The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
This week I began work on a new book.
It will be called “Chester’s Wild Life” and detail my most memorable wildlife encounters from childhood until publication time.
While looking back at my note I came across something I had written but forgotten about but really gets to the heart of what the book would be about.
Back in 2002, my wife Lisa and I taught kids how to identify animal tracks at the Texas Wildlife Expo in Austin.
Hundreds of kids came through our booth that day and took a shot at guessing what the six plaster cast animal tracks we had were. The casts were red wolf, cougar, raccoon, bobcat, alligator and an otter.
The first kid of the morning pointed at the bobcat track and said it was a bear. I explained to him that a bear’s track, even a baby one, is much larger and shows claws.
“Maybe it had its claws clipped.”
Probably 200 kids correctly identified the raccoon track. Some of them had seen them crossing the road, in the garbage can or at a zoo. One kid said he had a raccoon in his front yard.
When I asked if it was his pet he said, “No, my dog ate it this morning.”
His mom blushed and took him on to another booth.
Kids directed the most interesting comments at the alligator track, which is about 10 inches long. Many kids guessed that it was a bear track. That is understandable considering it is long and has claws.
I nearly had to bite a hole in my lip to stop from laughing when a little girl said it was a chicken track. To make matters worse, her mom walked up and said the same thing before I could correct her.
I quickly explained it was an alligator track and said if I ran into a chicken that big I would have to call in the military for back up.
Before the day was over, I had three more kids guess that a chicken made that track. One guessed it was an owl; two said duck and one said an elephant made it.
It was heartwarming to see the children’s reaction to the animal tracks.
It was as if we opened an entirely new world to them and they loved every minute of it.
Lisa and I left knowing that we had sparked some children’s interest in wildlife.
Besides showing the kids how to identify tracks, we also gave a track casting demonstration and sent the parents and kids home with sheets that gave instructions on plaster casting.
That is a hobby even poor kids in the city can take part in. It may not be hunting or fishing, but any interest in wildlife is better than an interest in drugs or alcohol, for example.
Throughout my career, I have tried to reach children at every opportunity and I have made myself a promise I will do even more in the future.
If everyone who loves the outdoors would sacrifice a little time to help mentor some kids on behalf of the great outdoors, there is no telling what kind of impact we could make.
Look at it this way; if we don’t get their attention, there are plenty of other influences that would love the opportunity.
The kids truly deserve better than that.
I look forward to putting this book together and my share a few stories on these pages as it comes together. I have been extremely blessed with opportunities to encounter the creatures that have been such an important a part of my life since first saw them on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a kid.
It will be fun to look back and inspiring to look ahead at a future filled with even more encounters.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 and watch his online series at www.Godsoutdoors.com . Follow him on Twitter @flexfsihing.com.)