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
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
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."
||Our snowbound kangaroo,
on the verge of capture. Photo by Sheriff Steve Michek
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
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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