Three escaped Rhesus monkeys who wreaked havoc in Pendleton in June 1951 were finally captured by a crafty housewife and a handful of bananas. The monkeys were part of a carload of animals from a disbanded circus in the Midwest that were en route to a zoo in Everett, Wash., and were involved in an accident on Emigrant Hill that also briefly set an elephant loose on Umatilla Indian Reservation land.
The monkeys escaped from a cage at the Round-Up caretaker’s house June 10, 1951, when he opened the cage to feed them. Two of the monkeys took up residence in the trees near the E.O. Stratton and Forrest Zirkle homes on Northwest Eighth Street. A third monkey was discovered at the Dean Oliver home on Southwest 18th Street on June 13.
Mrs. Oliver saw the monkey in her yard and, after a little thought, lured the monkey into the garage with a trail of breakfast cereal. Police caged the relatively tame animal and took the “two-apartment” cage to Northwest Eighth in an attempt to round up the other two, who were eventually lured into the cage with bits of broken banana. All three monkeys were put on display in their cage on the lawn of the police station.
One of the monkeys, which had been given to the police by the driver of the truck as repayment for taking care of the animals after the crash, escaped again June 26 after a grass fire near the Vern Hollinsworth home on Southwest Seventh Street endangered him. Mrs. Hollinsworth opened the cage door and he followed her to the porch, where she chained him.
The monkey broke loose from the chain on the arrival of Officer Clifford Murray and escaped into the trees, and for several hours policemen tried everything they could think of to lure him back to the cage. Tear gas backfired, as the monkey avoided it and it blew back onto the officers, driving them away. Oranges doped with knockout drops only gave the monkey “a cheap drunk.” Finally, officers Bryan Branstetter and Orville Simmons gave up when their shift ended at 8 a.m., leaving youngsters Jerry Lane and Diana Johnson to man the trap.
Jerry attached a cord to the door of a cage baited with cookies. The monkey entered once and, when the door stayed open, returned again for more food. Jerry slammed the door shut on the second foray and the monkey was back in custody. The monkey was moved to a bigger, permanent cage and Jerry and Diane each earned a dollar for their help.