Remembering

When I was a kid living in L.A. one of the great happenings in my life was when my uncle would come home from the service. He would regale me with tales of his adventures in India during the war. I particularly remember him taking me to the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. I didn’t get to go there very often, but I loved it when I did. We would walk around the African dioramas and I would marvel at the animals and the places depicted. The leopard display was among my favorites. It was set at night and the display was dark. As I walked up there were the bright, shining eyes of the leopard getting ready to leap out of the case from a tree limb.

The dioramas of early California were among my favorites. I especially remember one that showed vaqueros roping a grizzly bear. We would walk through the displays of shrunken heads from Borneo and the mummies from Egypt. Then there were the cases of bones from the La Brea tar pits. Saber-toothed cats with their long, sickle-shaped incisors (of course I didn’t call them incisors back then). The skeletons of mastodons, ground sloths and dire wolves all feature large in my memories of the museum.

In later years, as a biology student, I went back to the museum, but I entered through the staff door. I had become acquainted with the herpetologist on staff there and was bringing him some lizards that I had collected in Mexico for identification. After our meeting, I spent some time wandering in the museum like I had done as a child. There, in the Africa room, was the leopard – still getting ready to leap out of the dark from that tree limb.

3 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. Have you decided if your passion for science started with those museum visits? Taking your grandchildren this summer on a grand tour of ancient ruins, and being able to share your knowledge, just might stimulate another family scientist !

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    1. Mercy when I look back now I realize that my being a biologist was foreordained. All of the kinds of stuff that I love about biology were things that fascinated me as a kid. I was an avid hunter/fisher in my early teens and wanted to get my hands on every sort of creature to see what it “really” looked like. By the time I was about 13 I ha d found and studied a book about reptiles (probably a Peterson Field Guide precursor) and my remembering from it is what got me my first gig as an undergrad biologist. My oldest granddaughter seems to be STEM inclined and is way precocious. My oldest grandson is fascinated by ants and other insects (unfortunately also by guns and knives) and I have set him up with a small lab in our house where he can examine and identify critters – much like a “real” scientist.

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  2. Jerry had that same early interest. I remember him smiling at my shock as a snake slithered out of the pocket of his Cub Scout uniform. Then there was the time he chased me through the house with a puffing chuckwalla…..or when he came home to find our mother standing on the sofa with a broom because his large black snake was loose. I’ll bet your sister has stories to tell too.
    Their very own lab…lucky kids. It’s grand that you earned your living as a biologist.

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