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Gary Hill

Butch Dring

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Ya know Warner LeRoy gets alot of credit for developing Great Adventure. BUT as a faithful Ex Safari employee, I would like to take this opportuntie to talk about WHO really is responsible for The Safari. I first met Butch in the fall of 1972 in Texas. He came to our park World Of Animals to take control of our animals because our park had closed and we were all in limbo as to what was going to happen to them and us. Butch walked in and said "Hello Mates" and told us his plans for the developing park in New Jersey soon to be Great Adventure. As a young man I listened to him explain how great the park was going to be, I could see his vision in my mind. He described how certain habitats were going to be constructed and such, that I knew I wanted to work for this Man and be a part of something very special. We wintered the animals and come spring started the capture and transfer of over 1500 animals to Canada and to the future park in NJ. Butch would come down about twice amonth to make sure things were going good. One thing I learned about this Man is that he would entrust you to do your job and his Trust would make you want to work harder for him! He wanted Great Adventure to be his Masterpiece Animal Park. His experience came from working at the worlds first drive though Safari in Longlete, England with the world famous Chipperfield family. He also was running the park in Hemmingford , Quebec at the same time he was putting Great Adventure together. Never was Butch short or stressed with the work load he had put upon himself. He would always cheerfully greet you when he saw you and we enjoyed alot of good humor and many laughs. He was always there if you needed him, and would roll up his sleeves and work right beside you. RESPECT isn't a BIG enough word to descripe how I have always felt about him. He did so much for me and I will never forget how Good he was to me. I regret that I wasn't able to keep in touch with him over the years but he was always in my thoughts and they were always good. It would be so good to sit with him and reminise about all the FUN we had before and during the first years of Great Adventure Safari. I can't believe when I visited there this summer that everywhere I looked I saw is handy work. I was in the elephant barn looking at the gate latches he designed and the tepid water troughs the under gound heat system for the rhinos and there was so much more of him that I saw everywhere I looked. I guess you would of had to have been there during those years to see his work. It still stands today. I hated to see some of the changes that went away from his orginal design but thats the way the world is. I would hope that one day Great Adventure honors him in some way because of his vision and ideas that made Great Adventure the animal park it is today. When you live your life working with animals it is a part of you, it is not a job, it is your lifework. Butch instilled in me alot that I still use in my profession to this day! I know everyone that knows Butch has a story to tell about how special he can make you feel! I do wish more EX Safari employees would of made the effort to come to GA this summer for the Offical Reunion but they couldn't get enough ex employees from all the years to make the effort? I understand that Butch is in alot of physical pain from injuries he recieved years ago and I would hope that somehow his pain be reduced so he can enjoy his retirement. I THANK him for everything he did for me and will always hold a special place for him in my heart. God it would be so good to see and visit with him.....

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^ That is a really thoughtful post Gary. Thanks for sharing it. :)

 

As I read a bunch of the early articles and clippings about the Safari, it is very easy to see that Butch Dring was such a vital part of its success.

 

We are very fortunate to have Mrs. Dring as a member of this site. Hopefully through GreatAdventureHistory.com and members like you we can share some interesting information about Butch and his impact during his years at the GA.

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Gary thanks for the flashback today. thinking of Butch reminds me of the day the rhino got loose. To let others know, in between the elephant/rhino section and the african plains section is a small strip of woods that lead up to the rhino barn and the giraffe barn. A rhino got out the swing gate at the end of the holding pen and made it into this set of woods, where Butch, Gary, myself and a few others traveled up and down these woods and fence line in the dark trying to get him out. It took most of the night, a tractor with headlights and a noisy engine and lots of walking and running but we finally got him back where he belonged. It could have gotten dangerous out there but it was a great experience. Thanks Butch where ever you are. :elephantride:

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That is the first time I have seen Butch without a beard. The elephants were a very big deal in the beginning, lots of press and still are the most favorite animal in Safari!

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Rhino adventure.

 

Wasn't that when we strung all the burlap and created a corridor to get him back in? Butch was a heck of a man alright. Fearless but never reckless, and he knew more about animlas than anyone I ever saw or heard of. He was incredibly cool under pressure, and there were many times when the pressure was as high as it gets. I don't recall anyone ever being seriously hurt. That was a great testament to Butch Dring's leadership.

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Eddie we chased that Rhino on a scent trail all night with the tractor, I dont remember burlap because the rhino would not of seen it? I do remember burlap for herding antelope and such..

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Butch was a character of major impact on G A that's for sure. Never at a los for words and willing to give his opinion even without being asked at times. Some of the more conservative 'organization suits' didn't think to much of his brash style, but that was their loss. He got things done.

 

When I returned to GA in 1985 during the winter for a day;s visit He invited my friends and I up to the Tiger den to see the new Tiger cubs they had, and welcomed me back..mind you I was an hourly worker who had left the park 7 years before... yet he recalled at least my fist name and made me feel welcome as one of his own.

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   G.A. was my back yard, literally.

   Butches kids rode my bus to school;

Mike, Michelle, and Richie.

   Really nice people.  Mike made you feel better about yourself just by talking to him.  (Though he was like 3 years my Sr.)

   His younger sister, and still a year older than me, Michelle, had a really inviting personality, like Mike, made you feel like you were a better person just talking to her.

   Richie was my age, but we lost touch after grade school, and it freaked me out when Mike got killed.

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