"This is a beaver skinů"
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The telephone rang and it was my friend Darrel Whipple. He sounded a bit desperate. "I know that it's short notice, but I could use some help with Outdoor school. Would you and Claudia have some time on Thursday or Friday to help me out?"
I responded with: What do you have planned?"
What Darrel had planned, was our helping other members of the Willapa Hills Audubon Society give classes on local birds and animals. Darrel had a number of stuffed specimens that they stored at Lower Columbia College. He explained to us that we would be working with all the school system's fifth graders. "I really need you and Claudia to do crowd control. I'll email you information about the various specimens."
I asked Darrel where they're having outdoor school.
He responded" It's at Wake Robin.
Wake Robin is an 82 acre parcel that the Joe and Eleanor Lammi family lease to the Longview School District."
I remarked: "What if it rains?"
Darrel responded: "No problem. We'll set up inside the Lammi Garage. By being inside the garage we'll be able to control the kids and protect our specimens."
Friday arrived and Claudia and I found our way to Wake Robin.
We no sooner parked our car, than a cheerful Darrel Whipple met us. "Follow me and I will take you to the Lammi house" chirped Darrel as he led us on a brisk walk up a hill.
"We have 15 minutes before classes start."
Darrel introduced us to Russ and Ann Kaslberg, (Willapa Hills Audubon Society members).
We were soon overwhelmed with, eager to learn, 5th graders.
"Wow, look at those animals? Are they real? Did you Kill them? What kind of bird is that? Can I pet it?"
Darrel had the class, line up outside the garage. "I am going to have you come into the garage and we'll close the door. This way you won't be distracted by the noise from the other classes. The kids entered, we closed the garage door and the students sat on the floor.
Darrel introduced us to the group and then addressed them: "Do you know what road kill is?"
Multiple hands went up.
"Animals that are run over."
"That's right," responded Mr. Whipple. "Did you know that it's against the law for someone to collect road kill?
Darrel was greeted by looks of surprise.
"I had to get a special license from the United States Government, giving me the right to pick up road kill. If the birds and other animals look good, I will take them to a man in Rainier who is a taxidermist. He stuffs and mounts them for us. How many of you would like to be able to pick up road kill?"
I was surprised to see a number of hands go up.
Darrel continued: "Being a good taxidermist is an art. A taxidermist has to remove an animal's skin and scrape all the fat off. He then puts the skin over a Styrofoam model. He can't use real eyes because they will decompose. He has to buy special plastic eyes for each kind of animal. Birds are particularly hard to mount because of their feathers. We don't want them to fall out do we?"
Sincere students nodded in agreement.
"This is a beaver skin. It doesn't look much like a beaver because it hasn't been stuffed and mounted. You can pet this skin, but please don't touch our other mounts. Please help us, because we don't want our mounts to be hurt."
The students were allowed to get up and look at all of the specimens. We had two groups on separate tables, upland and wetland groups. All of the animals were found within a few miles of Wake Robin.
We had a Virginia Rail, a Trumpeter Swan, a Great Blue Huron, Gray Fox, a Red Fox, a Bush Rabbit, multiple owls, a Mink, several hawks, an Osprey, a Green Huron and numerous other birds and small animals.
Almost all of the children would ask, "How did they die?"
We would explain that cars hit some, others flew into windows, one was electrocuted, and another was killed by Mr. Whipple's cat. There were a few specimens that we just didn't have the slightest idea how they died. We only knew that they were in good condition when Mr. Whipple found them.
The children were amazingly careful, they asked questions, and told us stories as well.
The children learned from us and we, in turn, learned from them.
To Quote Joe Lammi, Wake Robin's Benefactor:
"Groups of young people need peaceful, quiet, attractive, accessible, nearby areas for recreation and education. Forest areas for these purposes are scarce. A city park, a playground, or even a heavily-used river bank boat landing are not substitutes for a fragrant, shady forest where the primary sounds are, the murmuring brook, a singing thrush, and the howl of a coyote."
That is why Wake Robin exists.
You can visit Wake Robin on the web: http://www.longview.k12.wa.us/wr/history.shtml