It was a sad day. The power company said our precious, over 150-year-old sugar maple was dying, and they cut it down. In the three weeks since, my husband has been working to cut up the wood, for us to burn next winter. But, as with many things in life, there has been a good side to this. The power company was right that the tree was dangerous. Its core was rotten. So they saved us from a possible wind storm disaster.
Also, now that its trunk has been cut into chunks, the birds have come. We’ve had three kinds of woodpeckers–a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a hairy woodpecker, and a pileated woodpecker. The pileated bird, over a foot long and with a flaming red crest is the king of them all. This was only the third time I’ve ever seen one. And he was gorgeous! Neil even heard his cry, made while the bird flew overhead. It sounded loud and commanding, like he owned the sky.
My books focus on a topic youngsters love—animals, both wild and domesticated. And my presentations not only get kids thinking. They also get them doing. Besides offering a short slide show, most programs include hands-on activities like role-playing, skits, and dressing up—complete with props. One even has teams of students competing in a “Family Feud” style quiz. All activities connect to the Common Core. And I’ve presented to every grade from pre-K to Adult Education, in groups large and small. So please, get in touch, because I’d love to speak to YOUR group next.
Most people have a favorite animal. For Dorothy Richards, of Dolgeville, New York, it was beavers. Richards was born in 1895, when trappers had killed so many of the furry rodents to make men’s hats that the animals were almost extinct in New York State. They were still rare after she grew up and married, so she asked the state’s Conservation Department to release a pair on her land. They did, and Dorothy became the “Jane Goodall” of beavers.
Untrained and acting purely on instinct, she began sitting by the beaver pond every night, until she had the animals eating apples out of her hand. Then she asked her husband, Al, to add a beaver “spa” to their house. Al did, ingeniously building a cathedral-ceilinged pool area that connected to the outdoors. The beavers were free to swim in and out at will. Above the pool, a wall of windows transformed the couples’ living room into a viewing gallery.
Now Dorothy could observe and study beavers year-round, which she did, greatly expanding our knowledge of the critters. And her beaver family grew. Sometimes as many as seven shared her home. As a kid, I went to see her. What a thrill! Beavers swam in her cellar, snuggled in her bed, and ate from a chair at her kitchen table.
Dorothy Richards and her beavers became the subject of my first published animal story, way back in 1994. Since then, I have interviewed hundreds of animal lovers–both experts and non-professionals. I’ve also clipped and filed countless news accounts. In the process, I’ve discovered some amazing stories and plan to share some of the best with you. Hope you enjoy them.