Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Crazy for Animals

I've always been animal crazy.  Maybe it came from not being able to have a pet because of my sister's allergies (ironically, the first thing she did when she moved out into her own apartment was to get a dog!).  But I have loved animals and learning about them my whole life.

Blue Planet II started this week, the second series by David Attenborough about life in the sea and while aquatic animals are not my #1 love, I was hooked by the first episode.  Did you know that fish can use tools?

I was taught all through school that what sets humans apart from animals is our ability to use tools.  This has been disproven over and over again, as researchers start spending time observing animals in their natural habitat.  Even insects use tools, when it suits them.  But I'd never heard of fish using tools.

This is a fish who lives in a coral reef -- probably the Great Barrier Reef -- and who leaves the reef to go hunting for breakfast.  He digs in the sand until he finds a clam and then he takes it back to his "kitchen" (as it was described)

which is a circular coral enclosure, where he hits the clam against the walls until it finally cracks open and he can eat the clam inside.  I was fascinated.

But I love all the Nova specials, especially of the African animals.

I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade when my friend Stephen loaned me his copy of Walter Farley's "The Black Stallion."  I don't know if I was a horse fanatic before then but I certainly was after.

I got immediately lost in the story of young Alec Ramsey, shipwrecked on a deserted island with a wild Arabian stallion, whom he tames over time and eventually brings back home to Flushing, New York, where he trains him to run a match race, which he wins.  The horse can't be a regular racehorse because he tends to attack all the other horses.

I read all the Black Stallion books (there are lots) but I especially loved the Island Stallion series.

A kid named Steve something-or-other goes on an archaeological search with his uncle on a deserted Caribbean island.  They discover a series of tunnels which lead to the center of the island and there they find Flame and his mares.  Steve and the stallion become friends and while he doesn't take him home, I remember that he revisits the island in subsequent books.  I'm not too clear on the details here, but I loved that book as well.

The Farley books made me a horse lover and I devoured books by Dorothy Lyons, whose main characters were all young girls who tamed wild horses.  My favorite was "Dark Sunshine," about a girl recovering from polio, whose family moves to a ranch to help improve her health and the horse she finds.  I don't remember exactly what the story was now, but on Amazon it talks about how the two, girl and horse, heal each other.

I was a city girl in love with horses but unable to interact with them, except only briefly.  My mother belonged to a riding club with my grandmother for awhile and I remember visiting the stable once, but wasn't able to get on a horse.  I think I've ridden a horse once or twice in my life, when we vacationed in Boyes Springs, but they always plodded along and while I imagined myself galloping along, my hair flying in the breeze, feeling "one" with the horse, I was terrified if it even started to trot.

I got a chance to have a bit of a horse fix in Australia, where we stayed on a farm that had several horses on it.  This was about as close as I got to any of them, but I loved watching them from afar.

I was disappointed that none of my kids are animal crazy and none showed any interest in reading books about animals.  I had thought of giving my copy of "The Black Stallion" (Yes, I still have a copy!) to Brianna, since she's such a reader, but she is more into fantasy and princesses and I don't think it would interest her, and that would be a disappointment.

So I just subjugate my continuing love of animals with programs like Nova and watching the Triple Crown when racing season comes along...and watching reruns of The Black Stallion movie, which was on yesterday.

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