Lions and Pirates and Caterpillars, oh my!

by Mike Trans

(originally published in September 2004 newsletter)

The other day while walking one of the paths with my dog, Ted, I saw a family taking advantage of some good weather and spending time with each other. The mother and father of two young children were sitting by a boulder watching their children play and enjoying a very brief peaceful moment. The two children must have been between six and eight years old. The older sister started chasing her younger brother and scaring him with a caterpillar she had found. He was running in circles trying to avoid being touched by the caterpillar and letting out a shriek that would curdle your milk. He even scared Ted. As funny as it was, I didn't laugh because their mother didn't find it too amusing. She scolded the girl for teasing her brother. Even though there was a minor crisis at that moment, at least they were spending time together—something that may be later described in therapy by that little boy, but they were spending time together now. And that what's important.

This reminded me of when I brought my niece to the woods for the first time. It was always fun to show her someplace new. I thought I would open the door to a whole new world for her. I wanted her to remember the Lynn Woods as a place introduced to her by her uncle. I wanted her to gain an appreciation for nature, and know as she got older what it is to have a place to be alone with your thoughts. But most of all, I wanted to bring her someplace where I didn't have to spend any money.

Susan—the girl I baby-sat, taught the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song, and bought gallons of ice cream—would never have the same appreciation for the Lynn Wood as her uncle. It started out promising. She was excited to see Dungeon Rock and hear stories of pirates and treasure. We didn't get too far in before she started running ahead of me. "Watch out for the horse poop! Watch out for.!" I yelled about four steps too late. She started to tell me how "daddy calls them 'road apples' and they're not the kind of apples you eat," although Ted tried before I pulled him away. At least there was puddle nearby to wash the applesauce from her boots.

"How many trees are here?" she asked. "Is ocean here too? What kinds of animals live in the woods? Do lions live here?" I couldn't keep up with her questions, but I threw out the best (or most amusing) answers as freely as each question. I answered, "yes" to the last one just for fun. She looked at me with pause, but started asking about the surroundings again when she realized her mouth wasn't moving. Halfway to our destination she ran out of questions, or her jaw got tired, so I started to tell the story about Thomas Veal and the treasure and the earthquake and the .

"Ahhh! Get it off meee!"

It? What was it? Where was it? She was running in circles swatting furiously at the empty space in front of her. Ted-the-Brave ran off at the sound of her shrieks. He found a sturdy log to hide under. Susan ran, she panted, she swatted, and still I didn't see what she was upset about.

"Get it off meee!!!"

"What? What? WHAT?"

"A lion! Aaahhh! It's got me. Get it OFF!"

Uh oh, what am I going to tell her parents? Their only daughter is being eaten alive. I grabbed her and spun her around. There it was clinging to her chest. A caterpillar fell from one of the trees and landed on her Mickey Mouse sweatshirt just under the famous icon's black-dot nose, making the mouse look more like Groucho rather than the lead Disney character. She bounced up and down. I was trying to rip the monster from her shirt. After convincing her to hold still, I picked, pulled, and flicked in one fast motion. The beast was defeated, and I somehow came out unscathed.

She was crying and panting so hard that she had blown out the contents of her nose. Now safe, but messy, she started to angle her arm to be a makeshift tissue. I told her not to use her sleeve, but to use a leaf instead (Do you really think I was carrying tissues?). I wasn't going to return my niece to her rightful owners with a racing stripe down one sleeve. I should have let her use whatever she wanted because the leaf she chose seemed to have some ill effect by the next day. Now we know what poison ivy looks like. I learn something new every day. After all, how many people realize caterpillars will attack while unprovoked .and can resemble lions in stressful conditions?

Ted came sneaking back after everything was safe. We never did get to finish our walk in the woods because it was just not safe with niece-eating caterpillars jumping from trees onto sweatshirts. The whole way back to the parking lot, Susan jumped at every leaf that touched her shoulder and screeched whenever a chipmunk scurried past a log. She had a whole new line of questions. "Are we almost near the car? What was that noise? Can't you walk faster?" She came to the conclusion that Lynn Woods was a yucky place with bugs (and lions). That was her first and last trip to the woods; she'd experienced enough. I had to make it up to her with a hot fudge sundae. Okay, I guess I ruined what could have been the start of Susan's appreciation for the nature, and any future trips to Dungeon Rock, as well as the possibility that she'll grow up to be an entomologist.

With a little luck, the children from that family that I encountered the other day won't be as easily discouraged, and the boy with the big screams will learn that caterpillars are pretty harmless and being teased by his big sister is a small price to pay to have some quality time with the rest of the family. He may find a way to get even with his sister one day. He may even come back to our beloved Lynn Woods well into his adult years .unless his sister tells him about the lions.

See Also


Bringing Home the Woods by Jack Walsh

Change and the Woods

Divinity and the Woods

Holiday Greeting

Lynn Woods Reflections

Minutes from SSSP

Old Names in Lynn Woods

Stay Tuned: Arbor Day

Stay Tuned: Dungeon Rock

Stay Tuned: Houghton Horticultural Societ

Stay Tuned: Odd Fellows Hall

The end of an error!

The Vernal Pools of Lynn Woods

What Exactly is a Weetamoo?

Where Did It Come From?

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