This is me when I was little with my Dad handling a snake in the backyard in the very tiny western town of Tottenham, NSW where my dad was once stationed as the only police officer.
Dad had a special affiinity with wildlife, the ocean’s inhabitants, plants, birds, insects and animals. He is naturally an inquisitive person who has acquired a great deal of interesting knowledge. You can ask him anything about plants, insects, nature and animals and he usually has lots of interesting general knowledge or a story to share, often able to identify things I haven’t been able to. He encouraged me to ‘touch’ the wildlife and not be afraid, although I am still quite timid and shy, I am also fascinated by wildlife, insects, birds, the ocean’s inhabitants and all of nature. After growing up in the mountains of Katoomba and being introduced to rockpools and snorkelling at a young age while on a holiday, Dad’s love for nature grew.
I think our shared love of nature is why I like to include wildlife in my paintings as I have a desire to express the affection I feel, and pass it onto others so that it catches on. Our wildlife is precious and we have to look after it and watch our environmental footprint.
I also have special memories of living with my mother’s parents when I was very young, Poppa (my mother’s father) showed me how to stick my finger gently in the mouth of a sea anenome and feel it tickle, I remember the day he took me to the park across the road and placed an empty cicada shell on my shirt, and how it clung to me like a badge. It was a big discovery for me, and since then, I’ve caught the bug. Life for me, is more exciting when invested in discovery. I got so scared and excited that day about the cicada shells we found everywhere, and never lost the fascination with nature that came over me that day.
That early encouragement to be intererested in and investigate wildlife could explain why at age 10 I got my thumb stuck in a giant clam on Keswick Island, a then uninhabited island in the Whitsunday Group of Islands off Queensland Australia, and perhaps that’s why he and I both rather foolishly touched the leaves on the Qld Stinging Tree and totally regretted it. Yes, I’ve learned the hard way, there are some things you just don’t touch.
I am very partial to baby chicks, as we raised a lot of them by hand when I was young, I also hand raised 3 baby mice who’s mother died of heatstroke, when the little black and white one died, it broke my heart. The baby mice were only about 1cm long. I fed them milk through a tiny rubber flange I found by sticking a needle through the end of it to create a tiny teet for them to and pinching the other end between my fingers.
We had many unusual pets growing up, including a blue ringed octopus, crabs, lion fish, a juvenile freshwater crocodile called Snappy, a cockatoo called Cocky, quails, parrots, a carpet snake called “Sylvester”, baby foxes, turkeys and orphaned baby chicks. I have a special affection for baby lizards, which I think comes from the time I saw baby shingleback lizards born live. I think they are one of the only lizards that bear live young, others lay eggs.
It was not unusual for us to have octopi crawling around the back yard and lobsters too. I enjoyed listening to the crackly noises from yabbies we caught in the dam in buckets of water and watching the colourful fish dad would catch for our marine/saltwater fish tanks. We also had freshwater tanks.
Our home was a haven for crab casings, beautiful exotic shells, wahoo and marlin heads mounted on timber and every specimen under heaven that dad could inject with formalin to preserve in some way, there were fishing nets hung from the ceilings with all manner of things stuck up there, including the glass buoys, sea stars, spider and spanner crabs.
On one occasion, I’m told I scrubbed the baby turkey chics and almost killed them all, in an effort to clean off their ‘dirty’ specks, previously I’d only seen plain chicks and didn’t realise specks were part of their naturally colouring. My parents revived most of them by rubbing them gently near the warmth of the fire. I think a couple of the poor things died. I had laid them all out carefully, necks outstretch, drenched to the skin. Only trying to help of course.
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