Growing up, my love for animals wasn't just for stray pets like cats and dogs. Oh no, my fascination with all living things expanded far beyond the ordinary and I spent a lot of time outdoors studying nature. If it crawled, hopped, flew, or otherwise moved I was interested in it.
Hot summer days now remind me of Mother's wash days. Whether she was using the old ringer washer and scrub board or the washing machine she finally got when I was much older, Mother never had a dryer in the house. She would carry the wet clothes out back and hang them on the line. I don't know if it was the fact the clothes were wet or if it was all that flapping in the wind, but you could always count on dozens of dragonflies to make a stop on the clothesline...dancing in the hot summer sun along with the clothes as they dried. I was mesmerized by those creatures and would spend many an afternoon trying to sneak up on one so I could examine their dainty, translucent wings as they fluttered in the breeze.
I like to think it's the Cherokee blood in me that connects with nature but I've always hated to see any harm come to one of God's creatures. Even things like going fishing bothered me. While I enjoyed the actual fishing part, I never had the heart to be the one to send a worm to its watery demise. Either my parents or my brother had to load the hook and cast the line before I could be tempted to hold the pole.
But one Saturday afternoon, I took my love for all creatures great and small to a whole new level...
I was in elementary school at the time and every Saturday we would gather around the television to watch westerns like Bonanza and Rawhide. It was during one of those shows when a small cricket managed to get into our house and make it's way into the living room where I lay on the floor watching TV.
I don't remember who heard the chirping sound first but all I wanted was to capture the little guy and put him back outside. My brother, on the other hand, decided he was going to do what most boys his age would have done and hunt the cricket down like prey. Before I could stop him, David had killed it and I was devastated. I cried my little heart out and begged my mother to allow me to have a burial service for the cricket. Not only did she say yes, she found a matchbox to bury him in and made us kids go outside in the middle of the shows so I could have a proper funeral for him.
I'm sure my brother wasn't too happy about missing his westerns, but you can bet he never tried to kill another critter that managed to get into the house as long as I was around!