Beat The Beast Challenge

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Saturday has seen 6.68 miles cycled, a Rhino scratched, a Rhino dancing, a Rhino running 3 miles and some wonderful time with the children while making more shared memories.

Heather, James and I were at Blair Drummond Safari Park as volunteers for the Rhino awareness weekend. It was a beautiful sunny day which, with the sun sparkling off of the dew in the fields and the damp mud splattering up our fronts made for a delightful bike ride through the Blair Drummond Safari Park alongside the river Teith.

A Rhino Archie at the Rhino Awareness Weekend!
A Rhino Archie at the Rhino Awareness Weekend!

There were no creepy crawlies to handle today. There was a touch table to get our heads around but also money to be raised to help to try and save the Rhino through the selling of raffle tickets, and it was that task that seemed to be best suited to the three of us. Before the park became busy though, Heather and I were taken down to see the Rhinos. They love to be scratched and rubbed so some grazing fodder was placed at the fence and one of the Rhinos trotted over to feed but also to be scratched. This enormous 2 tonne animal just trotted over for a head scratch. Smelling strongly of tea she almost purred as we scratched, rubbed and patted. The skin was rough but surprisingly soft while we learned of all her favourite areas to be scratched: behind her ears, on her lips and up her inner thighs. It was quite a surreal experience scratching this most enormous of animals but as I held Heather close in a Father’s natural sense, to want to protect her from what felt like a massive prehistoric beast as we scratched this big softie. This was a very special memory that we were building together. A memory of a shared experience that will never fade. James’ turn tomorrow.

The park started to fill on this beautiful sunny day so work began Having had that wonderful experience with the Rhinos I was able to introduce myself to the visitors stood watching the Rhinos by saying simply, ‘Have I told you yet that they love to be scratched and tickled!’ This always turned their heads with a smile on their faces so that I could continue. ‘We are raising money to try and help save the Rhinos’ and try and sell raffle tickets for the chance to go and scratch and tickle the Rhinos. The interest was intense at times so Heather kept me straight with how many tickets were sold, to whom, so how much money I needed to collect from whom. She kept a clear and ordered head in the occasional rush for tickets which nearly overwhelmed me at times in the press of bodies. What a team we made.

Heather and Archie Scratching a Rhino
Heather and Archie Scratching a Rhino

Then I was on touch table duty so Heather and James decided to go out and sell some more raffle tickets. They were brilliant, and using the cartoon Rhino costume that had been brought over for me to run in later, they put together a routine to show children how Rhinos were trained for handling through positive reinforcement using a training stick with a ball on the end and a clicker. They made it fun and entertaining which captured the young children’s imagination and gave them the opportunity to invite the parents to buy a raffle ticket. Who could refuse the charms of these two engaging them in a Rhino costume. It was brilliant and highly successful but also had me bursting with pride as they used their imagination and then slowly, over time, developed their routine and built up their confidence to engage with the visitors. To see the delight on the other Ranger’s faces as they watched in admiration, Heather and James doing their thing, was a wonderful thing, and another memory that I will treasure.

Next we were in to the Sea Lion show to sell more raffle tickets. It was a popular show so more tickets were sold before we were then invited to sit and enjoy the show. It was a magical show that had us all gasping in delight but also gave the children more ideas for their Rhino training routine. So back out they went with now a dancing Rhino!

A really successful day was had but it wasn’t finished. We had the fun run to do and now I was to be the Rhino. It was a hot day, very hot for this time of year so I had drunk lots of water and was properly highdrated. The children were up for it so changed and with me now dressed as a Rhino we walked to the start. As we walked, the children in the park were calling out to Mr Rhino, but with only one working ear I had no idea from what direction, so rather than spinning on the spot trying to spot children through the eye holes in the hood with a mesh over the top, Heather and James just said, ‘children to the left Dad. Children to the right Dad. Wave to them.’ I was not expecting to see an American Football team, the clansmen, as we rounded the corner but they loved the Rhino outfit, as did the children. Even the Rhino had to register for the run and as I stood there waiting, the children pinning

Archie with Amy and Katie at the Blair Dummond Rhino Awareness Weekend
Archie with Amy and Katie at the Blair Dummond Rhino Awareness Weekend

on my race numbers I grew steadily hotter. My eyes were a little odd. Depth perception wasn’t great but I was looking through a wire mesh so put any thoughts of a seizure aside. The Clansmen took us through their warm up before scrumming down with me as the Rhino. So now, bottle of water in hand we set off. The children were brilliant and ran alongside me throughout. We had a good steady pace but as we ran, and I got hotter and hotter in the suit, a seizure started to try and push through. The children noticed it as I slowed and started to focus on breathing and pushing it away. My left arm was all funny and on trying to take a sip of water from the water bottle realised that I had all but crushed it in my left hand. ‘Dad are you okay?’ they asked. ‘Yes great, just a little hot’ I meant to say and they replied, ‘Dad? Your voice has gone funny. Are you okay Dad’ I was loosing the power of speech as my ability to formulate and articulate words deteriorated, as so often happens as my lips, cheeks and tongue become all floppy. It was time to come out of character, remove the hood and concentrate on pushing away the seizure but we jogged on to do so. The children never left my side. Before I knew it we were in step and jogging along as a neat little unit of which any Army physical training instructor would have been proud, and shortly after, the seizure melted away. It was a close call but I beat it back with the help of the children.

Soon enough we were finished. I put the hood back on for the final leg to the finish and that was the fun run done having entertained others and bonded further with the children as I watched them grow today. Changed and farewells made we were on our bikes and heading for home. It was now very late and the children had been brilliant, so back home I bowed to the consensus of opinion and ordered a Dominoes Pizza for a very late tea treat. They had after all, waded through my egg salad sandwich and veggie pick and mix bag of tenderstem broccoli, carrots, exploding tomatoes and red grapes for their packed lunches without so much of a whimper!

Yours aye