Jim Fowler, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom star, shares stories on the veranda!
Sitting on the veranda of Bloomsbury Inn with a mild breeze coming around the corner, I stare out at our Live Oak trees. In 170 years, I think how much they have seen. It would be nice if they could talk about the many people who have lived and visited Bloomsbury. The stories they could tell. Well, I guess we will have to make do with stories from our present-day guests.
When I was growing up, I would watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. It was one of those shows that even my parents would watch with me. I would marvel at the wildlife and the expertise of Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler. So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when Jim Fowler stayed at Bloomsbury Inn. He was receiving a local award and had come over from his animal preserve in Georgia.
I hoped he would come down for our social hour and sit with us. He did! It wasn’t long before I introduced him to the guests. Of course, everyone over 50 knew who he was and professed to have watched him on TV.
An Hour with Jim Fowler
Jim started talking and the group went silent. They developed that look of being totally enthralled with what he was saying. He started telling stories and the group leaned forward in their rocking chairs to hear more of what he had to say.
I”m sure the laughing group could be heard throughout the neighborhood. One story talked about traveling with some of his wildlife. He stopped at a motel to find a room for the night. Of course, he didn’t tell the clerk that he had a hawk, an anaconda, and a monkey with him. He asked for a room toward the back and on the ground floor with the thought that he could sneak them into his room for the night. After all, he couldn’t leave them in the car.
He took them in. He left the snake in a bag on the floor, tethered the hawk to the headboard and left him to perch, and put the monkey in the bathroom. Before he left the monkey in the bathroom, he removed all the amenities because the money was a curious little fellow who would mess with everything. The bathroom looked secure enough when he left to go to get something to eat.
Upon his return, he found a firetruck and police cars all around the front door of his motel room, with lights all lit up.
He jumps out of his vehicle and runs for the door. He sees water flowing down the sidewalk and a fireman with an ax. Stepping in front of everyone, he pulls his keys and opens the door. Water pours out of the room. He steps in with a fireman, and right behind him was the police. The hawk is flying around, still tethered, like a crazy bird. The anaconda has gotten out of its bag and was moving through the water.
The bathroom door was still closed. He opens the door and finds the monkey asleep in the bathtub. The monkey had taken toilet paper and stuffed it down the sink drain then turned on the water. Water was flowing out of the sink and running out underneath the door.
Jim’s first step was to get the animals out of the room and in his station wagon. He offered, it was accepted, so he paid for the damage. I don’t believe he ever said where he ended up staying that night.
And the stories continued.
He was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson many times. One story he told was about his orangutan. He warned Johnny not to stare at him, and told him so just before they walked on stage. Johnny ignored the warning and starred. The orangutan then punched him in the nose. If you want to see some of his clips, you can go to YouTube,”Jim Fowler’s funniest Moments on the Tonight Show”.
For over an hour, he sat on the veranda and entertained us with stories. Always with a dry wit and a depreciating sense of humor, we laughed at his wonderful tales. As he closed, he philosophically stated that the continued existence of the wild kingdom is important to the quality of life for all of us. As Jim walked away, I marveled at his life. His expertise. His ability to tell a story.
Jim passed away just recently at the age of 89. While I and the others on the porch only knew him for a short time, we will miss him. Talk to you next time…on the Veranda.
by Bruce A. Brown