I have neglected my sweet Sammy!
I had fun playing with the image above, but this post is not about graphics manipulation.
It is about life.
A life devoid of passion
Is not a life,
It is an existence.
One morning this week, I woke up late.
I leaped out of bed and raced to the kitchen.
The chameleons had not been misted for twelve hours!
I filled the mister with warm water and started misting Hugo’s cage.
When I got to Sam’s cage, I paid no attention to his whereabouts.
I don’t have the automatic misting system in place yet, so I have to mist manually.
When I put the mister inside the cage, Sam crawled onto the top and onto my hand.
Then, he proceeded up my arm onto my shoulder.
I paid no attention to him since he often crawls onto my hand or arm inside the cage.
When I finished misting, he was investigating my hair and crawling all around my shoulders.
Since he was having such fun, I decided to photograph his adventure.
I found a media card and the camera and walked over to the big mirror in the dining room.
As I looked through the viewfinder, I had no idea whether any of the photos would work in that light.
Immediately, he crawled up my face and held onto my hair.
I suppose he decided there was no foothold there,
so he came back down.
His little claws are sharp!
I really couldn’t see him very well, but I could see that the camera strap was impeding his progress.
When I moved it, he continued down toward my arm.
Finally, he reached my elbow and onto my arm.
I decided since I could no longer see him well that his adventure was over.
He needed his morning bath and a good drink of water,
so I let him crawl onto my arm and off onto a branch in his cage.
I never pick him up, but I let him choose to come to me whenever he likes.
As anyone who has followed me for very long knows,
I am totally shameless.
I realized that I was still dressed in night clothes,
but my passion for the animals rendered
That fact irrelevant.
A number of people have said that they think my attitude is extraordinary
Or that I am brave in the face of death.
Neither is true.
I have always had a passion for whatever I was doing.
Oh, I complain often and loudly about even work that I love,
But, I am not often serious about the complaints,
And voicing my feelings has allowed me to dismiss negativity
And to focus on whatever interested me.
I am not dying.
I am living until I die.
There is a difference, you know.
Passion for life and work
Is that difference.
Sitting around waiting to die
is just not something I can manage to work up a passion for!
Hugo is always hunting.
He sees a cricket and is a millisecond away from projecting his tongue to capture it.
In the photo above, the long projectile coming out of his mouth
is the thin portion of his long tongue.
In the first photo in the gallery below, you can see where it joins the big muscle at the end.
Above, he has just retracted his tongue with a cricket stuck to the cup-like, sticky end of it.
In less than a second, the tongue accelerates to thirteen miles an hour!
Really too fast for the human eye to see the real structure of the tongue.
In the first photo above, his tongue has extended and captured a cricket on the muscular end.
In the second photo, he is retracting the tongue with the cricket attached to the sticky saliva on the end.
In the third photo, he is finishing off the process of retracting his tongue
that coils in his mouth like a rope.
I am particularly fascinated by the first photo.
I wondered how that fat muscle on the end of the tongue fit in his mouth!
Now, I see that the real extension part of the tongue is much smaller.
For a more complete and short explanation of the structure of the chameleon tongue,
Scientists are studying the mechanism of the chameleon tongue
to learn more about improving robotic designs, according to this article.
(Bet you folks thought the chameleon was much sweeter before you saw the tongue in operation!)
Little Hugo arrived last week from Kammerflage Kreations in California.
He made his FedEx overnight flight connection and arrived at my door right on schedule.
I opened the box, and there he was in his plastic cup.
He looked as happy as a little clam.
I photographed him before I removed the cup from the packing box.
This is our first glimpse of each other!
Right away, he began to explore his new house.
He seemed perfectly at home.
I think he explored every inch of his cage!
A friend asked where his ears are?
Chameleons do not have outer or inner ears.
Their hearing is not good, but they can hear some sounds.
As you can see below, there is no ear!
However, their remarkable eyesight compensates for their poor hearing.
Chameleon eyes have a 360-degree arc of vision allowing them to see two directions at once.
Their upper and lower eyelids are joined leaving only a pinhole to see through.
This anatomical feature is unique to chameleons. No other reptile has this eye structure.
This structure provides sharp, stereoscopic vision allowing them to see small insects
from a distance of up to 5-10 meters. (Source: Twisted Sifter)
Below, Hugo is looking in two directions.
The location of lighting in his cage makes it almost impossible to photograph through the screen!
But, you can see the pupil on the left side and the upper portion of the eyelid on the right side.
In the photo above, the structure of his feet are visible, too.
Chameleons have three distinct toes on one side and two on the other side of the front feet.
On the back feet, the toe arrangement is reversed.
The toes have sharp nails to aid in climbing.
Since Hugo is an aggressive hunter, I managed to get some photos
of him catching crickets with his remarkable tongue.
I will post them later.
Hugo is a wonderful little guy, and I am happy to have him with us!
Charlie, I’m including a few photos from Thanksgiving 2014.
Linda and Hazel came down for a few days.
We had such a really good, laid-back holiday.
We were all sitting on my porch talking.
You, Mom and Linda were sitting on the sofa.
Hazel and I were sitting opposite you in the chairs beside the lamp table.
Dad was sitting in one of the tall chairs at the porch dining table.
Max was sitting at his feet waiting his turn to be petted.
I didn’t have the correct lens, and when I went inside to change, everybody dispersed.
Dad was preparing for his hunting trip to Tennessee and Illinois the next day.
Linda and Mom were getting the feast ready.
You disappeared to your game room.
Hazel and I sat around talking.
Suddenly, the call came for dinner!
Mom served her beautiful, delicious standing rib roast. Everybody’s favorite.
And, by special request, my favorite cold clam soup.
I hadn’t dressed even.
So I appeared at the Thanksgiving dinner table in sweats!
But, so did you!
Typical of Granny, huh?
Mom’s reaction to a story somebody was telling.
The second photo expressed her horror response to some part of it.
What a fine holiday we had!
The last picture of Sam in his old house.
I could claim that this was his reaction to the move,
but I think he is practicing to be a big boy.
Or, he is annoyed with the camera!
Here, I am moving Sam to his new house.
He will climb onto my hand if I offer it.
He looks a bit suspicious of the new house.
He’s certainly checking it out!
Sam isn’t shy. He immediately began to explore.
His new home is far larger with lots of room to roam and hunt crickets.
Since he is still young, I was worried that he would be lost in the bigger cage,
But he immediately found his way around.
Sam requires the same basking lights that the dragons do.
The area has to be between 85-95 degrees.
They also move about the enclosure to warm and to cool their bodies.
While bearded dragons require a dry climate, chameleons require a humid environment.
In these photos, Sam is hunting or basking.
That’s what all chameleons do.
I feed crickets, Phoenix worms, wax worms and Dubia roaches.
Only the crickets free-roam in his house.
In the last photo, Sam is annoyed with that pesky cricket
And climbed down the branch to scrap it off on the foliage!
He’s getting smarter about dealing with the crickets!
Poor little Sammy is shedding and rubbing his face on a limb to remove the old skin.
I always feel bad for him when he sheds.
Chameleons shed within a single day.
Often, Dragons require more time to shed and don’t look so miserable!
Little Sam’s new face.
There are remnants of old skin on his casque and on one foot,
But he will rub that off within a few days.
I expect Hugo, the Panther Chameleon, to arrive next week!
Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable.
You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:
Enhanced, in fact.
When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?
Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.
My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that.
That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:
Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.
(New Yorker Magazine, September 15, 2014)
Photograph and poem sent to me by a dear friend, Lemony.
Photograph credit: Lemony Gregg
Little Lucy loves sitting on my shoulder.
When I returned from the ranch last weekend,
she had the classic stress pattern on her underside.
She wasn’t eating much
and she was spending a lot of time in her cave.
Otherwise, she looked healthy.
I was busy planning for the new chameleon cage arrangement
and consulting with the breeders, the cage builder and ordering
the necessary environmental elements for the insides of the cages.
Since both chameleons will be housed side by side on a rack,
there was a great deal of planning to do.
I tried everything to make her happy.
I added a basking light which usually does the trick.
No luck. Nothing was working.
Finally, today I took her out of her cage and held her.
The pattern on her chest disappeared.
She turned white with happiness.
As usual, when I sat down at my desk, she climbed down my arm onto the desk
and scooted under the monitor to the back of the desk
where she always sits to look out the window.
Since I felt so guilty for not holding her this week,
I gave her another treat.
She loves her “hot tub” soak.
I keep the temperature at about 100 degrees with the lid on the container.
This hydrates her very well and feels good to her too.
Oh, the things we will do for the love of a dragon!
(Sam is fired up as this display of pattern is called in the Chameleon world.)
Sam hunts insects from among the vines and foliage in his cage.
Often, I am unable to remove the ones that he doesn’t eat in one day.
They should not remain in the cage for several reasons,
among which is that they may bite the animal while he is sleeping.
Here, Sam is climbing around hunting his dinner.
Chameleons can be trained to eat from a cup
but they enjoy hunting their prey
and they get the added benefit of exercise.
They have the ability to stretch their bodies to incredible lengths.
Their tongues extend to twice the length of their bodies.
They are extraordinarily flexible and can contort themselves in any way they choose.
The spoiled little rascal is waiting for his wax worms.
I feed them in a cup, and he knows that he is going to get some
every morning. So, he often waits to be served!
Initially, I don’t think he noticed the cricket since he was hunting.
Finally, I think he felt it on his back and began to look warily behind him.
This one has no calcium/mineral dust on him, so he has been in the cage too long.
Here, he sees the cricket clearly, but his long tongue doesn’t operate backwards
(at least, I don’t think it does) so he can’t catch it off his nose!
He is beginning to puff out his gutteral pouch in annoyance
as he watches the dumb cricket.
Ah-ha! I got you!
That really isn’t why he’s displaying like this, but it looks that way!
Actually, I think this is an amusing threatening posture.
I think he is practicing his adult behaviors as the dragons did when they were young.
Ah, what a joy little Sam has been for me.
I love watching him and taking care of him.
Chameleons are not pets.
They are not appropriate animals for children.
Their care is not difficult, but it requires constant monitoring and careful attention.
They are not “lap dog” animals.
They are wild, exotic creatures who must be treated and accommodated as such.
Very soon, Sam will be joined by a male Panther Chameleon, Hugo.
(Sam is a veiled chameleon)
The two will be housed in separate enclosures as are all chameleons.
The setup for them is somewhat complicated and has taken several weeks.
Hugo will not be shipped until his home is completed and approved by the breeder.
Ed and Liddy Kramer of Kramerflage Kreations are the breeders.
(They require very specific proof of suitability from the applicant keeper.)
I am so excited to be receiving him into the Sherwood Zoo
that I simply couldn’t resist posting a preview of him!
Miss Little Britches is Jeremy’s kitten.
When I woke up at the ranch at two o’clock on Sunday morning,
I opened the refrigerator door to fetch a bottle of mocha frappuccino.
I left the door open for a few minutes instead of turning on a light
since I thought I might awaken the kids.
Then I shut the door.
After some time, I opened the door again.
There sat Miss Little Britches on a shelf exactly as she is sitting in this photo.
She looked at me as if being in a refrigerator were a perfectly normal place to be.
I had to shoo her out of the refrigerator!
(Perhaps, I really do need a keeper, as I often joke…)
Okay, so the title is a classic Bait-and-Switch!
I didn’t see one snake or scorpion or tarantula…
This weekend I went with the kids to their ranch in Duval County, Texas.
Although they bought the place several years ago, this was my first visit.
My point about the critter boots is that they make everybody who visits wear a pair of snake boots.
These are some that Charlie outgrew, but they provide a variety of sizes!
As soon as we got out of bed, you headed out to look for rabbits to shoot with your pellet gun.
You normally see lots of them, but this morning you said it must be too cold for them!
You had to call Dad to find out the combination to the railroad car storage building where your gun was on the hunting buggy.
After you walked around the perimeter of the yard a few times, you decided to shoot targets instead.
You’re a really good shot, you know!
I remember when you shot your first deer when you were six years old.
When I asked you about the shoot,
You said, “Dad said to drop him, so I did”, as if that were the most normal request in the world!
I still chuckle about that!
However, I did see some little does.
If you whip out your magnifying glass, you can see them!
I needed about 100mm more focal length on my lens.
I was dumb enough to allow the flash to go off and scare them away.
This is the deer stand where I was sitting when I saw the little does.
Kelli said I was making too much noise.
So, I moved down to a chair at the foot of the stand and drank my Starbuck’s bottled
coffee frappuccino and watched the sun set!
(Life in the South Texas brush country is hard.)
The cutest thing I saw was a tiny frog that Charlie showed to me.
I could hear them talking in the brush all around me.
There must have been a huge population of them.
I swear this is a family of quail feeding on corn along the trail.
I wish I’d had a longer focal length since quail are so pretty.
I was napping at the house when the kids saw the most colorful birds!
I was sitting on one of the top seats of the “buggy” (whatever those hunting vehicles are called).
There are endless trails just like this one all over the 325 acres.
I have no idea how the kids know where they are since the trails all look the same to me.
I was pretty much too busy looking at the marvelous sky!
These are a couple of the feeder pens for deer. The wire enclosure is to keep out the wild hogs.
The concrete tanks collect water that gravity feeds into the water troughs for the deer.
They also deliver water to fill them when it is dry weather.
That round light-colored thing is a bale of cottonseed.
Jeremy left Kelli at one of the feeders to shoot wild hogs late one evening.
When he returned to pick her up, he saw that she had shot a bunch of Javelinas.
She said they looked like hogs to her!
He still laughs about that.
Jeremy and Kelli are filling a “hog feeder”.
The wild hogs knock it around to get the corn to spill out of holes drilled into the pipe.
It is attached by a chain to a post.
When they come to eat, the guys shoot them.
The guys from the shop like to cook wild hog.
I’ve eaten it and I can attest to the fact that it really is good eating!
Charlie and Kelli checking out the bow hunting blind.
The thing looked shaky to me and very tall.
Charlie is learning to shoot a bow.
I understand that bow hunting requires a great deal of skill and steady composure.
Clearing brush in this part of the world is an ongoing project.
Otherwise, Mother Nature would take back her land.
Here, Jeremy is moving some brush to a burn area.
The guys from the plant like to go there for weekends to clear brush,
bird or hog hunt, and feast on Jeremy’s cooking!
Jeremy doesn’t allow deer hunting except by family members.
He is most interested in wildlife conservation and photography.
His family ate what they killed and still do.
Recently, Jeremy cooked the best doves I’ve ever eaten.
One of the coolest things I saw was a giant moth.
And, I only had to walk out onto the porch to see him!
The kids killed many scorpions, snakes and tarantulas when they built their camp.
But, they kill every blade of grass within a huge perimeter of the house
so that they don’t have critters moving in now!
They see many of the cutest ground squirrels, cottontail bunnies, lizards, and
a pair of ground squirrels, Chester and Dollie, live at one of the feeder pens.
One morning, the kids sat eating breakfast and watching a silly bobcat wandering
around on one side of the truck while a whole group of bunnies scampered around
directly behind him on the other side of the truck.
Apparently, he never saw them and missed his breakfast entirely!
Jeremy used the coals from the fire pit in his grills.
He grilled the best shrimp, steak, vegetables and corn on the cob
that I’ve eaten in a very long time!
The food there is worth the trip!
Jeremy and Charlie cooking.
Jeremy is wearing one of those cool head lamps
That allow you to see clearly in the dark.
They all carry them in their backpacks.
Of course, there are the stacks of wood for bonfires and outdoor cooking.
I think the guys at the plant cut the dead trees out of the woods there
and haul the wood to the camp.
The whole area is covered in Purple Sage and Texas Mountain Laurel.
And some kind of grass that I never saw before, but I think is really lovely.
I’ve forgotten the name of the grass, but I think it only grows about as tall as it looks here.
It is the most golden color and lines every roadway that I saw.
The first image is the county road leading out from the gate toward the highway.
This place is located in absolutely Nowhere, Texas, I assure you.
The light in this part of the world is magnificent.
The clouds are different too.
The atmosphere reminds me of the light in Santa Fe, New Mexico
where all of the artists congregate because of it.
Such clean, clear light here.
Perhaps because there is no smog!
There were what looked to be almost “crops” of the blue cactus plants along the roadways.
And, the green ones that I am accustomed to seeing.
Of course, there are lots of Yucca plants too.
I always thought far South Texas was flat and sandy and a miserable place to live.
I thought those folks who talk nostalgically about having grown up there were
simply immune to the harsh climate and ugly landscape.
I was badly mistaken.
It is beautiful country with just enough hills to be interesting, but still allow you to see for miles.
I felt as if I could see the world in a very different way than I see it anywhere else.
My apologies to the people of that part of the world!
The ranch is twenty-two miles north of Freer, Texas.
This mesa is fairly long and creates a very interesting part of the landscape.