Join us for an evening with the author of Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream, Carson Vaughan. Carson is a freelance writer and author originally from Nebraska, now living in Chicago. His freelance work has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, The New Yorker (online), The New York Times, The Paris Review, VICE, and many others.
On Sept. 10, 2005, four chimpanzees escaped a roadside zoo in Royal, Nebraska, population 65. After a small and impromptu militia formed at the zoo’s front gate, three of the four were shot and killed. The local news covered the novelty of it all, but the story died there. Off and on for nearly a decade, I’ve been stitching the zoo and the village of Royal back together, asking questions no one else cared to ask. What I found was a depressed and regretful amateur primatologist named Dick Haskin, a man whose single encounter with Dian Fossey changed the course of his entire life; an adolescent chimpanzee named Reuben, who became the star of Antelope County from behind the bars of a corncrib; a fledgling zoo twice revived by donations from the "King of Late Night" himself, Johnny Carson; a small army of untrained volunteers and a zoo board at war with itself. What I found was a simple dream gone very awry, and a small town divided.