Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thanks, Mom!

Mom was a strong woman who would
stand up to any man!
My mother was a tough woman, despite her stunning looks, hourglass figure, fiery red hair and mind- piercing green eyes. As a teenager, she raised a black bear from a cub and opened a turquoise jewelry shop in Cherokee, NC. An entrepreneur at heart, she established and ran Smith's Trading Post in Tampa for nearly forty years with both a steel fist and kid-like energy. Mom was a strong woman who would stand up to any man, but back in the day she paid a high price for this strength.

Once I watched her pick up a rifle to shoot a man. He was threatening to cut down a mammoth cypress tree growing between our lakefront properties (That's a completely different story.) There's no doubt she would have killed him if she thought she needed to save the tree. Not surprisingly, it was Mom who taught me the importance facets of nature and conservation.

The same year, 1963, after she successfully defended the cypress tree, I found an injured red-winged blackbird in the woods. We kept the bird in a cage hanging in an oak tree, nursing it back to good health. I'd talk to the bird, and I swear it would listen to me. One morning, it was time to release our feathered patient, but, unfortunately, instead of my little friend in the cage, there was a four-foot long red cornsnake with a large lump in its belly. It was a bummer; I wanted that snake dead, until Mom explained to me the way nature worked.

"There's a balance in nature, son that we humans don't always understand," she said.

I watched the snakes fixed eyes and slithering tongue closely as Mom opened the cage, releasing it up into the oak. Over time, my fear of snakes evaporated completely.

I've always had an innate ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and as a very young child they tell me I had no fear of anyone. However, what I fear now more than ever before, are human beings. Indulging in books like Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction and the mind expanding Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity has led me to believe human choice are the biggest problem we face today. If we humans (especially governments) don't start making wiser choices about how we live on this planet soon, I assure you the vast majority of us will not be having such a good time in the very near future.

We must stop abusing nature to further our human pleasures and material gains. We now are facing a time where we must make decisions based on how our actions affect the sustainability of biodiversity. I understand this will take time, and we don't have much time, but now is the time for a change!

Another time has come; Mom died on Christmas Eve 2012. I may have lost one of my greatest mentors, but the foundation in nature and conservation she gave me has continued to mentor me in many rich ways over the past years.

Thanks, Mom, I love you.

Rodney Smith, CEO of Little Pond Publishing;and author of Catching Made Easy and Enjoying Life on the Indian River Lagoon is a visionary and community leader who like to share his tales. Download these books digitally on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble by searching "Rodney Smith+Name of book"; or order the soft-covered books online!  See all of Rodney's upcoming events and exploits at www.rodneysmithmedia.com.