11-12 on 227

by Bill Monson

We had a peck of trouble in the Edna Valley about a month ago. In local police lingo, it was an 11 22 on State 227 that became an 11-25 at the SLO airport.

What that translates to is: ''Loose stock on California Highway 227 that became a traffic hazard at the San Luis Obispo Airport.''

What made the story so fascinating was the stock that broke loose and the only-in-California ending to the story.

Let's start at the beginning. State 227 is one of only two ways into San Luis Obispo from the south. The other is more famous: the freeway U.S. 101.

State 227 is a farm road; but it's also the back way to SLO for those of us who live along the ocean, so it gets a lot of commuter traffic. It generally follows Edna Valley and is prime wine and ranch country. These are not rustic acres; they're show places. They grow some of California's finest wine grapes and some of its best breeding stock. They also raise some exotic stock, like llamas, ostriches and zebras.

That's what the loose stock was on Edna Road -- a 14-month-old zebra named Kenya.

Kenya was part of a zebra herd kept on Coyote Canyon Road in Edna Valley by a man named Erik Keiler. According to Keiler, one of his stud zebras took after the adolescent Kenya, who broke through a corral fence to escape.

A deputy from the Sheriff's Department rural crime unit said, ''If a zebra wants out, a normal fence that would keep a horse in won't keep it in.''

Maybe Kenya had a urge to see the sights because he was soon headed north for San Luis Obispo. Some residents on 227 at the edge of the city spotted him and drove him into a barbed wire pen of their own, which contained other livestock. Kenya was only temporarily contained, however.

There was a bull in the pen. Bulls do not like zebras and vice versa. Witnesses said Kenya bullied the bull right through a barbed wire fence, freeing both bull and zebra. The bull went one way, Kenya another.

It was 11-12 time on 227.

Sheriff's Deputy Mike Martin responded to the call and saw Kenya headed for the San Luis Obispo Airport. To his dismay, the escapee in stripes veered right into it, charging into a fenced yard shared by car rental agencies at the airport.

Martin sent out an emergency call to the airport to close all air traffic until he could determine whether Kenya could reach the runway via Hertz, Avis or Budget.

Alert employees quickly closed all the gates to the rental car yard, leaving Kenya galloping among the Buicks and Toyotas in frustration. Fortunately, the airport did not have to close down air traffic. Can you imagine the FAA hearing a call about a ''zebra on the runway?''

Would-be captors arrived shortly with a truck and horse trailer, but Kenya was more interested in mid-size. He evaded the cowboy wannabes and managed to put a football-sized dent into a Buick in the process. The stripe-tag went on for nearly an hour as TV camera crews converged and lookie-loos gathered on 227, most of them cheering for the zebra. Alas, a weary but still wary Kenya cornered himself behind an above-ground gasoline tank.

After a ten-second stare down with his pursuers, Kenya finally decided he didn't want to fly or drive and had forgotten to bring his credit card anyway. He allowed himself to be herded into the trailer.

A check by a veterinarian showed only minor abrasions (we're talking two fences and a Buick, remember) and Kenya was trucked off to a corral where he won't be bullied by bigger stud zebras.

The story got national attention, but Kenya doesn't care about that. He just wants his turn at those pretty females in the striped pajamas.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website September 18, 2002

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