The Good Old Days?
Charlie Grindstaff Indian Trail Master Naturalist
This excerpt is from a letter written in May of 1833 by Thomas Drummond, the Scottish naturalist, to his patron, Professor Hooker, Regius Professor of Natural History in the University of Glasgow.
Town of Velasco, mouth of the Rio Brazos, Texas
“As far as possible, I am endeavoring to replace the specimens which were spoiled during my illness, and have just packed up the whole, consisting of about a hundred species of plants, and as many specimens of birds, consisting of about sixty species, some snakes, and several land-shells. . . . among the plants are several which I would particularly recommend as deserving of notice for their beauty: two are species of Coreopsis, one. . . extremely handsome. . . . The want of my tent and the chief part of my ammunition, which I was obliged to leave at St. Louis, proves a serious inconvenience to me. Tomorrow I intend making an attempt to reach Brazoria again, but the greater part of the journey is waist-deep in mud and water. . . . I feel anxious about my collections, which I leave here, to await a vessel going to New Orleans; but there is no help for it, and from the interior of the country it is still more difficult to obtain conveyances . . . .The cost from Brazoria to New Orleans is forty cents per [cubic] foot. . . . my only desire is to remunerate those who have contributed to my outfit, and by the collections of Natural History specimens which I shall send home, to give a good general idea of the productions of this part of the world . . . . You may form an idea of the difficulties I have to encounter in this miserable country when I tell you that all the bird-skins I sent you were removed with a common old penknife, not worth two cents, and that even this shabby article I could not have kept had the natives seen anything to covet in it. . . .”
Imagine collecting plant and animal specimens, identifying them (without the internet), then drying, pressing and preparing the specimens to be sent to the other side of the world for scholars to study. The patrons, often not knowing, understanding or caring about the difficulties (natives, weather and Texas terrain) encountered by the naturalist, just wanted those specimens and the more the better.
Luckily your training to become a Texas Master Naturalist is not nearly that difficult or full of inconveniences. The Indian Trail Chapter is offering training at Waxahachie’s First United Methodist Church on eight Thursdays, from April 12 through May 31 with two Saturday field trips.
The training will consist of research-based presentations focused on the ecosystems of Ellis and Navarro Counties and covering such topics as weather and climate, geology and soils, native plants, birds, insects, mammals, fish, rangeland and wetland ecology.
We invite you to join us in our mission to increase public awareness, understanding and appreciation of our natural resources through education and active citizen participation.
Applications are available online at https://txmn.org/indiantrail/ or by contacting the AgriLife Extension Service Office by phone at 972-825-5175 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions and requests for more information or a schedule of classes should be directed to Paul Grindstaff, Training Committee Chairman, 972-291-2868, email@example.com.
The Texas Master Naturalist program is co-sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Services and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.