Along For the Ride

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

How much value do you put on what you value?

My best friend when I was young was my grandmother.I always admired her because she believed in things with her whole heart.  She participated in life.  One particular event really demonstrated how deeply she felt about herself as it related to the world around her.

She had a very dear friend who had become a geologist by trade, but he traveled the world working on habitats where oil and other natural resources were being changed, drilled, researched, etc.  He loved his work.  It was his job to make sure the impact of the projects did the least amount of damage to the nature around it.  His passion for rocks and nature always surprised anyone who ever listened to him.  This job led to a passion of his.  His collection of strange and exotic animals.  No tigers or monkeys.  No.  This man collected tortoises, tree frogs, lizards, and such.

He had retired to a modest area of Midland, Texas.  His backyard was a wonderland for children of all ages.  Turtles from all over the world lived freely in his backyard along with several species of tree frogs and lizards.  The flowers and plants in his yard all came from the different habitats he had encountered along the way.  He had a thriving ecosystem right in his own backyard.  His granddaughter and I spent a lot of time catching different turtles and naming them.  It was wonderful learning about all the different kinds of turtles too.  All the lizards were small.  Nothing bigger than could fit in your hand.  The frogs were also varied in size and sound for sure.

Our family had moved to Midland briefly and the family grandmother knew lived just down the street from us.

My grandmother continued to write her friend.  Even after we moved back into the Dallas area their friendship continue.  A pure friendship developed over a love for animals and good campfire food.  Grandmother was always giving him new dishes to try on his campsite adventures. The man died and left instructions for my grandmother to manage the collection of animals in his backyard.

 Grandmother had spent several months making all the arrangements to make sure each and every critter involved was placed in a rescue center for that animal and were protected, transferred, and relocated. All this had to be done before the sale of the  Midland property.  Our trip to the lake that day was to celebrate the conclusion of what all she had accomplished.  The last of the zoos and veterinarians involved had been completed paperwork on Thursday.  It was Friday night, and we were at our favorite campground.

It seemed like it was going to be a very lazy weekend.  Everyone had picked their favorite spot on the huge quilt Grandmother had laid out.  The big iron pot was sending the smells of homemade chili throughout the campsite.  Daddy did not get on the ground but sat on one of the long benches at the picnic table. We could hear someone’s transistor radio playing some soft guitar music over on one of the other lots.  It was wonderful.  Our cabin was where we would sleep, but for now, it was quiet time.

“Look, look at all of them.  A little girl who had come bounding in from another one of the campsites seemed to be following a group of some small creatures hopping together towards and then up onto the quilt we occupied.  It seemed to be a small group of about five tree frogs.  They were tiny with buggy eyes.

We all jumped up.  The little girl was trying to catch one to kiss it.  She was looking for a prince.  Then a man came stomping over to our blanket and snatched up the little girl.  She dropped her frog and screamed.  Grandmother got up immediately and faced the man.  My father had also stood up.  My mother let out a quick scream and joined Daddy.  Grandmother stood four feet eleven inches tall.  She came to just above the man’s belt.  She looked up at him with fists at her side and shouted, “Put her down. Now.”

The man tries to grab the frog and drops the little girl, so she lands between them at their feet.  She cries in pain and Grandmother slapped the man right in the face.  “What are you doing?”

“I don’t care about the brat; I want that frog.  It is worth a fortune.”That answer got him slapped again.

“Hey, Lady.  I said I don’t care about the kid.”  He then tried to sidestep my grandmother so he could snatch the other four frogs. He had a cotton bag in his pocket.  He slipped the one frog inside and went for the others.  She got in his way.

Grandmother looked at the frogs and realized they were indeed part of an endangered species group.  “I will take these if you do not mind.”  She gathered the frogs and snatched some water and plants.  She secured them away and out of reach of the now very angry man.

She signaled for my Daddy to take over watching the man.  “I am placing you under citizen’s arrest for the poaching of an endangered species.  I will be right back.  If you leave, you will be perused.”

“I am not going to hurt the things.  I just want to make some money for returning them.”  He was trying, he thought, to reason with the short little redhead.  Grandmother started to head to the main office of the camp and then decided to handle it all differently.  She wrote a note and ask for my mother to deliver it to the sheriff’s office.  Then she pushed the man very politely over to the picnic table.

“Sir.  While we are waiting for the sheriff to get here.  I am going to tell you a story.  If you will open your mind a bit and just listen, we get something accomplished today.  I could just have you arrested but that would not teach you anything.  So, you just sit there and listen.”

“You, sir seem to be a big fan of “being only along for the ride.”  I am going to tell you what can happen when you do just that.”

A very dear friend of mine named Wish was a veterinarian who did a lot of research on the habitats of rare and exotic species.  She worked with sanctuaries to help rescue those that were in trouble or endangered.  It was during one of their rescue missions that she and her husband, also a dear friend of mine got home with the first of what would turn into one of the most unusual collections anyone has seen in a long time.

This is their story, not mine.  I am going to have to refer to her diaries to make sure I am accurate.

“Listen, lady, I am out of here.  I don’t need to listen to some sob story.  I got things to do.”  He started to get up and instantly regretted challenging my grandmother.

I knew when she casually walked over and pulled that long switch off that bush.  He was twirling it and walking while she was talking to him.  She was close enough for him to be able to smell her a hint of the White Shoulder fragrance she always wore.  Yet, she was not close enough for him to touch.  When he started to get up.  The switch was faster….

In shock, the man turned his back to us and rubbed between his legs as if the circulation had been stopped for a second.  We sympathized.  We had been on the other end of the switch before too.  The man was in total shock.  He sat down and just stared back up at her.

“Sir, I do not know if you are just mean or mean and greedy.”  She glanced at him to see if she would get some sort of sign that understood the statement.

I can understand those who are ruled by the need for money no matter what sacrifices are made by others.  You are ready to scheme for what you desire to acquire.

“Everyone wants stuff.  It is part of being human.”  He was attempting to justify his actions. He started to speak again and stopped.

Grandmother put her hand up with the palms facing him.  "Every creature on this earth has a desire to acquire.  It is part of what we all need to survive.  How we accomplish it is what makes the difference.  A man who is lazy, will steal what he wants, or make others deliver it to him through fear.  The problem with that is there is never enough to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for more.  The desire to acquire knowledge is a wonderfully practiced hobby.  Learning about the world around you brings more of it to you… even if you are a bit lazy.  The desire to acquire companionship keeps us multiplying the species and expanding our universe.  The desire to acquire peace is something that depends on how you go after the other things you desire.  The desire for food is self-explanatory.  Man is the one animal that kills for sport as well as for food."

 

Grandmother stopped talking for a minute and observed her captive audience.  Other people in the campground had started to gather as she continued her talk.

"You sir need to listen because you are showing up here today proves to me that you need to change your point of view.  If I had not spent the last three months setting up and taking care of endangered tree frogs, lizards, and turtles I would not be so upset right now."

The man’s mouth flew open.  He cocked his head.  When he glanced at my parents and then back at my sister and me, he knew.  She was telling the truth.  Suddenly, he settled back on his bench.  He cupped his chin into the palms of his hands and was ready to listen.

The man I was telling you about with the veterinarian-wife was once lost in the woods when he was just a toddler.  For twenty-four hours no one could find him.  The search party was about to give up when one of them heard the scream of a tree frog.  Everyone looked surprised when Grandmother said that.  But it is true there was one such tree frog that had made a screaming noise that sounded like a baby’s cry just as the search party went by.  The cry was to send out an alert.  The two lizards, four turtles, and a whole nest of tree frogs surrounded that little boy.  They had saved his life.  The shock came when the hunting party thought they were going to harm the child and killed them all.  He never got over seeing all his would-be heroes all dead.

That is what he did for a living.  He was a well know geologist but also an expert environmentalist.  He met his wife at a rescue center on the Cozumel Islands.  They fell in love.  They were on their honeymoon when the announcement that all reservations had been canceled because a hurricane was on its way.

They hurriedly packed their suitcases and left.  They were onboard a large ship when the hurricane winds hit full force.  The ship released the lifeboats with the people in them.  They ended up finally getting home several days later.

This is the way she puts it in her recorded diary.  I’ll just let her tell you.

“I had spent the last few hours trying to get back home and now that I am here all I can think about is getting some sleep.  Next time I decide to go to an island, I will double-check the direction of any hurricanes in the area.

Granted it was not a big one, but it was bad enough for me.  I see my sweet husband has the luggage unloaded.  I will check with our ranch manager tomorrow.  I am just too tired today.

"It sure feels good to be safe back here in the states."

"You and me both, Sweetheart.  It took us two weeks to pack when we were going to Cozumel and ten minutes to pack to come back home.  George, I love you very much but next time...  oh, forget it.  I will never blame you for the weather."

"Mrs. Bone., I am going to go down and check with the clinic personnel to make sure Randy can handle everything until tomorrow."

"Okay, George, I am going to take a bath and then take a nap.  You can join me or wait till I get up."  The peck on his cheek was the only reward he was going to get for a while.  Now, on to the tub.

Thump, thump. "What in the world.  There is something in my suitcase."  I better grab a towel just in case it wants to hurt me.  "Oh my God, where did you come from?"  My mind is whirling.  We were at the rescue center just before we got word that we needed to evacuate with the other vets going back to the states.  "You are a pigmy raccoon.  How?"  This one has me stumped.  I had all those clothes and things piled in the corner when the big surge came through the center.  I threw the whole pile into my suitcase and shut it.  "You must have been inside, hiding."

"That is right, little one.  There is no reason to be afraid.  I am not going to hurt you."  I am just going to stroke him a little.  "That noise, you make is so shrill.  My ears."  Well, well.  You know what that is, don't you?  I am talking to myself so I can reason all this out.  "Did you have a friend in hiding with you?"  I am going to look in here again.  "A piglet?"  George is not going to believe this one.  It is not a piglet at all it is a baby javelina.  I like that name better than musk hog or collared peccary. 

"Now you have water, food, and a soft place to hide."  What in the world is a pigmy raccoon doing hiding with a tiny piglet?  You are surely watching me.  "See, I am being nice to both of you."

"Jane, Jane.  Wait till you see this."  I have to keep him from busting into the room.  He will scare my little guests.

"George, please, quietly.  Please.  I have a surprise for you."  Good, he sees me.  I have my finger in front of my lips.  "Shoo, Shoo."

George has something bundled up in towels.  I figure he wants to take the laundry...

"George?"  Where did you get her?”

“She is so sweet.  A baby Jerboa.  Look at those ears.  And those tiny front feet.  OH, we gotta take all these to the authorities and make sure everyone is placed in a rescue.

“Darling, do you remember when we promised we would do all we could to ensure nothing would stop our little sanctuary for little critters, like these.  Please tell me these very special babies are going to be first of many.”

“Mrs. George Wishbone, I always keep my promises.  It looks like we have our first sanctuary guests have come along for the ride.”

Grandmother turned off the tape.  We all sat in silence as the man digested what he had learned.  He hung his head down. 

“Mister.  Please do not continue in this quest to make a profit off the lives of another creature or person.  It will never be enough, and it teaches stagnation instead of growth.

The sheriff and mother showed up around that time.  The man held his hand up when he asked who needed to be arrested.  He grinned at my grandmother as he allowed himself to be handcuffed.

He winked at her and said, "Thanks for reminding me that I am a human being first.  You are something else, really something else."

“The police read him his rights and took grandmother’s statement about what had happened.  The frogs were rescued and taken to the proper sanctuary.

Grandmother taught me as much about life by what she demonstrated about what she believed as she did by what she said about it.  My participation is far more important than just going along for the ride.

We got a letter from the last sanctuary a few months later.  It was from a man who simply said. Thanks for taking me along for the ride.  I have learned more about the world around me while doing volunteer work here than I have ever done in my life.  He had also become an excellent painter of all things endangered. 


Submitted: September 23, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Texasjane. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Grey-Nomad123

This story contains all the elements of a rollicking good read. Action, lessons, great characters, (don't mess with Grandma!). Thank you Jane another slice of life in your world......fact and fiction interwoven? Wonderful little read to start or end each day. Arohanui.

Thu, September 23rd, 2021 7:45pm

Grey-Nomad123

This story contains all the elements of a rollicking good read. Action, lessons, great characters, (don't mess with Grandma!). Thank you Jane another slice of life in your world......fact and fiction interwoven? Wonderful little read to start or end each day. Arohanui.

Thu, September 23rd, 2021 7:45pm

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Thank you so much. I was not sure of this one because I thought it might get lost in all the elements. Grandmother said if she had just had the man arrested he would not have learned anything. She taught me to never let an opportunity to teach escape without at least one little dance with a humble heart. When you shout no one listens. When you whisper... they all strain to hear. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support.

Thu, September 23rd, 2021 2:26pm

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