Even within my own family, there are those who have a more pronounced Southern accent than others. So when my Great Aunt Modeane was giving us directions to her new house in Montgomery a few years ago and told us to, “turn between the lines,” we looked and looked for lines on the road but couldn’t find any. We realized our mistake when we drove past a stately pair of cement . . . LIONS.
But if you keep driving a few more hours to the north corner of the state, you’ll see these LIONS are the real thing.
A few weeks ago, I took my Mother up to Florence, Alabama to visit two of her sisters and while we were sitting around the house doing “mature” lady things like watching the hummingbirds and rabbits, I suggested we go out for a little drive.
We ended up on the beautiful campus of The University of North Alabama, which I had never seen before.
Formerly named, “Florence State College,” I’ve had two Aunts and a cousin graduate from the four year school that has just over 7,000 students. The beautiful house above is the President’s House, which is within close roaring distance of the Lion’s habitat. So close, I was thinking if I lived in the president’s house, I would keep a close eye on Lois Lane. A plump little beagle would make a tasty snack for these two cats.
But alas . . . the brother and sister, Leo III and Una, were worn out from the big game day crowd on the previous day, and were taking a leisurely Sunday siesta, snoozing in the warm sun. Their habitat has a climate controlled area to combat the hot Alabama summers and cold North Alabama winters. They are the only two live lion mascots in the United States.
Anne Howard, who was in the safety of the double fence, said she bottle fed the duo when they were small kitty-cats. There are four local veterinarians who help in the excellent care of the lions, and if a major need arises, they call on their vet friends down at Auburn University. Here’s a story about Anne and how she came to be the lion’s volunteer caretaker.
The habitat cost 1.3 million dollars to construct, and the annual cost to feed the lions is approximately $35,000, which is all covered by charitable donations. (I’ve heard they throw the losing team’s mascot to the lions for their dessert).
This lion was the friendliest I found and was eager to be awake for a play session. After we left the lions, we drove around Florence and saw some beautiful houses and more of the pretty downtown, which I’ll show you tomorrow.
Until then . . . ROAR! And Go Lions!
Read about caretaker Anne Howard HERE.