Animal World and Snake Farm
by Joslyn Corvis with Jarrod Forthman
With three acres of land housing various animals, such as buffalo, hyenas, wolves, and a vast array of primates, birds, and of course snakes, Animal World and Snake Farm is hopping (and crawling!) with wildlife. Opened in 1967, it is a Texas tradition for all ages. Not only is it educational, but you can see the animals up-close-and-personal, which adds a whole new dimension to the zoo experience. Jarrod Forthman, Outreach Director of Animal World and Snake Farm, took some time out of his busy day to tell me about some of the exciting things in store for the future. There will be an otter exhibit by summer, a giraffe, plans to renovate some of the existing animal dwellings, and trees being planted on the newly purchased twenty acres. A buffalo feeding will also be integrated to their list of events, and as of now there is a crocodile feeding, dubbed by New York Times as “The Most Dangerous Show in the Country!” You can catch the croc feedings during the summer, every Sunday at 3PM. The facility has also been featured on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe (Season 3, Episode 11), and will be on an upcoming episode of Shipping Wars. Check your listings; you won’t want to miss it!
What really struck me about Mr. Forthman was his enthusiasm for what he does and his obvious love for the animals. Yep, even the slithery ones. Having raised some of the residents of the Snake Farm, like the pig-tailed macaque named Zoe, a lemur, the capybara, and the spotted hyenas, he has a very strong bond with them. Spotted hyenas have a reputation for being aggressive, to which he elaborated, “These are the only kind of hyenas I’ve worked with, and I’ve never had any problem with them. They’re the largest of the hyenas, so maybe in the wild it makes them a little braver. They have one of the most powerful bites in the world; they’ll even go after a lion.” He also has some first-hand experience with the reptiles. “Snakes will generally react to you depending on your mood. If you’re nervous or scared, they pick up on that. If you’re calm, it helps. Of the reptiles, the crocodiles exhibit the most intellect. The saltwater crocodile recognizes people. There are certain people he won’t go near, but he definitely recognizes me when I go in to feed him.”
While it’s tempting to think how a wild animal might be a fun addition to the family, it is not recommended. When I asked Mr. Forthman if a capybara, the largest rodent in the world and one of my favorite animals, would make a good household companion, he brought up a very interesting point. “They can’t defecate without water, so instead of a litter box, you have to have a tub of water for them.” Imagine the maintenance, not to mention the water bill! Animal World and Snake Farm is also home to the only known serval-caracal hybrid. It may look cute and cuddly, but as with the capybara, caracals would not be an ideal companion. “They’re very playful, and they play like cats, only harder.” When kept in captivity, it’s best to leave the care of wild animals in the hands of professionals for our well-being, as well as theirs.
After our chat, I walked around to look at the animals. Although the African porcupine was sleeping in his hideout, the glimpse of his quills was impressive! The Eclectus Parrot was quite talkative, muttering words in a tiny voice. I was able to get a pretty good look at the King Cobra, and was smitten with its dangerous beauty. This is just a glimpse into some of the sights and sounds at the Snake Farm. There is so much to see that it’s easy to lose track of time. You are definitely going to want to schedule your day around the visit, because once you walk through the door, you aren’t going to want to leave. Or, as the sign outside beckons, “Have Your Birthday Adventure at Animal World Zoo!” Also, you may want to bring along some extra spending cash so you can purchase a souvenir from the gift shop. With a large selection at reasonable prices, there’s a little something for everyone. On my next visit, I’m planning to get a plush hyena, and maybe a couple of shark teeth to add to my collection.
In closing my conversation with Mr. Forthman, he added, “Unlike average zoos, we provide a more hands-on experience. We have a petting zoo, the crocodile feeding, and we’ll be adding a safari and a snake house.” For kids and adults alike, it takes you to a whole new level with the animals, and there’s so much to look forward to with the upcoming revampment.
If you are planning a trip to Animal World and Snake Farm, please click HERE for hours and prices.If you would like to be a part of the future of Animal World and Snake Farm, please feel free to make a donation to this address:
5640 IH35 South
New Braunfels, TX 78132
I have made some startling revelations about Facebook. This may surprise you. In fact, it may put you in a state of shock. Maybe even terror when you hear what I have to say. But first, I’d like to take a little trip to 1995, give or take.
AOL was King. Chatrooms were becoming so common that people slowly slipped into an abyss. Online chatting began to take the place of real life, and people set their watches by what time their friends would be online. Is that 8 PM my time or yours? This new wave of technology caused a paradigm shift in social interaction.
When I was in my mid-teens, having been a bit of an introvert in the real world, I found my comfort zone in chat rooms. I could be myself. In a time where primary phones were mostly land line, I’d sit by the phone, waiting for a crush to call. Meanwhile, I was wasting my life away and even missed a party over a call that never came. And, of course, being disappointed by real-life drama, I found a sort of safety and escape through online chat. And not that I went out much as it was, being a shy ugly-duckling, but I became a complete Anti-Social Butterfly all around, using the Net to gain life experiences.
Then came Myspace. I even have a shirt that says, “Get Out Of Myspace!” with a computer mouse on it. I wore it all the time to show my love of this new revolution in social networking. But after a while, it faded. Not the shirt, which is still as dull-blue-grey as the day I got it, but Myspace itself. Myspace was great! As a writer, I could blog about whatever I wanted. It was a playground for me. And me alone. Sure, I interacted with people, but I felt that it was a place where I could talk about whatever I wanted. Sometimes, it’s easy to get a bit personal when you feel that something is “my space”. I’d blog about things that irritated me. When I felt down. When I felt happy. As opposed to chatrooms, I would set up dates to go out with friends and blog about it the first chance I got! It was like a scrapbook, customised with things I loved such as badges, layouts, pictures I took. It was also a diary I sometimes forgot was public. But the whole thing was about “Me Me Me”, and I can think of no subject more boring than that! I could see the entire Myspace community bonding together in narcissism, with myself being no exclusion. Sure, someone might read a blog and comment. But for the most part, most people were too busy blogging to care about anyone else’s pages but their own!
And then came Facebook. For quite some time, I’d had disdain for Facebook. Complete and utter disdain. It was taking over my beloved Myspace. What was it all about, anyway? What’s the point of it all? I had Myspace, why bother with Facebook? Then I realised what it was about. Networking, my friend. If you have a business or service, or something that you want to reach people, it may behoove you to set up an account. However, my personal outlook on technology was very limited. I love to learn about new things and had taken some time learning to navigate Myspace, but I didn’t know if I wanted to learn something that would take half my time to figure out. And for what? To post a status? No, thank you, Sir! It wasn’t like learning how to maintain a computer, about some new scientific revelation, or how to use new software that might help me to get a leg up in the world of writing. It wasn’t necessary to my existance, I didn’t see how it applied to my craft, and lacked the personal feel of Myspace. But, I finally decided to use Facebook in order to network and be with the In-Crowd of fellow writers. And then came Twitter. I hated what it stood for, which I thought at the time was another tsunami of changes in social networking, feeling it would obliterate Facebook just when I was getting used to it! I went through the same “complete and utter disdain, taking over my beloved Facebook, what’s it all about, now I have to learn something new” dialogue in my mind, coming to that oh-so familiar realisation that networking was important in the field of writing in this day and age. And, since I figured out how to link Twitter to Facebook, it’s made things a lot easier so that I didn’t have to post and re-post, and since WordPress is set up to automatically link your blogs to both, it was quite hassle-free!
I still long for Myspace, but after going back and seeing that it’s more difficult to navigate, is a lot like Facebook, and half of my friends have deleted their accounts, it’s just not the same. I want it the way it was, how I learned it and how I know it. And I hope that Justin Timberlake will make that bad boy popular again! But I did notice a few things with Facebook. (NOTE: This is not the shocking info I promised, but I’ll get to it!) For one, it provided a more social experience. “Hittin’ the clubs tonight. Anyone wanna join me?” “I had a rotten day. All I want to do is go home and go to SLEEP!” “Had fun with (insert name tag) and (insert name tag) at T.J. Shenanigans tonight!” Since you could post directly from your phone and take pics of the day or night’s events, you could just log on and post! However, while you were “hittin the clubs” with your friends, everyone would be texting and checking their Facebook pages to see what everyone else was up to. Is that really the social experience we all seek? Sitting around while everyone is texting? It was bad enough before texting when everyone was busy ignoring you while they chattered with their friends. We’ve all been there. But now that you can do just about everything from your phone, it has become an obsession of sorts. And since I don’t have texting or the Internet on my phone, I often feel alone in the world. It’s cold and dark there, and very, very lonely.
It’s strange. I’m more social than ever. I no longer wait for calls that may never come. I don’t worry about missing an online friend because I can always catch up with them on Facebook. But now that I actually go out, it seems that there’s a role reversal in some way. I’m still alone and even moreso than when I was busy chatting to my online friends. Now, everyone else is texting around me while I’m out in public with them! The difference is, I couldn’t take my PC with me or I would have been going to ball games and concerts and all kinds of stuff!
So, after learning Myspace, only to have it ripped from me, and then Facebook and Twitter, there has been yet another avalanche in this crazy, uncertain world of technology. Or more appropriately put, sociality. Yes, people of the world, this is the shocking news I promised. That is, if you’re still with me at this point. And that shocking news is: Timeline. And while it may not be news to many who are already using it with ease, and it may not really be a big shock, it’s shockingly huge news to me!
Whatever happened to simplicity? Familiarity? Whenever I get used to changes in e-mail, and the changes Facebook has undergone (particularly with posting pictures), BAM! They throw in something new! And now this? What I liked about Facebook in the beginning was it’s simplicity. It was easy to learn, navigate, and a breeze to see what your friends were up to. Now the posts are in some crazy little sidebar and I still haven’t gotten used to that one. Bit by painful bit, they’ve been adding things to make it “easier”. I can accept those subtle changes. I can deal with that and can figure it out in time. But my main goal is to network. To keep up with those around me and to post stories. And to do it simplistically. The designer of this new layout has forgotten what it was all about. Now, I go to someone’s page who has Timeline and I don’t know what’s what! I don’t even have it on mine. It’s just plain confusing!
So, I guess I have two choices. I could quit using Facebook completely. Or, I could regard Timeline with that same disdain I had for Facebook when I first signed up and ultimately relent to it and just learn the blasted thing. It will probably be a good while before I even use Timeline, and I imagine I’ll be one of the last to use it. And when I do, it won’t be happily! It will take me a while to get used to the idea, but it seems like it’s taking the “easy” out of the whole thing, thus making the whole online experience more of a chore when all I want to do is focus on writing and touch base with friends and readers!
If people weren’t so dependent upon Facebook, I would lead a boycott for everyone to stop using it until they changed it all back to the way it was. I know that isn’t going to happen. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, you may as well join ’em. Que sera.
Until I make the BIG TIME and my books are on the NY Times Bestseller List, I’m working on other things. I do see the possibility of my books being bestsellers as a very tangible possibility, as long as I fulfill my end of the bargain and put in a lot of time and effort to get there. And man, is it a lot of work. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye, but I enjoy it. Every time an agent agrees to even give my work a look, I reel with joy! I know there may be a rejection, but it’s all about the thrill no matter what the response. But, if my Forever Gothic series ever becomes available to the public whether I decide upon Kindle or a traditional publisher (or whatever chooses me, with the changes in industry), then I’ll be happy. From then on, I could focus on writing and promoting and maybe even travelling in order to get the books out there. I live for this little dream of mine, hoping that one day it will take me somewhere. I’m not out any money. Only time. And even then, I’m pretty dedicated because it is such a huge passion in my life. If I’m not writing or sending out query letters, I’m thinking of things to write about or networking with other writers and people in the industry. When people give me criticism, good or bad, I value it all the same because it helps me sharpen my skills. Most everything I do is in the hopes of not only creating a future for myself as a writer, but to learn as much as I can about the entire industry. And there’s still a lot to learn, especially with so many changes in the market.
The problem is, people see writing as a pipe dream. I understand that I may never make it big. That’s fine, because it’s all for the love of the game, so to speak. I understand that some writers don’t make a lot, while others hit the jackpot. I’d hope to be lucky enough that every tween and teen will have a copy of the latest Forever Gothic book in his or her backpack. But my first priority is to get published and then move on to marketing. It’s a “one-step-at-a-time” type of thing.
And I’ve met some groovy people through my writing! I just hope they don’t mind me calling them “groovy”. But the thing is, it takes a lot of work before you see that first dollar from the project you are proudest of and which took the most time with. Sure, it doesn’t pay while you’re getting to where you’re going. But neither does being a parent or taking care of an animal. Does that make it any less of a job? Any less rewarding? Does it mean that it’s something you don’t have to do, because there’s no money involved? No, no, and no. The reward is the love and enjoyment you get out of it, even when things are rough. It’s something you stick with, through thick and thin.
And, now that I think about it, it may take me eighteen years to see this book thing through so that it may flourish on its own. It’s not something I’m giving up on because “It’s too hard” or “I’m not getting paid…yet”. I’m not giving up on myself or my work, and when I have doubts, I tell myself I’ll get there. It may not be a bestseller, but I keep that secret from myself. I tell myself it will. Because what is life without a dream? Boring, that’s what! So, if you have a dream, you may as well make it a big one!
So, for anyone out there who has a dream, stick with it! Don’t give up! And if you’re hesitant to try because you’re afraid of falling, just pick yourself up again. And again and again, if you have to. You can fill your mind with doubt if you keep saying, “What if I don’t make it?” Instead, turn it around. “What happens when I make it?” and believe that you will with all your heart.
Sure, there are times when I tell myself I may fail, and to epic proportions! It’s times like that when I just think, well, it was fun trying, but I’m not giving up!
And neither should you.