After our dinner was finished and the table cleared, my father and I would set out in preparation of another’s meal. At the time we lived on a dead end street which butted up against the railroad tracks. Across from our house was a small field, probably something to do with the railroad, but I cannot say for certain. The grass and weeds would grow tall thereby protecting whatever wildlife having ventured into its canopied self.
Our mission was not to disturb the variety of wildlife which made its home there, but instead to catch flies for our amphibious friends at home. I had toads. Probably not one of the best pets for a child, but I thought they were fascinating and wonderful. As an adult, I realize that they, like the other wildlife just outside our door, would have preferred the freedom of the field rather than the artificially lighted home that was made theirs against their tough skinned will, but children rarely make that connection and I was no different. I loved them and wanted then near and because of this I thought that they too would obviously feel the same. Poor creatures.
My father was given the task to escort me into the field to catch flies to feed our toad family as my mother didn’t find the process necessarily pleasant. The process was simple enough, find a sleeping fly and cup it in the palm of your hand until you could transfer it to the waiting container. I am certain that the unsuspecting fly did not have this relocation in mind when it had settled in for the night, giving way to the much more interesting fireflies.
I can recall the excitement of seeking out the resting flies on the underside of leaves and crevices found on plant stalks. The hunter and the hunted, but the hunted had no idea that it was indeed being stalked by a small child and a giant of a man. The flies, normally shunned by their human counterparts, must of have been quite unsettled with this change of events, but my loyalty lied with the toads in their homemade swamp, rather than the fly.
Catching flies is a strange skill to hone, but when you have small hungry mouths to feed, you take it in stride- just as my father did, with my insatiable curiosity and want to be in the world, rather than just observe. He maintained his patience while showing me the ways in which nature worked, playing out its joys and sorrows. Sometimes, most likely against his better judgment, he allowed me to intervene in the natural outcome of things, just a little, but that is what dads do.