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Check It Out: West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

This is Billie Voss with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

“Few true friends have I known, and two were giraffes.” Found written on an old notepad, this quote begins the incredible historical novel, West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. Woodrow Wilson Nickel, aged 105, has just passed away. Shortly before his passing knowing his life was ebbing away and after learning giraffes were going extinct. He wrote down the unforgettable experience he knew he couldn’t take to his grave. As a staff person from the Veteran’s facility cleans out his footlocker, she is captivated by the story written on the pages before her.

Through a New York World Telegram 1938 read, “Miracle Giraffes Ride Hurricane at Sea.” It was expected as the ship on the New York Harbor went into a half-roll starboard that the two giraffes arriving for a long journey to the San Diego Zoo were killed. To the astonishment of the old man assigned to deliver the never before seen creatures thousands of miles west, they had survived. Recounting his memories, we look back on Woodrow as a young orphan, fresh from the depression era dustbowl of Texas. He was living in the back of his uncle’s boathouse when the hurricane roared in. Now, the only relative he had left has been killed. As he emerges from the hurricane rubble, what he sees stops him in his tracks. It is two giraffes, the first time he had ever set eyes on such creatures. As Woodrow registers what he sees before him, the reality that he is truly alone on this earth begins to set in. He hears an old man say he is transporting the great beasts to California. Every child, the product of the depression era, is aware that California is the land of milk and honey. This begins Woodrow’s desperate plan to be a part of this incredible journey.

Check out, West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.

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