A little girl was directing her grandmother to our farm, where
she was enrolled in a swimming class. "Now, this is where
you turn down Wild Kingdom Road," she said.
Another time, as soon as a mother stopped the car her boy
jumped out saying, "Let me out of here, I’ve got some
running to do." Another asked me, "Some time could I
just touch the cow’s foot?" And one older boy was
struck by the glory of "all this space."
We were delighted that the children loved the farm.
We were also surprised that the parents didn’t seem to
mind driving about twelve miles to get here. It actually took
most of a half-day to round up the car pool, drive out, watch the
lesson for an hour, dry the wet ones, and return home.
One day a father stood viewing the pastures and woods and
suddenly yelled, "A deer! There’s a wild deer! No! Two,
three!" Three deer sauntered from the pond where they drank,
then across the hayfield, munching as they went. The man
apologized for disturbing the class but soon the children were
back in the pool and we continued the lesson. Of course we all
enjoyed the deer.
A bluebird broke up a class one time and I stopped and told
the children that the nest was in a woodpecker hole in a rotting
fence post near the pool. Before we continued the lesson I said,
"After class, if you go quietly and keep your hands on your
hips, you can peek in the hole and see the little mother setting
on her eggs." Some did that every time they came.
Six-year-old Peter Stenbeck kept us guessing and jumping,
sometimes. He was a fast learner. Too young to ask
"city" questions, he was curious and innovative, like
his parents, and usually the first one in the water and the last
One day he asked, "How long before I can get out?" I
told him he could get out at playtime, if he wanted. The playtime
was when we watched the children for special needs and gave some
of them individual help.
Playtime had another purpose: it kept the traffic going only
one way at a time on our mile and a half of narrow gravel road.
It also was a time when we had a double-size group for some
water-safety talk and training.
Peter asked again, "Can I get out now?"
"Why are you anxious to get out today?" I asked.
"I’ve brought something to show," he said. When
we blew the whistle and said, "Playtime!" He dashed to
the car. Peter came through the gate carrying a paper sack and
stood above the children in the pool with one hand holding to
something in the bag.
"What do you have for show and tell, Peter?" I
asked. He smiled widely and pulled out two live blue racer snakes
about 18 inches long! They squirmed and stood out from his little
fist as if to take off any minute. Playtime was over. People
yelled and scattered as Peter said, "It’s OK, we have
them loose in our house." His mother hurried him to the car
with the snakes still in his hand.
Chub and I came to like the Stenbecks and they sometimes
visited after the swimming season ended. I’ll have another
story on this interesting family, some other Tuesday.