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Bob Bowman's East Texas

The Mayor and the Lion

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

Years ago, when Pitser Garrison was the mayor of Lufkin, a young African lion was born at Ellen Trout Zoo.

When the cub was rejected by its mother, zoo director Tim Jones and his wife Jerri carried it to their home and raised it as well as they could. The cub even made several appearance on Jones’s television show, “Zoo Review.”

When the cub was older, it was placed back in the zoo and became one of the zoo’s most popular attractions. The cub was so gentle that Tim and Jerri often carried it home with them.

Feeling that the lion needed a name, Jones named the cub “Little Pitser” for the mayor. One night, as he and Jerri were at home, with Little Pitser resting in his special bed, someone knocked on the front door.

When Tim opened the door, there stood Mayor Garrison and his wife Bernice. “We’ve come to see Little Pitser,” the mayor announced.

The mayor held the cub and told Jones, “Don’t ever get rid of Little Pitser,” and offered to pay for a special cage for the lion.

At that year’s Hushpuppy Olympics, a cookoff for hushpuppy cooks, the zoo keeper showed off Little Pitser. He was soon the zoo’s most popular resident, especially among the town’s children.

Things were going great for Jones until he looked closer at Little Pitser one day and discovered he was a female and would never grow a mane.

“Oh, my goodness,” thought Jones, “how am I going to tell the Mayor that Little Pitser is a she lion.”

But Jones came up with a unique solution.

He called Bob Dooley, who ran a drive-through animal exhibit near Dallas, and asked him if he had any male African lion cubs. Dooley said he did, and Jones persuaded him to trade him a male for Little Pitser.

When Dooley asked why, Jones told him.

After Dooley stopped laughing, he agreed to make the trade if Jones would buy him a steak dinner.

A new Little Pitser was brought to Lufkin, and nobody--especially the mayor--ever knew the difference.

Bob Bowman's East Texas September 19, 2010Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

See Lufkin | Texas Animals | Texas People | Texas Travel | Texas |
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 44 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Vol. I
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