Kids And The Outdoors
I was a persistent child growing up. Many kids are including my own. Without hesitation I would ask my mom to take me in to Wingate’s Meat Market in Orange every single time we passed by there.
And about once a month, she would relent.
It was not because at six years old, I loved their cuts of meat so much but because the owner Nick Wingate had an amazing taxidermy collection featuring mainly giant fish he had caught in the Gulf of Mexico. There was a hammerhead shark, tiger shark, grouper and a huge alligator fish along with a big buck that had been killed in Orange County. All of this blew my mind and allowed me to visualize things I wanted to do in the future. Looking back I wonder how many other kids had a mom that would believe in them this way.
Chester has been sharing his outdoor experience with children for more than 20 years.
There was also a furniture store located in West Orange that had a mountain lion in a full body mount. This cat was mounted on a pole in the center and was featured in a jumping position. I had never seen a full body cougar mount and for a kid who was already into these great cats it became more fuel for my imagination.
Living in Orange we would go to nearby Port Arthur or Beaumont about once every two weeks. I remember visiting the K-Mart in off Twin City in Port Arthur and while driving by seeing a full body standing brown bear and polar bear in a car dealership across the street.
Once again being persistent, I begged my mom to take me in and was stunned at how big those bears were. I remember the gentlemen inside getting a kick out of a kid
who wanted to come in just to see the bears.
My first memory is the kids that lived next door bringing over a big cottonmouth they killed in the brushy field next to our home.
The next thing I can remember is sitting with my dad on the docks at the Port of Orange catching croaker and black drum.
After that it is watching my Dad catch a seven foot long alligator garfish at one of our roadside fishing holes. We aptly named the armored beast “Moby” and although it was not a white whale the pursuit of such creatures would lead me onto a number of Ahab type adventures throughout my life.
As far back as I can remember I have been obsessed with wildlife. Whether it was big, tall, great or small it has piqued my interest at some point or other and led to an incredibly fulfilling, adventurous and unique life. Truly unique and as I work with kids in various settings I try to fan the flames of wildlife passion in their lives.
I was born in 1973 so my formative years were in the 70s and early 80s when things were much simpler than they are now. Most of us only had three television channels to choose from, there was no Internet and you had to go an arcade to play a video game. For those of you a decade or so younger than me, it might seem as if I am describing ancient times but this was the reality just a little over 30 years ago.
This was important because I spent a lot of time alone and with my parents and at a very early age my mother would read to me. She would do this every single day and by the time I was in kindergarten I was reading probably a second grade level.
Dad would constantly have copies of Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and other hunting and fishing magazines around and those become my books of choice. As soon as I picked up a love for reading about wildlife, my parents started buying me books on wildlife. I had two favorites.
One was from the classic Golden Books and was simply called Reptiles & Amphibians. The other was one we order from the Time Life series on television called Dangerous Sea Creatures. I would read the texts over and over again and start at the photos imagining myself encountering king cobras, saltwater crocodiles and going down in a shark cage like ocean explorer extraordinaire Jacque Cousteau.
During these years you could take a class full of first graders and ask them what they wanted to me when they grew up and at least half would say marine biologist or ocean explorer. Cousteau who had invented scuba technology had frequent television specials at a time when as mentioned earlier there were only three channels. Children around the world were captivated by his exploits and that definitely included me.
Another major influence
was a program that came on every Sunday evening called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. It was hosted by an eloquent gentleman named Marlin Perkins and his younger, more adventurous cohort Jim Fowler. They traversed the world in search of wild creatures of all kinds and had amazing on camera chemistry.
Perkins would see the animal and talk about how incredible it was to be so close and then send the younger Fowler out to tangle with it. I remember watching them getting super close to Cape buffalo in Africa, toying with alligators and once Perkins got in on the action as they both wrestled with a monstrous anaconda in the jungle of South America.
This program is so engrained in my psyche that to this day I can still sing the Mutual of Omaha jingle.
“Mutual of Omaha is people you can count on when the going’s rough.”
I did that from memory. I craved any kind of connection to the outdoors and so do man kids today.
My life now and to a greater extent going forward will be focused on children and wildlife. I know firsthand it is important to make those connections so not only can we can create new stewards of our resources but so that all children have a place to fit.
Not everyone will be head cheerleader or captain of the football team. But they might have a talent for wildlife photography or be really good at fishing.
The outdoors is very inclusive and it is time we include the young people in our lives in more outdoors adventures.
Chester Moore, Jr.