This was a story I read in a school book of multiple stories, in 1979 (2nd grade). Details I remember was that the main character collected "odd animals", including a bird that had backwards pointing feet so that hunters would always track it the wrong way (this was important in the end, as the villain tried to track the bird). There was also a land purchase in Florida of 500+ acres of swamp (the 500 acres was "all down", IIRC). The land seller was eating an onion in when speaking to the main character.

I remember thinking this was part of a series, and was always interested in finding it again, and reading the whole series.

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I believe this story is McBroom's Zoo, by Sid Fleischman (1972), part of the McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm series.

McBroom's Zoo cover, By Sid Fleischmann

Summary from GoodReads:

Josh McBroom, his wife Melissa, and their rather large brood of children seem to be facing catastrophe when a freak twister comes along and uproots all of the marvelous topsoil from their magical one-acre farm, but the wily and resourceful McBroom follows the twister (turned red because of all the ripe tomato plants it has ripped up, and leaving a ready tomato-flecked trail to follow) and tracks down his soil miles away. It looks like it will be impossible to cart it all back, as the struggling farmer doesn't have the money to hire all the trucks necessary, but on the way to and from the pile of topsoil the McBrooms come across a whole strange hassle of critters that have been deposited by the tornado, rare beasts that they reckon no one hither or yon has seen, and a plan is hatched to start up a zoo in the hole left by the farm, charge admission and get the topsoil back.

As noted by DavidW, the entire story was also printed in the January 1972 issue of Boys' Life magazine.

Hairy-faced Hunter and Backward-footed Silver-Tailed Teakettler

Unnamed Hairy-Faced Hunter facing off against the Backward-Footed Silver-Tailed Teakettler, from Boys' Life, January 1972

And little wonder! I reckoned we knew something that wasn't in the book — those wrong-way feet. We let it out and saw that it left backward footprints. My that was clever! Anyone following those tracks would proceed where the Teakettler had been, not where it was going.

"Pa," Little Clarinda blurted out, "we've got us a zoo. Our very own zoo! We could change a penn."
"A nickel," Larry declared.
"A dime," Mary said.
"A quarter, at least," Tim insisted, "Didn't Pa say it will take a heap of cash money to fetch back the farm?"

A zoo! The thought near took my breath away. Wouldn't folks come from miles around to see these rare creatures? It wouldn't surprise me if we had the only Teakettler, Desert Goofang, and Sidehill Gouger in captivity.

Indeed, the central premise of the McBroom's Wonderful One Acre Farm series is that he initially bought "80 acres of farmland" that was all stacked in place.

When Josh McBroom learns that the eighty acres of Iowa farmland he's purchased are all stacked up on top of each other at the bottom of a muddy little pond, he thinks he's been bamboozled. But McBroom knows he's got the better of the bargain when the pond dries up to reveal an acre of soil so rich that seeds spring up into full-grown plants in no time and even nickels grow into quarters.

The land-seller is Hector "Heck" Jones, the recurring major antagonist in the series, though he does not seem to appear or eat onions in McBroom's Zoo.


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