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George Mendonca

  George Mendonca came to the Newport, Rhode Island estate of Green Animals in 1938, and spent fifty years years creating a garden--or was it a zoo? Laboring endlessly under the eye of Alice Brayton, the eccentric spinster daughter of the Newport mill-owner who first built the garden, George raised camels, bears, elephants, a horse and rider, as Alice peered from her high bedroom window--two people conspiring to live virtually untouched by the outside world. The animals themselves emerge from George's unconscious: "All these things are built from memory. You know what an animal looks like so you just start making an animal." It's the gentlest, weirdest sort of paradise--a sequestered garden in which there's no clear difference between a green animal and the more familiar warm-blooded ones. Finally retired at age 75, George returned after a year, because without his supervision "the animals misbehaved. It's like an ordinary pet, a dog or cat. When you're taking care of it, they'll do anything you want. But if somebody else were to take care of it for a while, he can't do anything with it. Well, this is what happened. They missed me, and just wouldn't do what anybody wanted them to do. I'm taming them again, so that they'll be back to normal. Then when somebody else takes them over they'll be better trained."