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A few ‘grand’ lessons with 7-year-olds

By Susan and Biff Andrews

There aren’t as many lightning bugs as there used to be. Whether it’s city mosquito spraying or perhaps NostalgiaVision, there used to be thousands where now there are hundreds.

One tends not to notice until there are grandchildren who want to fill a jar with them, but it’s true. There are fewer fireflies than there were 50 years ago. But there are enough to amaze kids, even so.

Having grandkids for the summer brings out other wonders. We normally don’t feed waterfowl with bread as an amusement activity. It’s not their natural diet. But suddenly half a loaf of white wheat yields half an hour of excitement, grins and giggles from two 7-year-old girls.

Our part of Lake Meade has 10 fluffball goslings, four “tweener” goslings, nine single geese prospecting for life partners and four really defensive parents.

But the geese crowding the dock for bread bits can interfere when it’s fishing time. Seven-year-old girls are very squeamish about handling slimy nightcrawlers, at least until they start catching one bluegill after another, almost instantly.

In the time-honored tradition of “hooking” kids on fish with success after success, the girls now think nothing of grabbing a piece of worm and impaling it on a hook. They then cast that two-foot Barbie pole or four-foot ultralight out 15 feet, catch a four-incher and then use a towel to take the fish off and release him back into the lake to “grow up.”

Next week we graduate to pinhead croaker off a friend’s dock in Rescue. Some will be big enough to keep and eat. Another lesson learned — about food and where it comes from.

There was a lesson about peas and green beans. Our peas are done for the spring, but they have one last “crop” as they get pulled. But the green beans are just hitting their stride, so we’ve had the first of many “itchy pickings” for recent dinners. Thus do we learn.

Yesterday something scared our fluffy groundhog, so the girls got to see him scurry past in a panic.

Last night during firefly collection at late dusk, they reported that our foxes have three new babies.

And the ospreys we saw last week at the beach have followed us here to Suffolk and hunt and call here, as well.

And the birds and squirrels at our feeders are quite tame and friendly, as long as one is quiet and gentle when viewing them.

All of these are “grand” lessons for two kids who live in an apartment in a city with traffic noise and no wildlife to be seen. They are “grand” lessons that any kids need to learn.

Observe nature, but don’t interfere. Be kind; be gentle. Release the fish and lightning bugs unharmed. Grow and catch and eat what Mother Nature provides.

Grandparents and parents: “Teach the children well…”

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.