Friday, December 05, 2008

No photos, just memories.

Today on the drive home from work I listened to NPR. Two scientists were being interviewed and while I couldn't entirely grasp why they studied the distance an ant steps, what did catch my attention was the story of one scientist talking about a photo when he was 9 of him outside holding a butterfly net and looking into it. The other scientist had a very similar story about a similar photo at near the same age. They grew up almost a world apart and met one another and began doing research together.

Their stories got me to thinking--what was my earliest memory of being outside with animals? I remember being six living in Lubbock, Texas and playing with big red ants. I would play with them alone, mastering my technique of picking them up one at a time, without being bitten. It was huge competition between the other kids in the neighborhood of who could pick up ants and not get bitten. Apparently the honor of winning was huge to get me to practice as often as I did.

I then remembered being nine and being with my friends and climbing up ivy that grew on the side of a neighbors house and taking a nestling sparrow home to raise. I thought it fascinating holding a real live bird and one so tiny was miraculous. I remember the smell of the ivy and thinking of how thick the woody stems were and how they could hold my body as I climbed without breaking. I remember hearing the adult sparrows giving what I know now their distress calls. I remember hearing the nestlings cheeps as their parents sounded the alarm. I also vividly remember my mom telling me to go put the baby back, and I did. But that didn't stop my finding critters.

During that same time frame we lived in San Angelo, Texas and apparently horney-toads were abundant. (For those not versed in the Texan vernacular, 'horney-toads' aka horned lizards are small lizards that have virtually disappeared from the landscape because of the prevalence of residential pesticide use.) I remember collecting a coffee can full of horney toads of all sizes. I had been in my mom and dad's room, laying on their bed playing with them. As happens, I lost interest and went outside to play with my friends. I was across the street and two doors down when I heard my mom scream. I knew immediately what it was all about and raced home to collect the now free roaming reptiles. I still remember my mom finding me to rescue a rogue lizard and take him outside when she vacuumed inside.

I do have other vivid memories growing up but I wanted to remember my very first critter encounters. So that would explain why I do what I do today.... and love.


Leslie said...

Oh, I loved that story, and the photo made my eyes well up.

I lived in New Mexico from the age of 5 to 15, and we caught horney toads too. They weren't as common as lizards though. I caught lots of those as a kid.

I love what you do too.

DJ said...

That's a great story! I love to hear animal stories. Wonderful picture too, it makes me smile. As an animal lover, I really envy and appreciate the work you do with animals.

HeArt Collective said...

great story robin~
it makes me think of my little lexee and how she always says she's going to be an animal saver when she grows up... not just a vet, but someone who protects and rescues animals as well as making them better. this summer a little bird got confused after he left the feeder out on our big deck and flew into the houses. she calmly talked to the little thing until it flew downstairs and landed just behind a picture. she kept talking to him so sweetly and then she touched his tail carefully, then she told him she was going to pick him up and she did. firmly but gently she pulled the cobwebs from his feathers and cooed at him the whole time she was carrying him back outside. she set him on the little table with the feeder and he just sat there looking at her. she told him to go fly home and he just flew to the handrail of the deck and then off to the nearby oak tree. i hope she always remembers that, i know i will.

thanks for sharing what you do with us...

big love!