Zambora, Zec and Papa Bish

I love being a Papa but I must confess that I had a pretty good teacher. With the DuQuoin State Fair upon us, this one is for all the Papas out there who are making one insane memory at a time!

Zambora the Gorilla Girl
(DuQuoin, Illinois, circa 1993)

There is no better grandfather in the world than Fred Bishop. He was born for the job. His instincts are uncanny. No matter what Zec’s age, Papa Bish has been able to maintain an incredible connection with him. No better illustration could be offered than what happened last summer.

We traveled to DuQuoin to attend the State Fair with mom and dad. Melissa and Lydia bought wristbands so they could ride rides all night free. The rest of us felt that spinning in tight circles, going upside down and hurtling about might interrupt our intentions of eating everything at the fair that was not tied down, living or too hard to break teeth. After an evening of eating and riding, we were winding down and walking through the midway. Melissa and Lydia were attempting to regain equilibrium and the rest of us were trying not to throw up.

Over the other sounds of the fair, I heard a loud speaker system stating some pretty miraculous news. Just to our left was the lair of Zambora the Gorilla Girl. The promise was clear; for just one American dollar, you could enter the exhibit and witness the beautiful Zambora transform into a 400-pound gorilla before your very eyes! On the front of the exhibit were paintings of the beautiful (and scantily clad) Zambora and of a fierce and mighty Gorilla.

The line for the spectacle primarily consisted of people who did not exactly appear to be the sharpest crayons in the box. Their anticipation seemed overwhelming. I watched people enter like sheep, gladly offer their dollar fleece and disappear from sight into the converted horse trailer. The music started and in seconds an explosion occurred inside the exhibit. The door burst open, smoke poured out and people ran screaming from the gorilla formerly known as Zambora.

After a quick cigarette out back, Zambora (now changed back into a woman) was soon out in front again chained to a cage with a Python wrapped around her neck. The announcer was hard at work scaring up another crowd.

Melissa and I looked at the gathering people with pity. “Who would possibly waste a buck to see that drivel?” I inquired. The second the sentence emerged from my mouth, I saw them. There in the middle of the line! Sandwiched in between a woman smoking a cigarette and yelling at her three children and six members of Future Prisoners of America club, were dad and Zec! They had their eyes firmly glued upon Zambora, American dollars in hand and were enjoying the moment like a man about to eat his last meal. In minutes they were herded inside. Soon, I heard the music and the explosion and Dad and Zec ran screaming from the smoking exhibit. It was an exercise in abject humiliation to simultaneously be both the son and the father as I watched dad and Zec decompressing in a freak show afterglow.

It was then it occurred to me; Zec has the best grandfather in the world. He will never forget this moment.

Every kid should get to go to the fair with their Papa and see a woman turn into a gorilla.

Papa’s know how to party.


Published by Rev. Shane L. Bishop

Senior Pastor of Christ Church, Fairview Heights, IL since 1997. I am an orthodox Christian but I am not in a bad mood about it.

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