daughter has awoken to the wonders of nature. She is fascinated by all things
animal, great and small, and her maturing mind and spirit yearn to soak up the
very essence of what life is on our little planet. She's so exuberantly curious
that I've had a terrible time quashing it. |
I'm not a big fan of nature,
especially the parts that walk around. Except the couple of creatures we have
under control, I just get annoyed at nature, what with it always getting in my
trash, digging up my yard, and making me do an embarrassing little panic jig when
it comes slithering unexpectedly out of the wood pile.
But the kid wouldn't
listen to logic. She was going to learn about animals, and she was either going
get her info from me or from what she could pick up from older kids on the street.
Why couldn't she be one of those couch potato, fat kids who played video games
all day that I keep hearing about?
Daily, she peppers me with really
complex, insightful questions about animals and their behavior. Trying to make
the best out of a bad situation, I have spent an inordinate amount of time making
Her teacher is going to have a lot of work undoing the damage
I've done. Thus far, I've taught her buzzards constantly float around in circles
because they won't stop and ask for directions, the armadillo we saw snorting
around the yard was looking for his contact lens, coyotes are poodles with better
haircuts, squirrels are government spies, and all hedgehogs are Croatian.
I've tried to pepper in a few facts, but she sometimes has a problem handling
the truth. Sure, the animal kingdom is full of majestic, fascinating, integral
to the ecosystem, some even possibly sublime, creatures, but you want to stay
as far away from them as possible. And stop going outside to look for them; you're
letting the air conditioning out!
I blame Disney and their insidious
portrayals of animals. If you're ambling through the forest, minding your own
business, and come across an animal, it's not going to come up for a hug or some
frolicking. No, it's going to either bite, sting, scratch, gore, stomp, trample,
or in extreme instances, maul you.
But the daughter wouldn't be dissuaded.
She was getting her animal info fix even if it killed me. Figuring I was getting
dangerously close to the "legally bound to call CPS" trigger with all of my animal
disinformation, I started hunting actual facts.
was time to pray at the alter of the information age, the Internet. I searched
for "animals and their habits," and like everything I search for, I got 21 million
porno sites, a half dozen refinance your mortgage sites, and some guy named Ed's
personal home page dedicated to his cat "ZoŽ."
Having been let down again
by the most overrated technological advance since sliced bread (was society suddenly
thrust into modernity when we stopped wasting our valuable time cutting bread?)
I went back to the tools of my forefathers, something people back in the 1900's
would do in their primitive ways to learn about animals. We went to the zoo.
More to the point, we went to the Austin Zoo, and if there was ever a zoo
that clearly matched the city in which it was located, it's this one. Run by a
lot of well intentioned, yet tragically hip and ironic, latter day hippies, inhabited
exclusively by rescued animals with names like "Zeus," "Chico," and "Xerxes,"
and everyone, human and non-human alike, looking like they either had the munchies
or were on the verge of spontaneously staging a pro-bike-trail-for-the-whales-in-pre-war-Iraq
rally. It was all of the "Keep Austin Weird" aspects in an interestingly arranged,
Southwestern themed, 10 acres of hill country.
The daughter ate up the
actual face time with the animals, and some of the animals seem to like it too,
maybe too much. The cougars were a little too interested in my pre-schooler, staring
through the cage like a filet mignon just happened to walk up in a cute little
jumper. We made a quick retreat to the snow-cone stand.
But what really
got my attention were the Bengal tigers. Man, those things are huge, pre-stomach
stapling Al Roker, huge. More interesting was the little sign reporting that there
are more Bengal Tigers in Texas than in the wild in the rest of the world. Why
doesn't this surprise me?
don't know what it is about the Texan character, but in too many parts of the
state, the idiotic hobby of collecting exotic game animals as pets is admired,
especially in areas with low test scores and water quality judged poor.
Annually, you have to read the "child of idiot owner of tiger killed in inevitable
attack" story. It's the quote by the not distraught enough daddy that let's you
know the kid was doomed.
"Yeah, Simba, our Bengal Tiger, is great. We
squeezed him into a tiny cage, made him endure the relentless Texas heat, ignored
his natural stalking urges, and fed him generic dog food, but he was happy. I
could tell. Really, I could. I don't know why he bit Junior's head off. The kid
must have done something stupid like leave his room. Well, got to go chase the
missus down; we got business to do. Childrens, thems replaceable. Simba aint."
Further proof that never in the twain should meet our wild animal friends
was the Monkey Pox scare. The worst case in the states was when a woman gave her
3 year old an infected prairie dog and then the whole family was infected. Who
gives a 3 year old a prairie dog? I would loved to hear that concerned parental
"Okay, we give her a prairie dog at 3, a Wildebeest at
4, and then at 5, move down to Texas and she can have a Bengal Tiger until it
eats her head. Nothing says love like a wild beast attack."
daughter is never going to have a pet more exotic than a dog so domesticated it's
cross-eyed, she can still explore the animal world from a safe distance. Like
beside me on the couch. I figure what you can't learn about nature from "Bambi"
really doesn't need to be known.