Jerry Garcia and the Tapir

Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead
Photo by Bruce Wilson, about 1969

About 1969 my (then) brother-in-law, Bruce, took this photo of Jerry at an outdoor concert. I always loved the picture. (And Bruce, if you're out surfing the Web and you come across this page, would you please write me?) Technically, this picture has nothing at all to do with tapirs, but it was taken about the same year as my story of "Jerry and the Tapir" took place.

The people: Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, Augustus Ausley III, Bob and Sheryl Wilson (Wilson was my married name)
The tapir: Stanley K. Tapir of Claremont, California, age about two months
The time: Early evening, sometime during the summer of (I think) 1969
The place: THE BANK: A large rock club in Torrance, California, created out of a brick warehouse by two brothers who had inherited about a million dollars. They were realizing one of their dreams ~ making a club where they could hear music they liked.

After all that intro, the story is pretty short. Bob and I were at the club early, as usual, because Bob had a job drawing the posters every week. They paid him $50 per poster, and we got to see all the bands for free. Augustus Ausley III was setting up the sound system in the building the way the band wanted it, and the Dead were setting up the stage. About a month before, Bob and I had acquired a baby Brazilian tapir (named Stanley K., after Mr. Kubrick and the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey).

We had told our friends at The Bank about the baby tapir, and we'd brought him along that night to show them. As the Dead were setting up, Stanley was making a nuisance of himself, trotting around the club, up on stage and behind the amps. As long as he didn't chew any wires, no one seemed to mind. Everyone was in kind of a hurry. As I wandered around trying to keep Stanley out of trouble, Jerry came breezing past on his way to the sound booth. "Nice little tapir," he said, either to me or to Stanley or to nobody in particular ~ I couldn't tell which.

I was impressed.

Partly, it was interesting seeing the already-famous Jerry up close, but I was impressed mainly because he was only the first or second person I'd met who knew what a tapir was on sight. He wasn't phased, either, he just kept on walking. Jerry, that is.

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