A minivan coasts to a stop on the country road outside Jim Wesley’s large yard, blocking traffic.
“We’ve had two or three wrecks,” Jim said. “People stop and look and they get hit on the back end.”
Despite his family’s best efforts to stop him, Jim recently bought two Plains zebras to add to the quickly-growing collection of exotic animals in his front yard. The sight of them and a couple of camels roaming around attract multiple onlookers to Jim’s house off Hardesty Road each day.
The newest “yard art,” as Jim affectionately calls Adam and Eve the zebras, came to him from western Oklahoma.
“He thinks they’re beautiful,” said Randy Wesley, Jim’s son. “He loves them...everybody’s tried talking him out of them, saying ‘They’re crazy, they’ll hurt you, they’re going to do this and that.’ He goes, ‘You know what? I want one.’”
Jim Wesley always wanted to buy zebras, but at first ended up getting camels instead. His one-humped pets, Joe and Flo, now spend their days munching on leaves from trees in an enclosure across from the zebras.
“Never could afford things like that when I was younger,” Jim, now 77, said. “Since I retired, I sure can’t afford it! But they’re fun to watch.”
After multiple strokes and open-heart surgeries, Jim lets his family take care of his animals. But they aren’t that much trouble: they only require a bit of water and hay every day, and occasionally grain, Randy said.
Adam and Eve are skittish and will never be particularly friendly to humans, but Jim believes they are “gentling down” since he got them, he said.
Jim is far from done with collecting exotic animals, and is always browsing the internet for more.
“I enjoy people to look at stuff,” he said. “My wife’s got dementia real bad, so she doesn’t stay with me any more. But when she did, we’d sit at the front window and watch them. That’s what we got them for. And her and I both loved to watch them.”
People stop to take selfies in front of the animals all the time, and seniors from a local nursing home often cruise by in a bus to look at them, Randy said.
“We’ll go somewhere and they’re like, ‘Did you see those camels and zebras?’ And he’s like, ‘Those are mine,’” said Shelby Wesley, Jim’s granddaughter. “He thinks that’s so cool.”
People are welcome to stop by anytime to come look at the animals, although they are asked not to feed the camels, Randy said.
Next on Jim’s wish list are bison, kangaroos or possibly a giraffe, he said.