The Conservationist's Kids
of baby skunks. Our kitchen was drafty, and when she wrapped the skunks in soft cloths in a box on the counter they continued to shiver, so she popped them in the oven and kept it at a low heat. The skunks survived, but I hate to think what the next batch of cookies smelled like.
When it comes to smells, our olfactory memories are full of strong impressions. My sisters Lyn and Wendy both recall bad experiences with the tail ends of various animals. Raccoons had a thing about Lyn. Every time she picked one up, it would invariably show the leaky side of its personality. Wendy remembers helping transport a fawn to Rockwoods Reservation and having it deposit something unmentionable down her shirt. And none of us wanted to ride in Dad's truck during trapping season.
Bad smells weren't the only downside to being the conservationist's kids. Having a conservation agent for a father brought some unwelcome notoriety to us. It's amazing how many people told us that our father had arrested them or someone they knew.
Once my sister Wendy dated a young man my father had arrested for illegal possession of a red-tailed hawk. Our dates were required to come in the house to meet our parents when they picked us up. When this young man recognized my father, he flushed a deep scarlet and punctuated every sentence with, "Sir." He also brought Wendy home well before curfew that night.
As a family, we had to endure many attempts at revenge for my father's diligence in enforcing the law. The large picture window in the front of our house was shot up by someone with a grudge. Somebody also shot at my father's car, puncturing the brand new basketball my brother had just received for his birthday and left in the back seat.
Once we found a huge dead fish stuffed in our mailbox. We used it to fertilize our garden. Someone dumped nails on our driveway to puncture my father's tires; we picked them up with a magnet and used them to build our barn. Another life lesson learned-make the most of whatever comes your way.
As we got older, we began to appreciate more and more the benefits of being the conservationist's kids. Dad's presentations at our 4-H camp always brought a swift cure for homesickness. We scored well on hunter safety exams. We weren't required to show identification when we cashed checks at the local store, because everyone knew we were Warren Wiedemann's kids.
We all loved going on the river with my father, "holding down the front end of the boat," as he called it. We learned how to read animal tracks and respect the animals that made them. Our father taught us by example how to speak and act with authority, and none of us is afraid to take action when we see a situation that needs to be corrected.
Because we are the conservationist's kids, we became the people we are today. Now many of us have children of our own, and as they spend time with their grandfather the torch is passed to a new generation. My father's career with the Conservation Department came to an end, but his legacy lives on in the people whose lives he has touched through his work and in the memories of his family.
As one of his children, I just want to say, "Thanks, Dad, for 31 years of excitement, adventure and priceless memories. I'm glad we had the privilege of being the conservationist's kids.