“Common Ground” column for April 19, 2013

Trips to the zoo are memorable, but my daughter’s first-grade class field trip to Global Wildlife Center in Folsom put us in the middle of a Louisiana-style African safari and Carnival parade.

We boarded covered wagons that carried us to a huge grassy field dotted with deer, zebra, llamas, kangaroos, bulls, camels and African-native animals.

A first-grade boy who sat beside me giggled after dozens of animals approached his window. “I feel like I’m in a parade,” he said, while tossing a handful of feed to a pack of deer.

Yes, in some ways I think we all believed we were parade grand marshals inside those wagons. The wildlife park’s 900 acres caters to some 4,000 exotic, endangered and threatened animals .

Dozens of animals crowded beside our imaginary floats and we pretended to hear them call, “Throw me something, mister.” Of course, there were no hands in the air, only tongues and teeth begging for a taste from our white souvenir cups.

My 6-year-old daughter scooped up handfuls of feed and tossed it into a deer’s mouth and then another and another.

I fed a couple of llamas straight from my hand, though the tour guide cautioned us that those animals do spit when angry.

The zebras were perhaps the more aggressive visitors. The field guide warned us to avoid hand-feeding the zebras because some run off with feed cups or even bite. We watched at least one of the zebras run away from a wagon with a cup in his mouth.

“Don’t feed the zebras” with your hands we yelled each time the animals approached children.

We did not spot any giraffes or bison that particular day, but several of us felt guilty about the deer. Since my family moved to the country several years ago, I’ve had more than my share of deer meat, coon and frog.

I will admit, deer meat is delicious in a stew or as a ground meat. However, there was a moment under the covered wagon that tugged at several parents’ heart strings. A baby deer and its mother approached our wagon and one parent vowed, “I don’t think I can eat another deer.” I agreed, “No more Bambi on the menu.”

The conversation soon turned into a song and a nature lesson after I called one baby deer a doe. A mother corrected me, “It’s a fawn. The female deer is a doe.”

I laughed at myself. To that, several mothers chimed in with a do-re-mi tune … “Doe, a deer, a female deer …”

Once our safari trip/ Carnival parade came to an end, my daughter begged me to take her to the gift shop where we looked at stuffed animals and candy versions of many of the animals featured in the park.

I think our field trip brought us just that much closer together both with nature and with each other. We headed back home in the van, singing songs and talking about our favorite animals .

Chante Warren can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.