Thursday, July 10, 2008


(c Marilyn A. Hudson, 2008)

1963 - Oklahoma City

Oh no! It had happened again.It was a warm afternoon at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Men and women strolled around looking at the animals. Boys and girls stared and pointed as they walked.Right inside the entrance was a big concrete pit. Inside was a pretend ship for monkeys to climb and play on. “Monkey Island” was a fun place to visit.

Today, the huge ship, with its tall masts filled with monkeys, was missing one animal. Zookeepers ran here and they ran there. They looked in the trees. They looked in the trashcans. They looked in the bushes. They were looking for the missing monkey.The monkeys on the ship hooted and screeched watching the men hurry about. They jumped up, flipped over, waddled around, and laughed.Clyde had escaped – again!

Clyde was a twenty-pound brown pigtail macaque monkey. He was always trying to get out to have another big adventure.Clyde did not know it, but some very important people were coming to see him. The zookeepers hurried around to find Clyde before these special visitors came.Nearly everyone in town knew about Clyde. He was famous for escaping from the local zoo. He had escaped from the zoo more than once.The police had chased him to bring him back. The zookeepers had chased him.The police asked, “How does he get out?” The zoo workers asked, “How does he get out?” They did not have an answer. They looked around and asked the little monkey, “Clyde, how do you get out of the cage?”

Clyde never answered, he just laughed as he ran away!

In 1963, the United States was in a race to be the first country to send a man to the moon. Scientists were hard at work to figure out how to send a rocket into space.

They thought and they planned. They tried one thing and then another.

“10 - 9 -8 -7.”

Huge rockets shot high into the air shooting across bright blue skies.

“6- 5- 4- 3.”

Some exploded like a balloon before they ever shot into the sky.

“2- 1- BLAST OFF!”

Some simply fell over flat!

Sending a human to the moon was not going to be easy! All the people thinking about reaching the moon came up with a plan. They would send monkeys first!The monkeys would ride the big rockets, test out the machines, and help the people send a man to the moon!

They would need special monkeys. They needed smart monkeys and strong monkeys. They needed hero monkeys! In Oklahoma City, there lived a monkey named Clyde. He was smart and he was strong. He was also bored. That was why he was always escaping!

One day some men from NASA (the new space agency) went around the country. They carried notebooks and wrote in them as they looked at each animal.They were looking for monkeys they could test. They were looking for monkeys special enough to begin training for space. They might not ever get into space, but they would train for it anyway.They wanted smart, lively, and good monkeys.

Clyde watched as the people all looked into the cages. He sat up a little straighter. He looked up and smiled! The people made many notes as they watched Clyde.Clyde seemed just about right. He loved adventures because he had run away so often. He was smart because it had been hard to catch him. Most of the time Clyde was a good monkey…he just liked to have fun.Clyde just might be a good space monkey.

The newspapers carried a picture of Clyde and said he might go to space! Soon visitors were coming to see Clyde.He smiled and showed off and laughed. People at the zoo said, “Clyde, you could be a real hero for the United States.”The boys and girls who came to visit told him, “Clyde, you might go up into space!”CLYDE went away to train to be a very special monkey – a space monkey from the State of Oklahoma. A real live “Sooner Space Monkey”!

Men came and took him to a big white building. There are white halls, white floors, and white doors everywhere.Clyde climbs, races, eats, and learns to push buttons. He eats lots of bananas and fruit and plays in the big yard.

He also tries to have fun by having a game of chase. The people in the white coats say, “No Clyde!” They continue to test him and Clyde gets bored. He also got a little grumpy.One day they did not come to let Clyde do tests. He had to stay with other monkeys. He stayed in a corner of his new cage feeling sad and lonely.Soon, Clyde became bored. He looked at the door. He looked at the lock.

He remembered how he had often got out of the cage at the zoo.Maybe he could do that here…So Clyde climbed high into the top of the cage and looked at the lock. He laughed.Soon he was hurrying down the shiny hallway in search of more bananas or the people in the white coats. A man saw Clyde and yelled.Clyde went down another hall and skidded to a stop as a soldier came out a door!

He quickly turned and bolted down another hallway. Soon he was running through the hallways as people in white coats, soldiers, and office workers all chased him!He laughed as he ran. He dashed into a big room where many people were listening to a man speak. They all climbed on their chairs.“Catch that monkey!” a man called but Clyde was out the door. He had just turned one corner when BAM! A big, black net came down on him and the soldiers and people in white coats carried him back to the yard.Clyde sighed as they carried him back. He was already missing the fun chase!

Men in dark suits and people in white coats came to stand around his cage after that. They spoke too low for Clyde to hear.“Clyde, we may have to send you back! You are just too hard to handle.”Some of the people nodded their heads.

Clyde sat down to pout. It was not fair! He did not mean to cause trouble. He tried to be good. He just did not like being bored.He had wanted to be a space monkey and make the people at the zoo proud. He would try to be good and not be too much trouble. Clyde grabbed the bars to the cage and hooted loudly but the people were already going out the door.All but one man, that is.

He pushed his glasses back up his long nose and came very close to Clyde’s cage. He bent down to look at Clyde.“You are a good monkey, aren’t you?” the man said softly. “I think you are all right.”One of the men in the white coats came back in to look at the cage as well. “How did you do that? How did you get the cage open?” they asked.Clyde just smiled.“We need to get you to help us work on the escape hatches!”

Soon they had him testing all the escape hatches to see if they worked right. He loved it! He did not become bored again.He trained and tested to be a space monkey but never actually made it into space. That was all right because he had done something very special.

He had become “CLYDE –THE SOONER SPACE MONKEY.”It was the biggest adventure of his life!

No comments: