Some might say it was a place of horrors, the world didn’t know any better and I honestly believe it was a simpler time and the animals were well cared for. Others might remember it for its gaudiness and the wonders it brought to a rural New Hampshire town. Many, who visited it as children, will remember it as a magical escape that fed your imagination for weeks to follow.
Benson’s Wild Animal Farm was a Sunday afternoon treat with my grandparents. We would arrive in the dusty parking lot and leap from the monstrous 1960-something Buick. The parking lot alone was an adventure in all the exotic vehicles gathered, waiting for their families to return. More than a farm, Benson’s was an adventure that balanced amusement park rides with ponds and shady winding paths between the exhibits. There were clowns selling balloon animals, hats, and souvenirs such as dyed rabbit’s foot key chains that would be cherished for years.
Today it is a public park through the hard work of volunteers and the support of the town government. I was surprised when we wheeled into the parking lot in Laura’s Jeep. Having grown up nearby, she had her own memories and tales of the original venue. Some remnants of the original remain and have been restored.
High atop a hill in a shady glade that was Story Town, the Old Woman’s Shoe has been shined up and stands tall. I have to take exception with the “politically correct” version of the saying that accompanies it, however. In my memory “…she whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”
It is a whopping big shoe. Suddenly a memory; wishing I could look down into the toe, which was where I was sure the children slept. Perhaps the kitchen was in the heel? Why did she have so many kids? Who would think of living in a shoe? I needed more information…