Excerpted from the Lands’ End newsletter
“Out Our Way,” Feb. 16, 2005.
A doctor friend of ours, when she’s given to philosophizing about the art of diagnosis, has a favorite saying: “If what you see are hoof prints, don’t go looking for zebras.” That’s her homespun version of the thing philosophers call Occam’s Razor: that the simplest explanation ought to prevail.
A tidy sentiment.
But real life doesn’t always hew to the wisdom of philosophers. As we in Dodgeville discovered when a footloose kangaroo turned up in our midst.
Now, kangaroo sightings are to Wisconsin what sightings of Bigfoot are to the Pacific Northwest: more likely to be reported than confirmed. Back in the 1970s, there was a spate of sightings around the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. And another rash a few years earlier in Menomonee Falls.
And so, on the morning of January 5, when a longtime resident called into our local sheriff’s office to report a kangaroo at loose on her property, Sheriff Steve Michek had the predictable reaction: “There’s gotta be a simple explanation.”
The day of the sighting, a snowfall expected to reach seven-to-nine inches had begun descending over Dodgeville. Sheriff Steve got his first glimpse of the creature through a swirl of dancing snowflakes. There he stood – big as life – with a fluffy cap of the white stuff improbably dusting his head and back.
Sheriff Steve says his own reaction could be summed up in two words: “Holy smoke!” Except, he says with embarrassment, he didn’t say “smoke.”
Once backup arrived, Steve and the deputies sprang into action. Sheriff Steve: “We formed a perimeter.” With a little bit of coaxing (and a bribe of apples), the renegade was lured into a barn on the property and quietly settled down in a tidy box stall.
Officials from the Henry Vilas Zoo in nearby Madison were contacted and the fugitive taken into custody. The zoo folks have since speculated that our unlikely visitor is most likely somebody’s rogue exotic pet.
That would, after all, be the simple explanation.
Which brings us ’round to the moral of our story: next time you discover some curious critter tracks outside your garden window – don’t rule out the zebras.
Or the kangaroos.
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