Colorful Coxville Zoo Developed from Hobby

By Blayne Salyer American-Statesman Staff

"Twelve monkeys in the bathroom when my electric cage heater went off last winter almost lost me my Wife!"

This statement suggests the sort of problems with which Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Cox are confronted in operating their privately owned zoo, located four miles from the city limits on the Dallas highway.

"I bought a monkey in '39. It's been easy ever since because collecting just seems to come natural with me," explains Cox, who also sells pets now.

His hobby has grown by leaps and bounds. Cox won't even attempt to make an estimate of the number of animals he is now caring for. You just can't tell about all those guinea pigs, rabbits, and white mice, he declares.

Listing the wildlife found on Coxville's 55 acres is like talking shop with the Martin Johnson's. Nearly all the animals a public zoo would have are kept at Coxville.

Sixteen monkeys always keep tourists entertained for free with their antics behind bars. All of the monkeys and many of the other animals have names. Some are called by their former owner's name while others have handles peculiar to their particular appearance.

Three-year-old Darlene, the Cox's daughter, has a popular pet monkey called "Christine Churchill." Christine's friends include many monkey types: African green, rizas, spider, Filipino, black and white ringtail, cinnamon, owl face, and South American ringtail.

"Joe," the crow, lynx cats, bobcats, alligators, turtles, terrapins, and a pair of buzzards are some of the monkeys neighbors.

Home Breakers

"Sailors, soldiers, and merchant marines brought home lots of these animals. And in many cases it was either the 'monkey' or the wife so I have acquired quite a few would-be home-breakers," explained Cox. In addition to individuals, he gets many animals from "Snake King" in Brownsville.

A 250-pound Mexican lion has been placed in Cox's care by H. H. Coffield of Rockdale. The owner was once offered a dollar for each pound of his king of the beasts.

Raccoons, wolves, donkeys, red and yellow parrots, ducks, ringtail cats, and squirrels are among the lion's subjects.

Chinese silkies, native oriental chickens with hair instead of feathers, are used by Cox to hatch pheasant eggs. His pheasant types include golden, silver, ringneck and white.

"You'll find no 'Don't Feed the Animals' signs here. Just don't feed your hands to them," requests Cox. Donation cans placed at the entrance to the free zoo contribute only $12 of the $32 required weekly to feed the animals.

Each week two barrels of bread, and a $12.50 supply of horse and mule feed and hen scratch are on Cox's grocery list. Horse meat figures $5 weekly at 20 cents a pound. Chicken necks add up to 36 gallons at 25 cents per gallon.

"Bobcats are worse to feed than the lion, and monkeys are the most difficult to keep in water," Cox believes.

Red foxes from a Tennessee zoo, grey foxes, parakeets or "love birds", ringneck doves, the speckled civet cat, the striped pole cat, javelinas or wild hogs, and deer are among his other hungry Animals.

Quite a Meal

My pelican has a good appetite I suppose, since he can eat 45 fish at one meal," declares Cox. He explained that the bird was brought to him after it was found shot on the highway.

A green-legged heron also came to Cox via the finder method. It was discovered on East Avenue.

An annual fee of $5 is required to keep a license for his fur-bearing animals. Other permits from the State are free.

Strutting male peacocks bring sighs from visitors as well as peacock hens when they spread their colorful tailfeathers. Red, white, and blue pigeons add a patriotic color scheme.

Canadian and bruin bears share the spotlight with a "snookum bear," the coati, a native of Mexico. Although allied to a racoon, the coati resembles the anteater with its long, flexible snout and long body and tail.

Ever increasing numbers of white rats and guinea pigs are sold to the health department by Cox. Persian and Siamese cats join his list of "tame" pets which includes 55 Pekingese and Chihuahua dogs.

Austin's weather doesn't bother Coxville animals. Plentiful shade trees offer relief during the summer. Rock caves house the bears in the winter. And, of course, those electric heaters function most of the time in the monkey cages.

Cages Built

With some outside welding assistance, cages for the animals were built almost entirely by Cox alone. His most serious worry to date hasn't been escaped animals but a disease known as "limber neck" which has caused the death of a Mexican eagle and several ducks.

"Noise here is measured mostly in the donkeys' bray, the peacocks' holler, and the wolves' howl. Sometimes it makes your hair stand on end at night," recalls Cox.

Bought 1936, the 55 acres are now the site on which seven cabins rent by the night, week, or month. Day and night for 13 years, Mr. and Mrs. Cox operated a filling station in addition to caring for the park grounds.

"Cleaning cages is a day-long job," warns Cox. The station is leased out now, and the Cox's are devoting their time to animal care and "fixing up the place."

Another feature of Coxville is a one-mile private lake. Fed by springs, the lake is between 16 and 18 feet deep. Boats are furnished for boating enthusiasts. Swimmers find a cool reception in the refreshing waters of the lake.

"Fishing is your best bet at the lake though. They'll be biting fine in July." Cox declares. For 50 cents a half-day or $1 a day, fishermen can try their luck at hooking the brim, bass, and catfish with which the lake is stocked.

Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Cox, Cox's parents, live across the lake. It was Mrs. Cox who started the Coxville rock garden in 1936.

Varied Rock Garden

Mrs. Cox's hobby has grown rather expensive since she now has rocks from each state in America and almost every country in the world. Rocks from the states were mailed to her, and those from the various countries were brought back by tourists.

Petrified logs weighing twice as much as regular rocks, have been hauled to Coxville from all over Texas. They are now displayed in an area surrounding the Cox's curio shop which was closed during the war.

Children are always interested in the miniature farm house and chicken shack of rock. They are surrounded by a model train, highways, busses, trucks, and trailer parks.

A rock menagerie of natural formations include the three bears, a watermelon patch, dogs, goats, rabbits, a cat, fish, a mermaid, the devil, turtles, kangaroos, lions, shoes, the old woman on the hill, birds, and an Indian campfire scene.

Shamrock and cave formations are other drawing cards in the rock garden. Fossils and cactus plants surround the Coxville fish pond.

Young Cox, who is in a 50-50 business venture with his father believes that his animal hobby may pay off some day. He has plans for a snake pit and other features to enlarge his zoo's variety, and he also hopes to revamp the rock garden soon.

His wife smiles. "I know he always liked animals. But just look what one monkey started!"


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