One of the genuine pleasures we have enjoyed since coming to Brownwood is one we did not anticipate when we purchased our property and had a house built. We selected the lot for two reasons; the first was the number of trees on the property. We had both fallen in love with live oak trees when we first visited the state 20 years earlier. The second was the direction the sun moved across the property throughout the day. We had learned with our first house in Stephenville that where the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening with respect to the residence is a significant factor in Texas. We had the heat from the late afternoon sun in mind when we positioned the back porch and patio of the house in the plan in the direction of the trees and the hill.
The building strategy has worked. The sun goes down behind a hill and a grove of live oak trees every evening providing us with as much relief on our back porch as one can expect to get from the summer sun in Texas. Little did we know at the time, that we were also creating a stage for a premier program of wildlife viewing in the evening. We were thrilled and would call out to each other to “come see” when deer first started venturing down the hill in the evening. Over the last dozen years, we have come to recognize families of them and have watched their growth from fawns to young adults. Too often, the identifying markings are the result of accidents or injury, leaving the visitors with limps or missing hoofs.
I was prompted to recall our personal experiences while reading a piece recently written by a professional wildlife rehabilitator. The writer’s premise was that it is an educational experience and we can learn from the nonhuman animals. Over the years as novice observers, we have tried to learn the pecking order of the species of animals and birds that populate our yard. We watch does run off other does and fawns so that the bucks will get the small ration of corn I put out each evening. My wife, a former school teacher, has learned to refrain from getting upset and telling them to “share.” There even appears to be a hierarchy of order with the eating habits of the feral cats that call our backyard home. One of the females has had another litter and is nursing. Her sister and her kitten have taken over supervision and nurturing for her older kitten and they all wait in the wings and allow the new mother to eat first. As they continue to grow and mature, it will be hard to differentiate one generation from the other.
My wife and I do not pretend to understand the dynamics of what is going on with the wildlife neighbors that share our neighborhood. They entertain us with their presence and we identify seasonal behavioral changes and eating habits.
A magazine article that I read recently was by a woman who started out much like my wife and me, albeit at a much younger age, with a love and fascination of wildlife. She started out individually helping native Texas wildlife she found abandoned or injured. She financed her venture into forming a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization by delivering newspapers for the San Antonio Express News. Perhaps that is what attracted me to her story.
Lynn Cuny had business cards printed up on lime green paper outlining her services and handed them out to police and fire departments, animal shelters, pest control companies and tree trimmers. Phone calls started coming in - donations and offers to help soon followed. Eventually she started receiving some significant contributions.
Today, 30 years later, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, founded by Cuny, is located on 187 acres in Kendalia, Texas, in the Hill Country north of San Antonio. They have 20 paid employees, 12 to 15 interns, 100 volunteers and the non-profit organization is one of the biggest in North America for animal rehabilitation. They rescue over 7,000 animals annually with most of them being returned to the wild. Whether she wins the award or not, it seems to me is not as important as her efforts to look at life through the eyes of animals and to share her stories with those of us who value and enjoy the wildlife that share our world.
Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield