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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Volunteer World

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

to 80 kids of various ages. Today's topic is amphibians and reptiles. It is now 9 a.m. The first group comes at 10 a.m., so it's time to grab the critters.

On the way to the snake room, I spot a young man standing at the desk. He asks me for information about ginseng. I give him what little I can find quickly, get his name and fax number and promise to research the subject in more depth when I get the chance.

I also ask the receptionist if she might be able to get me some information on the wild herb. She assures me she can.

9:45 a.m. and all critters are in place, all help is ready to go, and we wait patiently for the first group to arrive. It is a small group, only 37, and all goes well. The kids have a blast jumping like bullfrogs, trying to regulate their ectothermic body temperature, making origami frogs and looking at or holding several amphibians and reptiles.

Lunch time is usually a period of great camaraderie and story telling, often while watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show.

The 1 p.m. program allows me plenty of time to research ginseng. While in the library, I answer a phone call from a distressed mom wondering how to get a Hercules beetle to let loose of her son's finger.

Another parent calls to ask if it is safe to let her child play outside, since they can hear coyotes at night. I assure her that coyotes would not carry off her child.

The next group arrives 20 minutes late. My opening presentation is cut short, but once again the kids enjoy the program.

After I return the animals to their cages, someone tells me that the rufous hummingbirds we tried to catch the day before are back. I jump into a van with one of our naturalists. Hummingbird banding license in hand, we arrive at the spotter's house where we left a net hanging over the feeder.

I patiently hold one end of a piece of fishing line out a kitchen window for an hour, waiting for the return of the hummingbird. We are rewarded by several long looks at this bird, the color of a new copper penny, that normally is found on the Gulf Coast, but we can't catch the hummingbird.

While there, we make friends with a 14-year-old boy who likes birds. By the time we leave,

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