Darcy Canton is a force of nature, especially when it comes to all things senior related. She runs the Senior Center on Scrabble Road in the old Scrabble Schoolhouse in Castleton. Her monthly calendar of events ensures seniors a broad spectrum of activities including wildly popular bingo, where fabulous prizes are won, thanks to generous donations and Darcy’s thrift store sleuthing, to local musicians and artists sharing their gifts of music, song and artistry, to the arranging of myriad day trips.
As a newly minted Senior Center member I accompanied them on a recent foray to take a tour of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal. We enjoyed as well sharing the day with members of Rappahannock’s Rapp at Home folks. A special thanks to Kathy Eggers who arranged this tour.
We all rejoiced seeing endangered species, like Hooded Cranes, Scimitar-horned Oryzs, Cheetahs, Persian Onagers, Bison, Red-Crowned Cranes, White Naped Cranes, Hartman’s Mountain Zebras, the beautiful Mongolian horse, Przewalski’s horse, clouded leopard, dama gazelle, and more.
Our guides shared fascinating stories not only of SCBI’s successful reproductive programs, but of the history as well, of the war horses housed here and shipped to Europe, discussed as we passed the cemetery of headstones marking the remains of Officer’s equine fallen soldiers of World War 1 and surplus Confederate horses as well.
They also shared humorous vignettes, the cheetahs who are so picky about mating that a lover’s lane exists where they can check each other out to determine if there is an attraction, or the breed of animal who are trained to urinate on command so as to enable researchers to take a urine sample and a female caught on to the game and wanted only the treats so she pretended to tinkle.
We drove in two white vans and the animals while normally off running about on their expansive acreage domain, would come close to the fences as apparently it is white vans who deliver their food so we were of course of great interest.
Security is of utmost importance, indeed deer apparently carry a deadly transmission, fatal to some breeds. The fences are high, secure and we drove through gates stopping to walkie talk with headquarters, so as to have permission granted to enter certain areas, reminiscent of a Jurassic Park set.
The day was filled with laughter, camaraderie, with winks and guffaws,many a tall tale told, and a delicious luncheon savored in the compound’s dining hall. Thank you Darcy for all you and your Merry Band of volunteers do for the Seniors, they are our treasures.
For further information on SCBI, https://nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation