For a fun Saturday night diversion, Sherry signs us up for the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Dinner and Show near Rapid City. We have an afternoon to kill before the show so we decide to visit the Reptile Gardens. I have very few close reptile friends and have mixed feelings about this touristy and popular attraction. Once again we have free passes so in spite of my lack of desire to mingle with the slithery cellmates of the snake emporium, in we go.
As we enter the Reptile Gardens I immediately think, “they should have emphasized the Garden part of this place.” The grounds here are a kaleidoscope of floral finery. While other guests crowd in front of glass covered displays housing apathetic giant poisonous snakes, I try to get just one good photo of those incredible black dahlias.
Between gasps of alarm, we chuckle at the bravado and well placed one liners at the Reptile Show. During the performance a crocodilian gang eyes the young host as though he is a juicy chicken thigh just out of the feeding bucket. While dodging gaping, tooth-lined maws, he entertains us with the lowdown on crocs, gators and caiman. He reminds us again how to distinguish a gator from a croc which I once again promptly forget.
Squawking Birds and X-Rated Turtles
I undertake a personal safari through herds of knee high folks clogging the path through the snake exhibit. Each child is pasted to the display wall tempting the caged snakes with their sticky fingered assaults. They appear unconcerned that only a thin shield of glass separates them (maybe the kids, maybe the snakes) from an assault. Once safely through this gambit, I reach the aviary section of the Sky Dome where multi-colored, vocal birds squawk and preen begging for a photo.
At Prairie Dog Town, I crawl through a 3′ high tunnel in order to peek my head up inside a glass dome. From the dome, I am able to become a citizen of prairie dog town. I pet a turtle who is over 100 years old among the Giant Tortoises. Under some nearby trees, a turtle couple engages in an unashamed and somewhat shocking display of hot terrapin love. On the other hand, it is impressive that they are so frisky at over 100 years old!