The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Book Notes | 'West with Giraffes'

November 18, 2022, at 2pm

At age 105, Woodrow Wilson Nickel is living in a nursing home. He decides he needs to write his life story, and what a story it is. It’s the story of a destitute young man during the Great Depression who found a reason to keep living against all odds: driving two giraffes from New York City to San Diego.

The author, Lynda Rutledge, was doing research at the San Diego Zoo when she discovered the remarkable story of two giraffes that came to the U.S. from Africa and arrived during a hurricane. Based on news clippings and copies of telegrams in the zoo’s archives, Rutledge put together a fictional story of a relationship that developed between Woody, the young driver of the transport vehicle, and the giraffes.

Woody is hired by the Old Man, a representative of the zoo, to transport the giraffes to San Diego. We follow them through a number of frightening experiences—attempts by circus employees to steal the giraffes; encounters along the way with a female photographer, Augusta, who was determined to become famous and have a photo spread in Life magazine; a flash flood; and some hair-raising cross-country vehicular problems. Woody and the Old Man develop a good working relationship. They help each other through these trials and finally get to the San Diego Zoo.

After serving in WWII, Woody returns to the States and attempts to find Augusta and the Old Man. He heads to San Diego and is able to spend several years visiting his giraffe friends until he moves into a nursing home where he writes his story. His writings end up in his footlocker, the contents of which are given to a VA liaison. 

The members of the UMRA book group liked the book and felt they learned many things about the Dust Bowl days, the hobos Woody and the Old Man encountered on their journey, discrimination experienced by African Americans during that time, and some basic knowledge about the Depression. Some in the group felt the book was improbable at times, and some thought the book was too long. I enjoyed it all. It’s quite a tale.

—Stephanie Daily, UMRA Book Club I member




Book Club I to meet November 18

Fri, Nov 18 2022, 2pm

Event to be held via Zoom.

Stephanie Daily will lead the discussion of West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, November 18.


Email Pat Tollefson at [email protected] for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.

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