Two for the Rhode
Forbes magazine recently declared Rhode Island to have the safest drivers in the nation, begging the question: Are you sure that news wasn’t first published in High Times?
For the last couple of weeks, the digital signs over Rhode Island’s highways have advertised “DMV CLOSED WEDNESDAYS.” Given the rampant closings and limited hours at Department of Motor Vehicles facilities in the state, the line just got a little bit longer and the bureaucratic abyss just got a little bit deeper for the safest drivers in the nation. If Dante had been a Rhode Islander, he would have added a DMV level to his Inferno, somewhere between the “Wrathful and the Gloomy” (Level 5) and “Heretics” (Level 6).
News that a Glocester couple has been keeping a mountain lion in a cage for years made the front page of the ProJo. The Chepachet lion was shipped out of town recently, leaving the residents of northern Rhode Island, who occasionally rang the doorbell and asked to see the lion, with one less thing to do.
The most surprising part of the story wasn’t the caged lion, per se, but the fact that suburban Rhode Island has become a veritable wilderness of exotic creatures. There’s even a “zedonk” (cross between a zebra and a donkey) munching on a lawn in a menagerie next to the Hotel Manisses on Block Island. A DEM permit is required to own exotic wildlife and officials are less likely to issue them after last year’s horrific incident when a Connecticut chimpanzee mutilated a woman. But in the meantime there are a few creatures to keep an eye on, including yaks in Little Compton, a Patagonian cavy and South African crested porcupine in Hopkinton and kangaroos and a zebu on Block Island. Rhode Island has long been a haven for lawn animals, mostly of the pink plastic variety, but it turns out that the Ocean State is its own little “Animal Planet.” Which makes you wonder what’s really in those weiners.
The Chepachet mountain lion continues a long tradition of big game shenanigans in the village, where the only claim to fame is the fact that someone shot and killed an elephant there almost 200 years ago. The elephant, known variously as “Betty,” “Little Bett” and “The Learned Elephant,” came from Calcutta, India and was only the second elephant to walk on the North American continent. She spent four years visiting towns from the Carolinas to Maine. Her owner claimed that even bullets couldn’t pierce her hide. So local men shot her and found out otherwise. The poor pachyderm was struck down while crossing a wooden bridge on the Chepachet River on May 25, 1826. Local dignitaries put up a commemorative plaque on the bridge for the 150th anniversary, which coincided with America’s Bicentennial. Now each year the anniversary is commemorated in the village as “Elephant Day.” Some historians consider the incident to be the tipping point that led to the formation of the American circus.
This week’s question: What is your most memorable Rhode Island driving experience? (Bonus points if it involves an elephant or a zedonk.)