the bright idea to take the family up to Oklahoma to Arbuckle Wilderness, a place where you can drive your car through and have semi-domesticated animals come up to your whip and beg for food. It’s basically a ghetto safari, but the kids absolutely loved it. So we piled in the car, drove for 2 hours, and proceeded to creep our way through the joint. And of course, I have pictures. You know how I roll.

Here’s a picture of the Snuffleupagus, turning tricks for food. OK, it’s really a llama, shaved to look like the world’s largest poodle, eating Semi-Domesticated Animal Food we purchased for $2 a cup. It looked like a Pepsi cup full of mouse droppings to me, but I’m no gourmet chef. Is it me, or does he have Chaka Khan hair? Maybe it’s just me.

Here’s a better shot of that llama. Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan, lemme rock ya, lemme rock ya Chaka Khan, lemme rock ya that’s allllllllll I wanna do. OK, I’ll stop now. That’s 9YO’s hand, because 5YO refused to partake in the festivities of having horned or sharp-toothed beasts eating mouse droppings out of a paper cup. To each his own.

And here we have the camels. The camels were interesting creatures…they obviously had a very good handle on the inner mechanisms of the human mind, because whenever they saw a car coming, they blocked the road to prevent the aforementioned car from leaving without paying the toll, which was, of course, Semi-Domesticated Animal Mouse-Dropping Looking Food Pellets. They had it down pat. Once you stopped the car, they lumbered over to the windows, looking all cute and big-eyelashy, and you just HAD to give ’em some grub. They made it worth your while.

See? All cute and shit. How can you NOT feed these majestic mammals? The thing is, they only appear to be sweet. Deep inside lives the heart of a stone-cold killer. As the two road-blocking camels rolled up on the driver’s side (DWW was driving. I’m all for women’s lib.) to get their food, we all turned our attention that way to watch the miracle of nature and capitalism.

We never even saw Doom coming.

Suddenly, DWW swiveled her head, noticing something out of the corner of her eye, and calmly indicated that I would do well to turn around to look out of the passenger side window, at which time I equally calmly turned and looked. Or…she shrieked, I peeked , and then freaked – and saw a camel’s HEAD, all the way inside the car window! It was all up in my face like I owed it money! And I swear to you all, I came close, REALLY CLOSE, to punching a camel right in the grill. Not because I’m mean or because I hate all things with humps (Yes, even you, Fergie), but because everyone knows that you don’t scare a black man and expect to remain unscathed. It’s a rule, and everyone should know it. We strike out in fear, so keep that in mind when you’re sneaking up on a brotha. This camel nearly paid the ultimate price.

Yeah. You BETTER back up, fool.

Here’s a shot of 9YO feeding….something. I have no idea what this animal is. I’m not even sure it’s from the Arbuckle at all. It probably hitched a ride in the back of someone’s pickup and got out here for the free eats. It kinda looks like a zebra had a wild Mardi Gras with a donkey and a chinchilla. But we’ll talk about the zebra later.

And here we have some sort of antelopey things, relaxing under the shade of a tree. Even though it was only about 11am, it was already around 98 degrees, and these antelopey things knew how to take advantage of the trees. Also, they were smart enough to not fall for the ol’ “look, the humans have food, just like the other 1234098 carloads of humans had!” trick.

So FINALLY, 5YO got up the nerve to feed an animal. As luck would have it, the gentlest animal in the forest approached: a deer. But this deer had other plans. Oh, he came up to the car as pretty as you please, but when he got about a foot away, he started getting cold hooves. He kept looking to the left and right, like he was waiting for someone to come smack the food outta his mouth at any moment, and finally he decided the stress was too much, and ambled off. Poor 5YO was left holding a Pepsi cup full of disappointment.

Look at the cute little buffalo-thingy! He was so hungry, and so adorable, and walked directly up to DWW to feast on her mouse droppings. And feast he did. I don’t think he even took a breath for about 30 seconds. Apparently, the other buffalo-thingies thought he was a bit TOO cute, and one of them walked over, gangsta-leaning, and rammed the little one! He jumped, DWW jumped, the car shimmied, and food pellets went all over the car. I promptly said “Roll up the windows.” That little fella might’ve been hungry, but McDonald’s was only 30 miles away. What? He can eat the fries.

Ah, the zebras. These are truly beautiful creatures. So beautiful, in fact, that they were not allowed to roam freely like the other animals. You see, zebras bite. I know this because the Arbuckle people thoughtfully chose to include that little tidbit of information in the flier we had to keep on our dashboard. When we got close to their enclosure, I felt the urge to feed them, gorgeous quadrupeds that they are. One of my feed cups was nearly empty, so I put a full cup inside of it to save room. The zebra stuck his head out of the bars, seeking a meal. He looked so….I don’t know, regal. So pristine, so pure. I had to feed him. Down went the window, and his muzzle came toward me. I placed the full cup-within-a-cup of food in front of him, and waited to become one with nature. For the first 14 seconds, it was just as I described. But then, things took a turn. He got greedy. He tried to take the cup. I moved my hand away, attempting to discourage him, but he had other plans. He opened his big zebra mouth, and grabbed the ENTIRE cup – and STOLE IT FROM ME! He got ahold of the inner cup (the one with all the food), and before I could say “George Jefferson”, the zebra snatched it away from me and ate it! I was pissed, people. I started yelling at the zebra, screaming “CUP STEALER! CUP STEALER!” Yes, I set a fine example for my children.

If you look carefully, you’ll see the remnants of my cup in his mouth. And if you look closer, you’ll notice that I took this picture with the window rolled up, because even though I’m man enough to call a zebra a cup stealer, I’m not quite man enough to do it with the window down. I’m loud, but I’m not stupid.

Isn’t this just so CUTE?

Isn’t this just so NOT? I don’t know what the deal was with that other horn, but I think that’s how the Crips are wearing them these days. Would you want a gang-banging antelope walking up to you, all “Yo yo yo, what up with the grub, homes?” No, you wouldn’t. It looks like the thing has cornrows.

Giraffes. Very tall, very elegant, very full of slobber and drool. I let this one eat for a minute with his long-ass Gene Simmons tongue, but the slobber was seriously flying all over the place, like liquid dandelions. Pass.

IT’S JURASSIC PARK! RUUUUUUUUUN!

This is a crowned crane. If it looks like it’s about to break dance, then it’s not just me. Help me out here.

Here’s the birthday boy, evidently auditioning for “Project Runway”. Also, he was singing to the llamas. He loves the animals.

Here’s 5YO, atop a wooden pirate ship. Wait – what else would they be made of? Yeesh.

Here they both are. Yes, we dress them alike when we go places so that we can easily spot them if they wander off into the reptile house or Dairy Queen or lord knows where.

Tomorrow we’re taking them both to the American Airlines Center, where we’ll tour the Mavericks locker room. They don’t know we’re doing it, so I hope they don’t punch a camel when they find out.

Happy birthday, 9YO. I love you.

Peace.

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