Pensacola and Jungle Survival

After the discipline and rigors of the Naval Academy, training in jet aircraft gave the word freedom a new dimension: we sped in the air and on highways, trying to catch up with the world we had left behind. A month after graduation from the Academy, I received orders to Pensacola Naval Air Station. Excited about the thought of learning how to fly Navy jet aircraft and Pre-flight school, I eagerly awaited my first assignment on my drive from Fernandina Beach, Florida after a short visit with Mom and Ruthie.   In the muggy heat of July I arrived at the gate in my white Corvette convertible. A marine guard in white gloves, white cap, black visor, light blue trousers with red stripe down the middle, dark blue dress jacket with a white webbed belt, gun in holster, and white leggings leading to spit-shined black shoes asked for my identification. After viewing my I.D., he snapped to attention, clicked his heals and gave me my first salute as a naval officer. Just then a navy jet zoomed overhead with a booming blast of power, turned and sparkled in the sunlight as she sped away on a training mission. A rush of adrenaline filled me with expectation that naval aviation would be thrilling. However, those too often mean personalities at the Naval Academy had worn off much of the Annapolis polish. The harassment I received from an upper classman in revenge for what my brother may have done to him still gnawed at me. He had driven me into the hospital with mono and ruined my chance to start for the Plebe football team at quarterback. The harassment I received from southern upper classmen about my support for civil rights lingered in my mind. But, nothing compared to the sadistic baseball coach I had who deliberately made it his mission to humiliate and frustrate me until I decided to quit. Naval Aviation should have eliminated any malicious personalities from this elite branch of the naval establishment. Entrusting men to multi-million dollar jet aircraft would surely mean they were leaders that would be professional in every sense of the word.           They assigned me a class number, an officer’s barracks, and then, unlike at the Academy, I was free. Training began the next day. Physical fitness, obstacle course, jungle survival, aviation science, navigation, and training flights determined if we had the “right stuff” to fill the shoes of a naval aviator. Flying in a two-seater jet (Northrup T-38 Talon) after first learning in a two-seater prop (T-28 North American Trojan) two months after sitting in training classes, I was a jelly fish turned into a shark. Suddenly zooming in a sleek steel bullet-like airframe, rolling and diving at supersonic speed, the Navy had elevated us to a world we could only imagine. Before takeoff our pilot instructor showed us how to “pre-flight” the plane. We checked all functioning parts to maintain safety. Once he flew the plane with me in the back seat and showed me how to escape from an attack by another aircraft by a tricky aerobatic maneuver that churned my stomach. Diving from high altitude, he did practice bombing runs racing at low altitude at a target then pulling up, teaching me to experience G-force, which increases the weight of one’s head from ten pounds exponentially, depending on the thrust of the aircraft. We felt strong forces; enough for someone to realize a weakness. My pilot did some barrel rolls, and finished with a few landings and takeoffs. Some learned they couldn’t handle jet flight when airsickness was a clue. He was skilled, knowledgeable, an expert, and a leader. The Dilbert Dunker was quite an adventure for those who got disoriented or couldn't swim well. I had been a lifeguard, so I had an advantage. The Dunker is designed like an aircraft on two tracks with an aviator strapped into a mock cockpit with hands on the throttle and stick inside that is lifted in a cart-cockpit a few meters out of the water. The cart would then come crashing into the water, flip up-side-down, and the candidate would have to orient himself with water in his sinuses and escape from the pilot seat. You had to unhook your safety belt, swim down to clear the aircraft, and then swim to safety. A lifeguard was on duty to save those who could not perform. Failure to successfully complete the exercise flunked the student and every class had a few who failed. Many will tell you that, although the experience was a challenge, if they were to go down in an aircraft they would be grateful they had the training.        Jungle survival training in Pre-flight school ranked high on “unique adventures.” We wore tall waterproofed jungle boots heavily covered with polish and Marine green fatigues made of a strong fabric. We had a backpack, first aid kit, water purifying iodine mixture, canteen, hunting knife, rifle, helmet, contour maps, a compass, and poncho. They bused us to the Okefenokee Swamp between Southwestern Georgia and Northwestern Florida. Marine guides counseled us on survival during a trek on a god-awful hot muggy day. The sweat poured off my face, thirst nearly overwhelmed me, as I followed our trainer into a dense jungle with about twenty-five classmates. He pointed out what to avoid for our safety and identified poisonous leaves and wildlife. We stumbled onto a number of coral snakes during the arduous excursion. “Avoid any contact with that critter as it ranks as the most poisonous snake in the United States.” When we reached a point of extreme thirst, he stopped at a muddy creek. The water resembled slimy brown soup. “Fill up your canteens, pour the water through a denim cloth to filter it, and remove any impurities. Add iodine tablets using one per quart of relatively clear water. Use two tablets in cloudy water. You can survive on it.” As bad as it tasted, my mouth was so dry, I longed for anything wet. Still I thought I might throw up from the smell and texture. I used the process a few more times when my thirst grew unbearable in the one hundred degree temperature and murky humidity.               Soon we noticed a clearing where squirrels scampered in the trees branches and wild pigs with horns raced ahead of us. The trainer said, “You couldn’t run fast enough to catch wild pigs but you could capture squirrels.” Some of the students bagged squirrels. When they removed the hair and tried to cut the meat from the bones, hardly anything remained to eat. The trainer showed us how to make a fire and wrap the small amount of meat on a stick to cook it over flames. Successful jungle survival also required us to learn where to find edible berries and fruits. I decided to test my speed to prove the trainer wrong and lit out after a wild pig chasing him for at least a hundred yards. Through the dense humid jungle dodging trees and rocks, I raced and then dove a few times barely missing him each time and came back to the group exhausted from the chase. The trainer laughed, “Look how much energy one man expended trying to do the impossible. If you have a gun with ammunition, you have a chance to get a wild pig. But then you just might have given away your position to the enemy. You need a thoughtful plan so the group survives with as much safety and edible food as possible without allowing the enemy to discover your location. Knowledgeable natives have no problem surviving in the jungle. It provides anyone with plenty of edible food if you take the time to study the subject. Natives make slender spears, rock slings, or blow guns with poison darts to catch game. Each makeshift weapon has the virtue of being silent.” After sixteen hours buses took us back to our bachelor barracks where we fell asleep exhausted from one of the most practical training missions the Navy offered.

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Columbian Prep School

When I arrived home from quitting Duke at the end of my first semester of sophomore year, I spilled my guts out to Dad: “I’m sorry for wasting your money and have decided to seek an appointment to the Naval Academy.” His face lit up with enthusiasm, “I’ll call Columbian Prep School tomorrow. They prepare young men for the SAT and have a high success rate for appointments to the Academy.” Having talked myself into a drudgery of returning to college preparatory courses I had previously studied nonchalantly, my chance for success was high with proven teachers at Columbian who taught how to achieve high scores on the SAT. If this plan worked, I would earn an appointment to Annapolis and enter in five months. Dad decided I should live with grandmother, Gammie, in a nearby suburb, sleep and eat meals in her basement where she had a desk, and furiously study Columbian’s courses. On my first day of class, a group of students talked about their expectations. One said, “I hope to have Duke accept me.” “I just quit Duke to study for an appointment to Annapolis,” I said to him. “Why would you ever quit Duke?” he implored with a curious expression. “It’s a long story.” “I would never want to go to a military academy,” he said. Other students indicated they wanted to enter West Point, the Air Force Academy, Annapolis, or other military colleges. The instructors taught how to analyze previous SAT test questions, approach them with a disciplined strategy, and  answer all questions we understood first, since each counted the same. They discussed trick questions, how to eliminate the wrong answer, and make an intelligent guess. We studied grammar and vocabulary lists from hundreds of sheets of printed information and took complete SAT's daily in a large auditorium under exam conditions. Instructors informed us Engineering Drawing was the most hazardous Academy course and taught us for an hour daily on professional drafting tables. Dad agreed saying he almost flunked it at the Academy. When SAT results arrived, I ranked number one for a presidential appointment to the Air Force Academy, and number two for the Naval Academy. That earned me a three hundred dollar scholarship from Columbian Prep towards my tuition. After contemplating attending the modern Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, I chose the Naval Academy as Dad and Chip had. Soon my presidential appointment to Annapolis came in the mail from the Commandant of Midshipmen announcing the Naval Academy had accepted me for the class of 1964 subject to a physical exam. President Dwight Eisenhower made seventy-five appointments to children of military officers depending on SAT scores, high school grades, and extra-curricular activities like sports. My hard work and sacrifice had paid off. I would fulfill my father’s greatest desire for me to pursue a naval career, finally earn his approval, and would follow a long tradition of patriotic family members. Dad took me to see "The Gallant Hours" about Vice-Admiral Bull Halsey and his team of decision-makers  fighting  Japanese forces descending upon Guadalcanal. James Cagney played Bull. Dad reminded me his ship, the George F. Elliot, a light transport, was sunk at a battle near Guadalcanal by a Japanese Kamikaze plane when he was the gunnery officer. His guns had destroyed the plane but its mass flew into the starboard side and erupted in flames on August 8, 1942. My commitment to the Navy was further solidified as was my relationship with my father. Although atomic bomb protests were prevalent, they didn’t interest me as I anticipated entering the world of military discipline where such ideas appeared as weakness. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Johnny Cash, The Kingston Trio, and Harry Belafonte, were some of my favorite musicians. When they sang protest songs to end racial discrimination and nuclear bomb production, I sympathized with their causes, but did not march with their supporters.                       At a party where a college woman talked about the need to mobilize against America’s war machine, an attractive coed asked, “Where are you going to college?” “I just received my appointment to Annapolis,” I proudly responded. She wrinkled her nose like she smelled a dead rat, pursed her lips, and said, “Why would anyone want a military career now?” She was a politically motivated liberal and believed as strongly in her causes as I had in fundamental Christianity when sixteen. Her tone reminded me of how I had spoken with passion on religious matters to non-believers when the opportunity arose. A strange feeling like a twinge of conscience hit me from her question. Was I turning my back on a movement that would interest me if I engaged her in a discussion? Was I afraid to learn what this female activist believed? Having made up my mind to pursue a naval career for the next eight years, there was no time for me to waste with a peacenik. Instead, as my feet briskly strutted away from her influence, I imagined myself marching in a parade at Annapolis in full dress uniform in support of America’s role as protector of the world from threats to freedom everywhere. Convinced Dad would be proud of me by achieving success at Annapolis, my interest in the party evaporated.Enthusiastic about the change in my life’s purpose, believing America’s military forces demonstrated the best protection against tyranny in the world, serving my country was the most honorable thing for me to do, whether, or not, protesters agreed. The Naval Academy presented a worthy challenge for Dad and Chip and seemed a tremendous step forward for me after my experiences at Duke. Putting intellectual pursuits aside, I began memorizing Reef Points, a two hundred-page handbook that contained information each Annapolis plebe had to know: If a plebe were asked, “How’s the cow?” he would have to answer, “She walks, she talks, she’s full of chalk. The lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the nth degree.” (The number of glasses of milk left in the carton). If one forgot to say "sir" after addressing an upperclassman, they would ask, “Why didn’t you say sir?” A plebe was required to answer: “Sir, sir is a subservient word surviving from the surly days of old Serbia, when certain serfs, too ignorant to remember their lord’s name, yet too servile to blaspheme them, circumvented the situation by which I now belatedly address a certain senior cirriped who correctly surmised that I was syrupy enough to say sir after every word I said, sir.” The tedious memorizing of nonsense for a few hours bothered me. My mind returned to my Duke English professor who inspired me with the words of Walt Whitman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, D. H. Lawrence, Earnest Hemingway, and others but my decision was fixed on a military goal no matter how difficult. (Click on image to expand) Chip invited me to an Academy meal during the week before his graduation to introduce me to some of his friends and to acquaint me to the Annapolis environment. He wanted me to observe the rituals that occur during meals for the brigade of midshipmen and see how the plebes responded. At this festive time, the upper classmen had completed final exams and looked forward to June celebrations. Plebes sat only on three inches of the chair during meals, braced their chin rigged in to their chest, and fixed their eyes straight ahead ("eyes in the boat"). They recited requested information such as the menu and activities scheduled for the day. Announcements boomed over the loud speaker and a number of times the entire brigade cheered or sang in unison. Chills ran down my spine anticipating the day I would join a real fraternity of dedicated and patriotic men serving our country. I was surrounded by the best collection of hard working, intelligent young men in the world. My brother made me proud that he had endured the ordeals of the Academy education and indoctrination. I didn’t notice anything derogatory in his development. He seemed happy and fulfilled in his dream to achieve the most he could at twenty-two. His marriage was scheduled during “June Week” to his high school sweetheart who studied at a nursing school. We entered Bancroft Hall and climbed the massive tile and stone stairway, called a ladder, to his third floor room. Chip introduced me, “Kenny, meet my brother Dan.” “Congratulations on your appointment to boat school.” A tall midshipman with a blond crew-cut, in an immaculate Navy blue dress uniform with gold buttons and pressed Navy blue slacks, loosened his collar and took off his white formal cap. He threw it on a well-made bunk bed behind two desks with green tops pushed together in the center of the room. “Thanks. I’m looking forward to plebe summer.” “Now that’s a real vacation. We loved it,” he laughed bitterly. “Yeah, Chip told me you guys had a ball learning Reef Points.” Ken and Chip wore gold stars on both sides of their Navy blue jacket collar. Underneath was a separate stiff white collar an inch higher that pressed their necks. “What do the stars signify?” I asked Ken pointing to the gold. “Anyone with a grade point above 3.4 may wear them. Let’s go,” he said. "Blackie invited us on a boat trip. We’ll meet Mom at the dock in a half-hour,” Chip said.” A distant relation, Blackie took Chip out fishing from his motorboat whenever they could arrange it since he’d never turn down an opportunity to enjoy his favorite hobby. “Sounds like fun," I said. We bolted out the door, down the ladder to the parking lot, stowed our change of clothes in the trunk, and sped for the dock in Chip’s new Chevrolet four door blue sedan to meet Mom. They convinced me they had a bright future. And so would I. A short, rotund man about seventy years of age, walked towards us smiling, “Hi, I’m Blackie. Please come aboard my boat, but watch your step.” Chip, Pat, Mom, Ken, and I walked over a wooden dock to his boat and climbed down an old ladder. Blackie impressed me at once as a knowledgeable sea captain and avid angler. He told us he navigated all over the area searching for fish in his white aged boat with a small cabin and room for him and five passengers. He came alive when speaking of the different species of fish in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. “If we have some luck we’ll find a striped bass. The record here is sixty-seven and a half pounds and more than five feet long. Look out for the bluefish known in these parts as the Marine Piranha because of its aggressive feeding habits. We also have a strange one, the Menhaden, called the Bug fish because of a large parasite that lives in its mouth.” He drove us around the area, pointed out landmarks, and gave us a fresh view of the beautiful arteries to the Bay and back to his pier near Annapolis. (Click on image to expand)                                                                        For Chip’s wedding to Pat in June 1960, the large ornate Annapolis Chapel was over-flowing.  A reception followed the marriage service where Valerie Lee and Paige were among the bride’s grooms. Ken was the best man, who gave a rousing speech at the wedding celebration honoring Chip and his choice of Pat and submarines for his future. Inspired by their camaraderie, the Academy appeared to be a fraternity of dedicated men on a lifetime mission. Mom hugged and kissed Chip as he met us from the ceremony, “I am so proud of you Chip for graduating from the Academy; this is where I met your Dad when I lived in Severna Park across the Severne River." Mom seldom talked about her relationship with Dad as after their three divorces and custody battles, no meaningful communications occurred between them. Nor did she dwell on the failure of that marriage. In her white bonnet with yellow flowered blue dress and dark blue high heels, her smile lit up the day like a rainbow after a summer shower.

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Fujiyama

In the early summer of 1956, Chip and I joined the Yokosuka Naval Base teenage club to climb the highest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji. On any clear day we could see Fujiyama ascending into the sky with snow-capped cone from my home in Kamakura and my high school at Yokohama. We wore baseball caps, warm clothing, and basketball shoes with sweat socks and brought a flashlight and canteen. The hike would last all night, in freezing weather until we reached the summit at 12,388 feet.

Our youth director warned us of altitude sickness, which caused headaches, nausea, and dizziness for some climbers. We used a six feet long, hexagonal Fuji stick for assistance during the climb. For a price in yen at each station, you could have a station-stamp branded onto your stick as a sign of your achievement. Each of the ten along the way had resting huts that allowed climbers to pay to sleep, rest, or eat meals. Five or more of these huts existed at the fifth station. A few served complimentary hot green tea from large kettles. Some people took a bus to the fifth, but Chip and I wanted to climb from the bottom to have our Fuji stick prove we had completed the hike from the base. We slept briefly in blankets near a hibachi heated with burning coals at one of the last stations, but awoke before three in the morning on a mission to reach the top first. With sunrise only an hour and a half away, we gathered our gear and moved on as rapidly as we could.

Japanese climbers said gambatte to each other meaning, “Hang in there,” to encourage their group during the climb. The trail steepened after the eighth station, making the hike far more difficult as altitude increased. Before sunrise we reached the red Shinto Torii marking the apex of Fujisan.

We gathered with other climbers to look into the huge crater with a depth of six hundred feet and circumference of 2.2 miles. Rugged rocks and debris covered the bottom of the depression created by years of erosion from wind, rain, snow, and time, and dotted the dips and crags around the slope. Coldness pierced our faces and froze us, as the Japanese countryside spread to the Pacific Ocean. The wind howled and blew torrents at us.

"Goraiko," sunrise, slowly began. The sky brightened about a half hour before the sun emerged from a gray cloudbank surrounding Fuji. Gradually an intense, yellowish-orange radiance spread around the rising sun. The sky displayed a yellowish-orange hue slightly above.

Further up the orange melted into a pinkish-orange. A brilliant scarlet pushed upwards to a scarlet purple beyond. Immediately overhead a deep dark blue tone gave way to a lighter shade. The puffy clouds resembled ducks, dragons, and sheep with their under bellies spray-painted raspberry, and their bodies scarlet-grey. Their wispy legs trailed down disappearing into the dense blue.

The sun majestically emerged sending a streak of light throughout the panorama like splashing clear water on a painting. No wonder my grandmother Ruthie found sunrises the most magnificent of nature’s gifts. Often I have taken my wife and children to view the splendor of dawn’s early light because of her influence.

Chip and I walked the perimeter to find the best spot for our descent. Beginning at the seventh station running on the flexible lava, known as scree, reminded me of playing on a trampoline.

A few other football players joined us as we scrambled, tumbled, and ran down the mountain in record time. We shouted for joy as we bounced up and down on the give and take of the surface, astounded by its elasticity. I tucked my head into my chest, rolled for twenty feet, and tumbled repeatedly until my body rested on the strange surface. Each piece of lava could  hurt if you fell awkwardly on it and made me imagine I was on the moon.

We had traversed the volcanic sand slope in two hours! The climb up Fuji had taken us ten hours, which explains why exhaustion struck us so often during the punishing ascent. My eyes gazed back up the immense volcano. I hadn’t conquered that steep magnificent volcano, but had just become acquainted with Fujisan.

Majestic Summit

Fujiyama’s noble essence

soaring in sky

                                           reflected on rippling lake

Not merely

                     earth heaped

                                      heavenward

               Drizzle dimmed sunrise

                               the twilight shroud

                                                                   gathering darkness beyond

                                   Drifting from all bearings

                                      traveling its slope

                                                                            foliage to untamed snowcap

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Plunge Diver

 

Brown Pelican gliding

Soars over blue ocean.

Neck against shoulders

Under cotton clouds

Casting quivering shadow on shimmering surface.

Sharp yellow beak, white head, light brown crown,

Black and grey feathers, wings spread,

Noble chest puffed.

Spotting silvery scales glinting,

Plunges wings folded and crashes swell.

Booming THUD shatters silence

 

Splattering white plume skyward.

Three gallon pouch opens

Scooping shock-stunned fish.

Pops to the surface, tips head forward, empties bill.

Tosses head back to position prey,

Swallows anchovies whole,

Deluge drains off oil-preened feathers.

Resilient keeper of Nature’s balance

 

Majestically ascends winging away.

Instinct preserving existence in the wild.

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Ruthie’s Lesson

Grampa found a large property he bought in North Miami he called “the ranch.” Mom took me there when I was eight and pleaded to take my new BB gun to use on a visit. I took target practice on mangrove and palm trees, rocks, and fences as I wandered around a few acres of undeveloped land with many trees, shrubs, and swampy areas, and imagined my adventure took me through a jungle. Something blue covering the ground under some white mangrove trees moved near a saltwater swamp. As I approached, parts of the blue carpet were Blue Land crabs that congregated there in the thousands.  They frightened me with their large claw that looked dangerous, scurried around more quickly than I imagined, and resembled large spiders.                                Bigger than tarantulas, they had an outer covering that appeared a kind of armor. They scattered together in groups when I ran at them and resembled tanks moving in unison to one side or the other. Mom had taken me to see war movies about our Army fighting with rifles in World War II that made me march around the dinner table singing military songs with my toy gun on my shoulder pretending to be a soldier while Mom and Ruthie cheered me on.  In the wild foliage with my BB gun as if in battle, I ran after the moving targets, the enemy crabs. They retreated and lifted their claws in hopeless defense. They scuttled under trees in a moist boggy area that reeked with an odd smell like that of dank garbage.  Determined to win the battle, I pursued my fleeing enemy.  Shooting ahead of the direction they scooted, I killed at least twenty scampering creatures. Stalking them around trees and shrubs in the heat of the day, my face became sweaty and the putrid odor emanating from the wet marsh nauseated me. As I backtracked in an easterly direction, a lively chirping sound greeted me. The source came from a partially hidden silhouette of a small bird sitting on a branch in the shade.  Silently slithering past a thick stand of hardwood trees about twenty feet away, fearing it would fly away soon, I took care not to frighten it and held my breath. With my rifle butt against my right shoulder and the barrel pointing at my singing target, I took careful aim and my index finger squeezed the trigger slowly when part of the bird appeared in my sights. POW! Silently my prey fell to the ground from a direct hit ending the warbling. I ran up to see the result of my spectacular shot. His colors slowly displayed themselves when I lifted his limp body in my hand and held him in sunlight to illuminate my victim.                                                 He had a deep blue head, a blotch of bright yellow on his back that turned green on the wings followed by a patch of black. His chest was red. An orange circle wound around his black eyes and his beak was a white-gray. None of these brilliant colors was visible from the distance where I first spotted the singing beauty. My shot had killed the most colorful and melodious bird I had ever observed. Tears rolled from my eyes and I began sobbing uncontrollably for I had killed one of nature’s most splendid creations. How could I have ended such a bird’s life? A guilty feeling came over me for this merciless deed. Heartbroken, crying and holding a limp trophy in my hands, I stumbled in oblivion toward home. “What’s wrong dear?" said Ruthie as tears rolled down my cheeks. She hugged me to try to console me. “I just killed this helpless bird with my BB gun.” “Why that’s a painted bunting. I can see you are sad for ending its life. We must never kill anything nature created unless it is truly harming someone. That bird contributed his beauty and singing to our backyard. All living creatures have a place in nature we should respect.” “I feel bad I killed it.” “I know you do. Come, let’s bury the beauty.” We dug a hole in the moist ground close by, placed his body in, and covered it with dirt. Ruthie put a tiny wooden cross on the spot from twigs to remember him. “At first I used my BB gun just to take target practice, but then shot some blue crabs in the back pretending they were my enemy.” The expression on Ruthie’s face changed into a frown . She pulled out a book from her library, thumbed to an article and said,“You killed quite an interesting specimen.The Blue Land Crab delivers its babies in salt water as larva who become baby crabs in forty-two days. Eating mostly vegetation and leaves of red and white mangroves, and the buttonwood tree, these crabs scavenge for anything edible travelling great distances searching for food and salt water.  They determine direction using vibrations, landmarks, prevailing winds, and light during the day, and  the brightest part of the horizon at night. They make burrows deep enough to reach salt water about six feet where they live separately except for the young and mate on the full moon. Females carry their eggs on their skin for two weeks before depositing them in salt water. This species can’t live more than two days in the sun. Aren’t they amazing?” “I’m sorry I killed them.” “You should feel bad about acting cruel to helpless living beings. Now look out the front window and tell me what you see between the rose bushes.” “A giant spider in a huge web. It looks scary.” “Use this paper, sit at the table, and sketch the Golden Garden Spider’s web.”                                                             After drawing for a few minutes,  I realized my fear of spiders might have made me kill another marvelous creature if Ruthie hadn’t  caught my attention.  The huge gossamer web wound in different directions, shimmered when the sunlight reflected off it, bounced around in the wind, and caused me to admire the fascinating insect. When a fly hit one of the strands, the spider shot from her resting spot,and wrapped the prey into a ball for a meal later. She even oscillated the web with her large legs that made it  move and reflect the sun on strands that were invisible before.  It made meticulous movements  to create a dense zig-zag of silk to hide behind, or jump from if in fear of an attack by a bird. Spending three hours depicting the colorful spider and its intricate web made me truly admire an insect I first passionately feared.  Ruthie saw the care I took drawing the complex strands and patterns the large spider had woven. “You have captured that Golden Garden Spider’s magnificent web. Let’s frame your drawing so we can appreciate what you drew. Now you won’t ever kill something man could not create.”  

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