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#1 austlar

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 01:43 AM

I need some help here. I was telling a friend down here in Austin about Pete the Python's escape from the old "Snake Pit" at the FW Zoo back in the mid-1950's. The Snake Pit was a small outdoors arena where a zoo attendant, booted and armed with a long forked stick and a microphone, would display and handle many of the zoo's snakes, usually before a crowd of fascinated school children. This was before the indoor facilities were built. Most of the snakes were housed in glass windowed terrariums that lined the walkway surrounding the arena. Pete lived, alone as I recall, in one of these wooden and glass structures. On Saturdays Pete would be turned loose in the arena to feast on a live chicken, or at least I was always told that this took place. I never got to see it for myself, although as a young resident of Park Hill I was a regular visitor to the zoo.

Anyway, one day Pete, all 18 feet and 300 pounds of him, escaped, and he remained at large for 23 days. It was a major news event. Kids in my neighborhood could not play outside, and we feared for the safety of our dogs and cats. Newspapers and TV reported sightings of Pete all over the city. He was recaptured on the hillside directly below my parent's house on Winton Terrace, apparantly trying to get into the monkey exhibit. The assumption was he was looking for food.

I am pretty certain of my facts so far, but I also know that Pete turned out to be a girl python, a fact that emerged when she produced an egg about a year after her return to the zoo. It was at this point in my storytelling that my friend grew skeptical and pressed me for the details on this egg laying situation. Does anybody know whether or not Pete/Patricia kept company with another male python? I think that is a requirement for laying an egg, but then again I am no expert on snake reproduction. I am hoping that there are some other old timers out there able to recall the details concerning Pete's transformation into Patricia, and, please, no jokes about post-operative trans-sexual pythons.

#2 johnlp

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 10:02 AM

Pete the Python! There's a story I've not here in a long time. In fact, the event happened before I was born but was a favorite story when the adults talked about the "days of old" to us kids.
Interestingly enough and I do not have all the fact, but a KXOL DJ named Larry Vance was in the middle of a Broadcast-A-Thon from inside a cage at the Ft. Worth Zoo. He had already been in a cage for a little over 24 hours or so when it was anounced that Pete escaped.
Needless to say, Larry was freaking ot on the air and wanted out of the cage. For some reason I thought this took place in 1962 but I could be wrong. My parents did say how they would not let the kids play outside, etc.
I think you are correct about Pete being female. I'm sure someone one the board will know more. Thanks for sharing! smile.gif

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#3 ghughes

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 12:48 PM

Great story! I hope there's more to come!

#4 redhead

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 12:14 PM

True story that made international news...Pete escaped on Sept. 1, 1954 and was recaptured Oct. 4. Supposedly was 18 feet and 500 pounds, laid 50 eggs on Dec. 30, 1957, after which she was "rechristened Patricia."

#5 austlar

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 04:30 PM

QUOTE(redhead @ Feb 20 2006, 12:14 PM)  

True story that made international news...Pete escaped on Sept. 1, 1954 and was recaptured Oct. 4. Supposedly was 18 feet and 500 pounds, laid 50 eggs on Dec. 30, 1957, after which she was "rechristened Patricia."



Yes, but how did Patricia get pregnant? Doesn't a snake have to be sexually active in order to lay 50 eggs? I don't remember there being another python at the zoo.

#6 courtnie

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 04:42 PM

maybe she met another python on her outing? they dated...fell in love and what do you know 50 eggs later....

#7 safly

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 06:35 AM

I don't know about that theory? dry.gif

I've asked some nearby pythons in the area who claim to be the offspring, and one BIG DADDY python who claims not to be the babys daddy, but knew of Pedro(a) personally. He is requesting a paid trip to the Maury Povich Show to claim his paternity innocence. All 50 of them.

Would make for a cute little funny family movie. Something for FW to be known for.
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#8 redhead

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 02:16 PM

I am no biologist, but seem to recall that in the egg-laying world (turtles, fish, birds, snakes..); there are two types. One lays eggs that are already fertilized and they have some incubation period before hatching as baby critters, while the others, (like the eggs that we eat), are laid unfertized and that takes place after the fact. Seems logical to me that the python could have laid unfertilized eggs...but I am not a snake expert either. (Although I did have a boa at one point in my life, and I used to snake-sit a python in my teens.)

#9 Sailor

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 01:01 PM

We too, looked all over the neighborhood for this snake. I don't know what we would have done if we found it, but I always wondered if more eggs were not found while she was out. Perhaps the off-spring are alive and well behind the Clark mansion on the hillside.

#10 Giraffe

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 12:04 AM

A family friend used to work at the Fort Worth Zoo and he (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) seems to think the whole thing was a publicity stunt. Something about "Pete the Python" T-shirts suddenly becoming available in the gift shop almost immediately after the escape, or some such.

Channel 5 talked about Pete the Python in a 1996 TV special and I think the late _Star-Telegram_ columnist Elston Brooks wrote about it at least once. Businesses all over town jumped on this; one fast-food joint offered "Peteburgers."

#11 austlar

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 03:51 AM

The zoo did not have a gift shop back in those days. There was not herpeterium either. It was all kind of primitive by today's standards The snakes, including Pete, were kept in glass enclosed cages (almost like crates with glass fronts) around the sides of an outdoor enclosure that we used to call the "Snake Pit". Once or twice a day, in good weather, a zoo attendent would actually put on a kind of performance with the snakes in this enclosure. He wore hip boots and carried a handler's stick of some kind. These little shows are a vivid memory that I recall from my childhood growing up in Park Hill. It was creepy and exciting to go down into the zoo and see these shows. I used to worry that some snakes had escaped and were hiding under my bed, so I was not entirely surprised when Pete escaped.

Nowadays the WPA-era steps going up to Winton Terrace from the zoo are long gone and there is a security fence around the entire facility. The little amusement park with the bumper cars and the merry-go-round and the pretty Ferris Wheel with the enclosed carriages is gone too. There was usually a kind of carnival or circus noise coming up from the park, the hurdy gurdy sound of the carousel and the animal noises from the zoo sometimes combined with the summertime shrieks and laughter from the crowds at the swimming pool and, always, on weekends the drone of model airplanes being flown over by the river. It was very atmospheric, sometimes a little too atmospheric, but I am left with vivid and unforgetable memories from that period. It truly was a more innocent time.

#12 Giraffe

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 02:23 PM

[quote name='austlar' date='Dec 7 2007, 03:51 AM' post='42077']
The zoo did not have a gift shop back in those days. There was not herpeterium either. It was all kind of primitive by today's standards

************
Ah! Sorry, my mistake. Yeah, the herpetarium did have a '60s look to it; I thought it was somehow older than that. Have they finished demolishing the herpetarium yet? I think it was one of the last "original" buildings at the zoo. My favorite exhibit in there was the "venemous/non-venomous" Q&A pushbutton panel; you'd see the snake, then press a button to guess whether it was venomous or not. A green light or red light would come on to tell the truth.

I'm sure there's a technical difference, but when I was a little kid I had no idea what "venemous" meant, but I _did_ know what "poisonous" meant. I always wondered why they used one term but not the other.

Remember the aviary at the FW Zoo? It caught fire many years ago. I always thought it was rather neat in the method used to keep the birds inside; the bird areas were illuminated, but the corridors where people walked through were dark. Signs explained that birds won't fly into darkness.
A couple of years ago I was reading a book written by an animal keeper in a British museum/zoo and their aviary burned down, too. I wondered why this seemed to be a common problem and a friend of mine with entropy experience explained it thusly: "Bird crap is flammable! How do you think they created gunpowder?"

#13 jbelleptcu

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Posted 06 April 2008 - 11:17 PM

QUOTE (austlar @ Feb 19 2006, 02:43 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I need some help here. I was telling a friend down here in Austin about Pete the Python's escape from the old "Snake Pit" at the FW Zoo back in the mid-1950's. The Snake Pit was a small outdoors arena where a zoo attendant, booted and armed with a long forked stick and a microphone, would display and handle many of the zoo's snakes, usually before a crowd of fascinated school children. This was before the indoor facilities were built. Most of the snakes were housed in glass windowed terrariums that lined the walkway surrounding the arena. Pete lived, alone as I recall, in one of these wooden and glass structures. On Saturdays Pete would be turned loose in the arena to feast on a live chicken, or at least I was always told that this took place. I never got to see it for myself, although as a young resident of Park Hill I was a regular visitor to the zoo.

Anyway, one day Pete, all 18 feet and 300 pounds of him, escaped, and he remained at large for 23 days. It was a major news event. Kids in my neighborhood could not play outside, and we feared for the safety of our dogs and cats. Newspapers and TV reported sightings of Pete all over the city. He was recaptured on the hillside directly below my parent's house on Winton Terrace, apparantly trying to get into the monkey exhibit. The assumption was he was looking for food.

I am pretty certain of my facts so far, but I also know that Pete turned out to be a girl python, a fact that emerged when she produced an egg about a year after her return to the zoo. It was at this point in my storytelling that my friend grew skeptical and pressed me for the details on this egg laying situation. Does anybody know whether or not Pete/Patricia kept company with another male python? I think that is a requirement for laying an egg, but then again I am no expert on snake reproduction. I am hoping that there are some other old timers out there able to recall the details concerning Pete's transformation into Patricia, and, please, no jokes about post-operative trans-sexual pythons.




My father, Ofc. James Payne with FWPD, was the one who actually caught "Pete". He was 6'4" and was able to capture the snake quite easily. Because of this, his fellow officers from that era gave him the nickname " Jungle Jim Payne".

The story of Pete and his capture stayed with my family for many years. My father has been deceased since 1991. At his funeral, many officers came to pay their last respects to Jungle Jim's widow and children.

The story of Pete and my dad is one of the great memories from my childhood. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to read about it here.

#14 Papaw

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 07:10 AM

Welcome to the forum jbelleptcu, I imagine that tale will be in the family for all the generations to come!

#15 mnmassie

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 03:12 PM

In the Zoo's training center, there is a story-board outlining the entire "Pete the Python" saga so that the story can be carried on for many generations to come.

#16 Owen

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 10:53 AM

QUOTE (austlar @ Dec 7 2007, 02:51 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The zoo did not have a gift shop back in those days. There was not herpeterium either. It was all kind of primitive by today's standards The snakes, including Pete, were kept in glass enclosed cages (almost like crates with glass fronts) around the sides of an outdoor enclosure that we used to call the "Snake Pit". Once or twice a day, in good weather, a zoo attendent would actually put on a kind of performance with the snakes in this enclosure. He wore hip boots and carried a handler's stick of some kind. These little shows are a vivid memory that I recall from my childhood growing up in Park Hill. It was creepy and exciting to go down into the zoo and see these shows. I used to worry that some snakes had escaped and were hiding under my bed, so I was not entirely surprised when Pete escaped.

Nowadays the WPA-era steps going up to Winton Terrace from the zoo are long gone and there is a security fence around the entire facility. The little amusement park with the bumper cars and the merry-go-round and the pretty Ferris Wheel with the enclosed carriages is gone too. There was usually a kind of carnival or circus noise coming up from the park, the hurdy gurdy sound of the carousel and the animal noises from the zoo sometimes combined with the summertime shrieks and laughter from the crowds at the swimming pool and, always, on weekends the drone of model airplanes being flown over by the river. It was very atmospheric, sometimes a little too atmospheric, but I am left with vivid and unforgetable memories from that period. It truly was a more innocent time.


I was born in Fort Worth, 1942, and I fondly remember the amusement park, swimming pool, and zoo. And I do remember about Pete the Python

#17 Sailor

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 01:26 PM

QUOTE (Owen @ Sep 16 2008, 11:53 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (austlar @ Dec 7 2007, 02:51 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The zoo did not have a gift shop back in those days. There was not herpeterium either. It was all kind of primitive by today's standards The snakes, including Pete, were kept in glass enclosed cages (almost like crates with glass fronts) around the sides of an outdoor enclosure that we used to call the "Snake Pit". Once or twice a day, in good weather, a zoo attendent would actually put on a kind of performance with the snakes in this enclosure. He wore hip boots and carried a handler's stick of some kind. These little shows are a vivid memory that I recall from my childhood growing up in Park Hill. It was creepy and exciting to go down into the zoo and see these shows. I used to worry that some snakes had escaped and were hiding under my bed, so I was not entirely surprised when Pete escaped.

Nowadays the WPA-era steps going up to Winton Terrace from the zoo are long gone and there is a security fence around the entire facility. The little amusement park with the bumper cars and the merry-go-round and the pretty Ferris Wheel with the enclosed carriages is gone too. There was usually a kind of carnival or circus noise coming up from the park, the hurdy gurdy sound of the carousel and the animal noises from the zoo sometimes combined with the summertime shrieks and laughter from the crowds at the swimming pool and, always, on weekends the drone of model airplanes being flown over by the river. It was very atmospheric, sometimes a little too atmospheric, but I am left with vivid and unforgetable memories from that period. It truly was a more innocent time.


I was born in Fort Worth, 1942, and I fondly remember the amusement park, swimming pool, and zoo. And I do remember about Pete the Python



I too was about 6 years old about that time and my mom and her friends were out looking for that snake, I often wonder what they would have done if they found it.... However, since the snake turned out to be female I wonder if it deposited any young in that area????

#18 Giraffe

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 02:23 AM

You've probably heard about the Bronx Zoo up in New York had one of their cobras get loose for a few days. I wasn't the only one who thought about Pete the Python here in Fort Worth... there was an article about this in the _Star-Telegram_ a couple of days ago.

(Could the Bronx Zoo fracas have been a publicity stunt? Hmmmm.....)

#19 David Love

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 10:28 AM

You've probably heard about the Bronx Zoo up in New York had one of their cobras get loose for a few days. I wasn't the only one who thought about Pete the Python here in Fort Worth... there was an article about this in the _Star-Telegram_ a couple of days ago.

(Could the Bronx Zoo fracas have been a publicity stunt? Hmmmm.....)

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#20 FortWorthLowrider

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 07:09 PM

maybe she met another python on her outing? they dated...fell in love and what do you know 50 eggs later....



I don't know about that theory? <img src="http://www.fortworth..._DIR#>/dry.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="<_<" border="0" alt="dry.gif" />

I've asked some nearby pythons in the area who claim to be the offspring, and one BIG DADDY python who claims not to be the babys daddy, but knew of Pedro(a) personally. He is requesting a paid trip to the Maury Povich Show to claim his paternity innocence. All 50 of them.

Would make for a cute little funny family movie. Something for FW to be known for.

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