“Sorry we’re late!” My children rushed to greet the cousins who had arrived for piano lessons. We have a running joke that, if one lives in Amboy, one is generally late. Accordingly, my sister and her kids descended upon the rest of the family that day rather tardily. But we also know that, if one lives in Amboy, one likely has a story to accompany these delays. This time, we heard undeniable evidence as we approached their van. Issuing from a towel-lined tub on the seat was a decidedly persistent mewing. We peered over the edge in awe and beheld four wobbly kittens.
As we exclaimed over their tightly closed eyes and desperate, outstretched paws, my niece explained that the mother had disappeared. “We can’t find Moana,” she moaned. My sister wryly added, “So we have to feed them. With a bottle. Every three hours.” Hence the backseat bundle, joining the cousins for piano.
Life on a farm is indeed filled with adventure. Sometimes that adventure is marvelous, sometimes it’s messy, and sometimes it makes a family late for piano. But no matter the adventure, there’s something delightful about watching a child connect with an animal.
Several years ago, I found myself drawn to an intriguing genre. I began reading memoirs and novels by naturalists, and I quickly delighted in the animal accounts of authors such as Marjorie Rawlings, Mary O’Hara and Gavin Maxwell. Gerald Durrell wrote of his childhood experiences on the island of Corfu in the 1930s, “At first I was so bewildered by this profusion of life on our very doorstep that I could only move about the garden in a daze . . . I would spend hours . . . lying on my stomach watching the private lives of the creatures around me. In this way I learned a lot of fascinating things.”
Whether on Corfu in the 30s or in present day Clark County, children delight in animal study. As we seek to introduce them to animals—whether we buy a fish or a farm—we will find that we are providing them with an education in responsibility, sacrifice and discovery. Let’s visit Amboy for a glimpse into this lively academy.