Such are the hazards of life in Henry's Ark—the nonprofit private zoo Wallace runs on his 600-acre farm in Prospect, Ky. But the compensations are many. Happily married now to his third wife, Candy, 36, he welcomes families and schoolkids to his zoo at no charge (he takes donations), and the neighbors have come to accept him. "I think it's a wonderful thing he does," says Patty Nolan, who lives next door. "I support him 100 per cent."
Unlike Noah's, Henry's Ark came about by chance. Some 35 years ago, when his six children from his first marriage were young, "I found that the best babysitters were animals," Wallace explains. "So I got ponies, goats, horses, llamas, raccoons, rabbits—all the things that can be pretty well handled by children." Daughter Sharon, 38, a sociology student at the University of Kentucky, recalls nursing injured animals in the basement. "From my dad," she says, "we learned how to respect animals." As the kids grew, so did the zoo. When passersby started driving up to the house for a peek, Wallace moved the animals nearer the road and built a parking lot for 70 cars. Soon school groups began coming by—so he bought a motorized trolley to take them on tours.
Wallace, who pays the zoo's annual operating expenses of at least $75,000 out of his large inheritance—his mother was an heiress to the SmithKline Beecham pharmaceutical fortune—also spends generously for his pets. In 1991 he paid $2,000 and traded two donkeys for a camel called Saddam, who later nipped him on the head. Then, sharing Noah's notion that just one wouldn't do, he paid $11,500 to buy Saddam a mate.
By now, Wallace has the alphabet nearly covered—from antelopes, bison and camels to water buffalo, yaks and zebras. Growing up on the same farm that now houses his zoo, Henry was always rescuing animals, recalls his only sister, Augusta Wallace Lyons, 84, a former Broadway actress. "We'd find a baby crow or some other bird that had fallen out of its nest," she says, "then bring it home, take care of it and let it go." Wallace is still taking in strays; last fall he drove 30 miles to save an orphaned fawn, bringing the animal home in the cab of his pickup. "I was driving and she was in the other seat," he says. "People were amazed when they looked over and saw a two-month-old deer."
The son of a conservative editor of the Louisville Times, Wallace started raising eyebrows early on. Expelled from high school for drinking, he took to the road, riding in empty railway cars during the Depression. After he was arrested for vagrancy and spent 30 days on an Alabama chain gang, though, Wallace headed home to study liberal arts at the University of Kentucky. Following a few years as a newspaper reporter, Wallace worked in radio intelligence during World War II, then joined the Merchant Marine. In 1946 he moved to Cuba, and during six heady years in Havana worked as a correspondent for TIME and LIFE magazines, where he interviewed Ernest Hemingway.
Soon wanderlust struck again, and Wallace left to report in Europe and North Africa, where he met his first wife, Dutch communist Sonja de Vries. In 1955 they returned to Cuba, where Wallace cultivated a lifelong admiration for Fidel Castro. Such sympathies didn't endear Wallace and his wife to either the FBI—which compiled a 200-page file on them—or the neighbors around the Kentucky farm where the couple finally settled in 1957. In 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, someone put a bomb, covered in swastikas, in his mail box. Later the sign at the gate of his Moncada Farms (named after a military barracks unsuccessfully attacked by Castro in '53) was sprayed with bullets.
The rusty holes remain, though the bitterness does not. Wallace still drives to town in his pickup with the license plates reading FIDEL. But these days he spends much of his time feeding his 87 exotic charges—giving neighbors a different reason to regard him with curiosity. "My mother and father thought that you were born into a walk of life," explains his sister. "Henry and I thought we should see other walks."
JOANNE FOWLER in Prospect
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