Early Pre-Teen Years
Looking back over his early childhood pictures I discovered signs of one of the many attributes that defined JR, his love of animals, nature and being outdoors. An early toddler picture captured the moment he discovered his first butterfly. In this picture, JR is stooped over trying to gently grab that butterfly. It did not work, but he kept trying, walking and stooping over and over. He spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to capture bugs, any bug as his curiosity grew with every discovery. As a young boy, his interest was toward the sky and its inhabitants. He learned to distinguish different birds and their calls. He liked listening to most birds, but hated the mockingbird’s call as he had the most annoying mockingbird outside his second floor bedroom window. We even found the mockingbird annoying, as did JR’s pet parrot that squawked loudly when annoyed by the mockingbird or by JR.
Having so much time due to his early wake-up call, he spent his summers and weekends exploring the things below the neighborhood streets and neighboring bayous looking for snapping turtles, but in particular, snakes.
It didn’t matter if he would run into the tall freeway dead end walls or if the water was rushing in the local bayou, he wouldn’t return home until he had his catch. It was all about money and what he could do with it that kept him hunting. You see, PETCO would purchase his snakes and pay him anywhere from $15 to $30, depending on the snake. He learned that the gopher snake paid him a whopping $30, and that was his #1 hunt. Encouraged by his snake sales, he spent his money on snake encyclopedias and that’s when snakes became his obsession. The more he learned about them and more snakes he hunted. He memorized snake encyclopedias and purchased several snake aquariums and kept them in his bedroom. Unbeknownst to me, JR hosted snake dinner shows at home and had plenty of friends willing to pay .50, to watch the snakes swallow live mice. Family life was never the same at home and family road trips had to include snake hunts and later in life, lizard hunts. He had to find every state bird, snake, and regional lizards. He viewed the family road trips as opportunities to hunt and explore the terrain. Doesn’t that sound like a U.S. Marine?