Strange Strange Sam

Kansas City Zoo, 6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, MO

City of Kansas City Parks & Recreation

Andy Dufford

Installed 2008

Granite, sandstone, rubberized play surface

AKA Strange Sam

The plaza at the zoo’s entrance was designed to be a transitional area where parents can rest and kids can play while waiting to enter the zoo or while a car is retrieved from the parking lot. Strange Sam was designed with that in mind and also with an eye to the zoo’s educational efforts. The use of the rubberized play surface and curved stones that can be climbed on and through gives children of all ages the ability to have fun while learning.

Strange Sam is what remains of a giant imaginary creature. One stone represents the head, another the stomach and another is a flipper. There is an original poem by the artist entitled “Strange Strange Sam” that is broken up among five medallions embedded in the sidewalk around the play area.

“I was inspired by talks regarding the zoo’s focus on education. I think it’s important to introduce a fantasy element, to get the children dreaming about what they see and also what might be. I’m inspired by sound and rhythm and thought it would be fun to introduce some rhymes to set the beat for the kids.” – Andy Dufford

Part of the City of Kansas City’s One Percent for the Arts Program.

The complete poem is as follows:

Who is that creature crawling out of the ground?

A ram or an eagle, tell me what you have found?

He’s weird and he’s wild, this bird’s not the norm!

But he’s built for his world, just look at his form!

So let’s go exploring, we’ll learn every part

Climb up on his head, that’s a great place to start!

Look deep in eyes, they’re for finding his prey.

This guy can spot dinner from a mile away!

His beak’s sharp for biting and tearing his meat.

I bet if he’d caught you, we’d all hear a squeak!

Big antlers turn under. Each one makes a curl.

Those horns are for fighting and impressing the girls!

Go find his tummy! It looks like a rock.

So much to discover, more shapes to unlock!

Crawl down into the tunnel, right into his belly.

Hold your nose while you’re in there, it’s bound to be smelly!

Jump up once again, and leap onto his flipper!

If you ask for a ride, he’ll let you be the skipper.

With fins and feathers, he can fly, he can swim!

On sea or on land, our pal’s built to win.

He can spin, he can soar, every part has a role.

Every form has a function, it’s all part of the whole.

So match each part with a purpose, it’s what you must do

When you meet all the animals inside your zoo!