My Animal Whisperer
I started writing a children’s book several years ago. I’m not sure where it’s going, or if it’s going. It starting heading in a direction different from what I planned so I put it away. I wanted a short, simple story for young children and it was becoming quite lengthy. Imagine that! I will revisit it another time. It is based on a lesson my second oldest son, Jesse, Jess, (or Jet, as he goes by now), taught me many years ago. I think that as children our world is pretty big. We are open to most anything. We question everything. But as we “mature” into adults, our vision becomes more narrow and focused on life at hand. We forget important things. Our own children can actually help us find our inner child again. All we have to do is listen.
Here is my Life Lesson #122.
Many years ago, our family went to a property we owned to have a picnic and explore the 80 acres of nothing-but-nature. We had an adventurous time around the creek and in the woods and fields. When it came time to have our picnic, we squashed down a spot in a tall, grassy area so we could sit on the ground. As we were eating, Jesse, who was about 14 at the time, spotted the grass moving very near to where we were sitting. Without hesitation, he went right over and picked up a black rat snake. I may have screamed. Juss sayin’. He thought it was the neatest thing ever and begged that we let him take it home. Of course, I had to say no. He was so disappointed. But I didn’t squelch his love for reptiles. He diligently studied reptile books and watched his favorite hero, Steve Irwin a.k.a. The Crocodile Hunter. He memorized the species, the family, the genus, and the kingdom of all these animals. And then he began to teach me. The more I learned, the more comfortable I became. Ignorance is not bliss. It makes you scared of things that you shouldn’t be afraid of. Turn the fear into respect and you can handle things much better. Turn ignorance into knowledge and you become wiser. It’s that easy.
So during his studies, he began to collect reptiles and I was finally okay with it. He started out small and it eventually grew into a 7’ boa constrictor. He loved going to the reptile shows and always came home with something new. At one point we had approximately 36 snakes in the house. Yes, in my house. That didn’t include the tortoises, iguana, bearded dragon, turtles, hissing cockroaches, scorpions, tarantulas, and other creatures that I know I am forgetting. Some snakes were so strong that bricks were added to the lids of the aquariums to keep them from getting out. But still we would have an occasional escape artist. Eventually, we’d find them all safe and sound and maybe even prettier with a newly shed body. We’d find the shed skin too hidden in a dark place. Once a wild-caught black rat snake, unfortunately, found his way into the furnace which is not a safe place for snake hiding.
Jess didn’t have the heart to feed live rodents to the snakes so he would mail order frozen pinkies (baby mice) and rats. One day I reached into the freezer and grabbed what I thought were chicken breasts. Nope, it was a bag of frozen rats. That’s when the animal food moved out to the freezer in the garage. I will confess that I loved to tell other moms this story so I could watch them freak out. Sorry. Not sorry.
Other things Jess did would make you gasp. I once took a picture of him lying on the floor with a tarantula sitting on his face. Another time he collected a huge amount of what I call “banana” spiders from our grassy field and put them in an aquarium. Then he’d put his arm inside the aquarium and they would crawl over him. He was what I called “The Animal Whisperer”. He has a special way with animals. It doesn’t matter what species. Just all animals.
Jess loved snapping turtles. He always seemed to have one. And not always little ones either. One day I walked into the house and saw that he and a rather large snapping turtle, ON HIS LAP, were sleeping together in the recliner. Jet has a genuine peace about him, therefore animals find peace in him. I know I’m getting off track but I’ll share one more animal story. Once we had a pregnant cow named Colleen. Jess was about twelve at the time. He would come into the house and give me updates on when she would calve. A couple of weeks, a week, a few days…he kept a close eye on her. Without any training, he just knew. Then one day he came in to share the good news of the birth of the new calf only to explain further that he had to help her by reaching inside, turning the calf, and then pulling it because it was stuck. What?! Yes, he did. Twelve years old. My Animal Whisperer.
Back to the reptiles…
As a homeschooling family, my son’s fame for having all these snakes and critters, spread through the homeschooling community rather quickly. While he got all the ooooo’s and ahhhh’s from his peers, I got all the “how’s?” and the “whys?” and “are you crazy?” from the moms. One day, he thought it would be cool to have his own little reptile show. And so he did.
We would visit different homeschooling groups. He’d gather all his animals into plastic tubs to transport and dress in his reptile guy attire. He’d stand before all the children gathered there and teach them about each of his reptiles. Sometimes the children squirmed and let out little squeals as he pulled an animal out from one of those tubs. He’d answer their many questions and they’d listen intently to his answers. Jess was so patient with the children. As his mom, watching from the sideline, I was so proud of him. (He doesn’t know this but I would often have teary eyes. Silly me.) When he was done talking about the animal, I would take it around so the kids could see it up close and touch it if they chose to. My oldest son, Nathan, would film each event. The homeschooling kids began to call him Jungle Jet, which was pretty cool. It was a family affair of sorts and I am so glad I was a part of it. It never would have happened had I not been willing to listen and learn from him. It was a great experience for us all.
Not only did Jess teach me about snakes, other reptiles, and spiders, and…cows, he taught about the balance in nature and that everything has a purpose. That’s the lesson in my children’s book that I am writing, or not writing. Jesse didn’t realize he was teaching me such important lessons. He just shared what he loved with me and I listened. This was just his youthful view of life. Oh, I knew all about the balance of nature, and such. But Jesse made it real.
Listen to your children. Let them bring the “real” back into your life.
Here is a poem I wrote for my children’s book. The story is based on a spider.
“Every Life Has Purpose”
Every life has purpose,
Though we may not always see,
The importance of the creature,
Or why he came to be.
But truly there is a reason,
Why together this earth we share,
We give our planet balance,
For other creatures we should care.
As enormous as the elephant,
Or powerful as the grizzly bear,
The beauty of a dragonfly,
And a graceful eagle in the air.
Scary creatures roam our earth,
And pesky little rodents too,
Although there seems no need for them,
They balance our planet for me and you.
So remember when you see a spider,
He has value and he has worth,
Cause he’s a master at what he does,
And he has purpose upon our earth.
Therefore, embrace the very reason,
Why together this earth we share,
The importance of the balance, and
For other creatures we should care.
Jet is all grown up now at 35 years old. Thankfully, he has kept his youthful vision. And I still watch him from the sidelines in awe of the beautiful person he is and at the love he still holds dear for all God’s creatures. Humans included.
Was it really that long ago when he had an animal kingdom in my house? I surely do miss those days.
Thank you, my son. You make things real for me. I love you.
And thank you, my readers, for stopping by today and sharing some of your sheltering-in-place time with me. Coffee is on as always. ♥️