My daughter, Wyokiddo, turned 3 a few days ago, and we celebrated by hosting a party for family and a few friends. Wyokiddo loved seeing her grandparents, and especially loved showing everyone around our new house and the bird farm.
As everyone was checking out the pheasant chicks, my nephew (14) approached me and asked if I knew how to catch a frog. He and his brother (12) had found a toad in the weeds and wanted to catch it to look at it closer, but didn’t know how, or if it was even allowed.
Sure enough, they’d found one of the thousand Woodhouse toads we have around here. I scooped him up in my hands and explained that he was a toad, not a frog. Wyokiddo and the boys examined the toad in my hands, touched it’s skin and then watched as I released him and he hopped away.
Thinking about that moment later, I felt both a little sad and incredibly blessed. I was sad because my nephews didn’t grow up in a place where they could spend summer days catching toads or frogs or salamanders or turtles and learning more about the natural world around them. And I felt blessed knowing Wyokiddo could.
My husband is a mid-level civil servant. We live in a house owned by the state and take care of wildlife that belongs to the citizens of Wyoming. We’ll never be rich and famous, we’ll never own houses on both coasts and when we finally save up enough money for a boat, it will be a used boat.
But we are rich in other ways, one being that Wyokiddo will grow up living a toad catching kind of life. She’ll know that toads have rough, bumpy skin and don’t need to live in water. And that toads are easier to catch than frogs. And that snakes aren’t slimy and what a Meadowlark’s song sounds like. We are blessed because she will learn all this from her own experiences running barefoot across the country, not in a book or second-hand.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with growing up in a city. I have wonderful memories of ice-cream cones from the DQ and amusement parks in the summer. But my favorite times growing up were spent on the back of a horse exploring the wide-open spaces and the other critters who shared them. There is something special about growing up with room to breathe and the ability to explore wild places and wild things. It’s one thing to learn about grassland ecosystems in a textbook. But that’s not near as exciting as sitting on a rise watching a prairie dog colony talk back and forth or seeing a tom turkey strut and display for his hens.
“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
I am grateful for our family to be living a toad catching kind of life.