The Conservationist's Kids

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

His service to the Conservation Department was more than just one man's occupation; it was a way of life for our entire family. As the conservationist's kids, our childhoods were enriched with a wealth of memories and lessons we will carry with us our entire lives.

One of my earliest memories is of taking a bath with my two older sisters, Lyn and Wendy. Bath time with three preschoolers can be rowdy in any family, but that night my father arrived home with a sack full of bullfrogs he had confiscated from some pre-season giggers. He emptied the frogs into the tub with us, and then stood back and laughed as the frogs croaked and leaped and we squealed and splashed and the bathroom became a slippery disaster area. My mother, Marilyn Wiedemann, should be nominated for sainthood.

Wild animals were a constant presence in our home. Often people would stop by our house with a cardboard box full of babies whose mother had been killed on the highway. My mother would cook up her special recipe of formula, and we would all take turns feeding the babies with an eyedropper. We learned not to handle them too much. We learned that when you hold something loosely it will settle comfortably in your hand, but when you grip too tightly it will struggle to get away. The rapid beating of their panicked little hearts filled us with wonder.

One of the heartbreaks of my childhood was trying to save 11 baby possums who still belonged in their mother's pouch. Dad told me they were too young to survive, but I set my alarm to wake every two hours through the night to feed them. When their little tails curled tightly around my fingers, I felt like a mother.

On the second night I could only manage every four hours, and by the third night I was so exhausted I knew I could not continue my vigil. The possums began to die the next day, one by one, and I grieved for each one. I learned early one of life's hardest lessons-sometimes you cannot do enough to avert disaster.

We liked to give names to our favorite animals, even though we weren't supposed to get attached. One time we named a baby squirrel L.S., which stood for Little Squirrel. As the squirrel grew, my younger sister, Mary-Jo, thought he needed a new name. She proposed B.S., for

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