Kickass, the doorstop dog, reports that the keeper’s recent travels with Phyllis included revisiting old haunts along the upper Wolf River in Langlade county, and, as usual, ancient memories were triggered, like the keeper walking into a tavern one summer afternoon in his quest for column material, and finding a full-grown leopard on its hind legs with front paws on the other side of a u-shaped bar, staring at the keeper with what seemed to be unusual interest.
Thus began a friendship with Ivan, the Langlade tavern-keeper and private zoo-keeper who claimed involvement in the training of one of the “Gentle Ben” black bears used in the popular TV show of the late 1960s. Several lions were caged behind Ivan’s tavern, and the keeper was introduced to them, as well as to the leopard. Ivan had a series of five deep scars on his right calf where a lion had once grabbed him, and he like to tell stories of other animal experiences.
Though the keeper, back in his “working” days was often accused of over-using taverns as sources of column material, the leopard day made his point.
Some of Ivan’s family members continue in business in Langlade. Ivan is long gone, so is the leopard, of course, but not the keeper’s memory of the beautiful animal as a one-time tavern companion.