Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream
A moving true story of American struggle.
Royal, Nebraska, population eighty-one—where the church, high school, and post office each stand abandoned, monuments to a Great Plains town that never flourished. But for nearly twenty years, they had a zoo, seven acres that rose from local peculiarity to key tourist attraction to devastating tragedy. And it all began with one ma...more
Whew. I was going to write a big thing and then I wasn’t going to say anything. Now I’m going to try to piece together some thoughts.
First off; years ago I volunteered in a wildlife refuge. I met a wonderful friend there and we tried our best to do everything we could for the animals every day. The owner was off her rocker and we stayed as long as we could to help those wonderful animals. In the end, we had to leave and mos ...more
This is a story of rural America, one that laments the passage of time that causes small towns to become even smaller as they struggle not to wink out of existence. It is also the story one man’s dream, a man ready to sacrifice everything to make it happen.
Author Carson Vaughan has created a work of literary journalism, spending years researching the people and history of the town of Royal, Nebraska. The ...more
Everyone loves the idea of living in a small town, but few people understand the realities of livi ...more
I am sure none of us animal lovers haven't dreamed of having a zoo of our own. Thankfully, it stays just that, a dream, nothing more than a fantasy. But for one man, he grew his dream into owning first one chimp and it just grew from there. Though he was very unprepared for the upkeep, budget and time having ...more
Dick Haskins heart was probably in the right place, but his lack of knowledge about anything other than the animals was staggering. How the zoo ...more
Dick Haskins dreamt of working with primates. That drive manifested itself into a small, scrappy zoo in his hometown of Royal, Nebraska.
Dick's desire burned so brightly, though, he drove himself to care for the animals and the zoo beyond the limits of human endurance. Without pay, without rest, and often without assistance, he persevered ...more
The townspeople and governing body of Royal, Nebraska (pop.81) never planned to open a zoo, but when local boy, Dick Haskin, decided to bring his childhood dream--working with primates--to the community, they supported him. From the mid-1980s to 2005, thousands visited Zoo Nebraska and the community came to view Haskin's first chimp, Reuben, as a valued member.
But, as journalist Vaughan eloquently shows, it tak ...more
I’d give this 3.5 stars. It is deeply researched and the writing is quite readable. For me the main drawback is that there’s just too much of it. When you have a huge stack of information in front of you, all that hard work and time represented by it, it can be hard to know what to include. I read this in ebook format. If I’d held the hard copy book in my hand I might’ve realized what was happening sooner. As it was, I started wondering if I was getting close to the end and saw I was onl ...more
So this book was offered as my free book of the month. I like to step out of my traditional genres of reading and try something different. This was definitely a different read. Based on a true story in Nebraska, I’m not sure how I feel about this read. On one hand it was a strange, unbelievable story about one person starting a zoo. Then all the drama that followed. It was intriguing but I can’t say interesting. At times it felt like I was reading about the local gossip of a ...more
Though the author’s heated prose has a tendency to get in its own way, “Zoo Nebraska” is a taut tale about a small town, the inevitable dysfunction that arises when one man’s dream meets civic reality, and the ugly consequences caused by our need to connect with the natural world in ways that are ultimately destructive to the animals we profess to love. Meticulously researched and written with a full heart and gimlet eye, “Zoo Nebraska” is a fascinating look at the ...more
Full disclosure: I contemplated not finishing this book, and a low rating early on. It's a difficult read - not due to the writing, which is concise and clear - but the subject matter. The proverbial train races off the tracks in the first few pages, then the author back tracks to the beginning.
I'm glad I continued reading; this book will stay with me for a long time.
Two strong themes weave their way through the narrative. One, most ...more
1) The founder of Zoo Nebraska when he was a young boy, reminds me so much of me. I wanted to be a veternarian and there were so many similarities. I took a different path, and the similarities ended, but I saw myself in him.
2) The book also brings together some of my love/unease with zoos. I love animals. I love going to zoos. I want to see the animals and just love being there. But, I also know that not all zoos are top- notch. And even the good ones have some ...more
This could be Any Small Town, USA, I guess. The characters (who are real people) are all quirky in their own way. What makes them different is that they came together to create and support a zoo in "the middle of nowhere." It sounds implausible, and the story just gets even stranger as it goes a ...more
Published in April of 2019
Royal, Nebraska is a town of 81 people and an abandoned zoo. In 1987, Dick Haskin brought a chimpanzee named Reuben to his hometown in Nebraska in hopes of starting the Midwest Primate Center to continue the research of his slain hero, Dian Fossey.
But, the funds for the primate center never materialized. He wasn't interested in starting a zoo but, over time, he ended up with an odd collection of animals - tigers, wolves, llamas and more. Eventually, he accepte ...more
Something common to many pop nonfiction books is the presence of "Since the Beginning of Time" chapters. These are chapters that step away from the larger narrative and characters to go deep into the science or history behind the subject of the book. An example is A Kim Jong-Il Production, which is a terrific book about the North Korean capture of South Korean film makers. This book ...more
Dick Haskin's dream begins in the 1960s, and is eventually shattered in the early 2000s when 4 chimps break loo ...more
If I had to describe this book with only one word, I would say ‘struggle’. The entire history of the zoo in Royal, Nebraska is defined by its struggles.
My family and I visited the zoo once in the early 2000s. It didn’t make much of an impression on me, as my memories are vague, but I do distinctly remember seeing the chimpanzees. Until reading this book, I was completely unaware about ...more
The problem I have with the book is the subtitle, "The Dismantling of an American Dream", makes it sound like the zoo was well executed and some unforeseen circumstance came about to mess it up and cause the whole thing to fall apart. I know it's hard to judge the actions of others without being there and dealing with it yourself but from the sounds of things this z ...more
Zoo Nebraska is a little long winded but extremely interesting story. I have lived in Nebraska most of my life and yet, I do not ever remember hearing about this zoo or the horror that happened on the last day.
This book is an interesting and fascinating look at one mans dream to work with primates and what happened when that dream went eschew.
I truly believe the ending could have been avoided had there been more oversight, better leadership and more money in place. Dick Haskins had a big ...more