Borrego Springs, CA

Sunday, August 5, 2012


The last two days, I’ve been working the two visitors centers; yesterday at Gateway, and today at Pea Island.  Gateway hasn’t been open long enough for me to figure out what the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) are yet, but at Pea Island it’s a cinch to figure out what they are. 

1.  Where is the rest room?

2.  How far is it to the Cape Hatteras Light House?

3.  Where is the nearest gas station?

4.  Am I lost??

The first two top the list each and every day that I work there.  There are signs directing people to the rest room, but apparently nobody reads them.  The last time I heard that question today, it turned out to be quite an interesting experience, but I’ll get to that later.

_MG_9637 _MG_9640

The chore I like least about opening the Pea Island VC is filling the bird feeders.  That may seem surprising, but it is like running a gauntlet. The geese readily move out of the way, and the cowbirds and grackles take flight, but the minute you step on those boards a huge horde of mosquitoes is somehow alerted to your presence.  It’s awful!  Even though the temps were in the upper 80’s this morning, I wore heavy jeans to work just so my legs wouldn’t be ravaged.  It’s like playing “minute to win it”, and losing every time.  Disappointed smile


             This is the goose-stepping Canadian general that decides who gets to eat and who doesn’t.

_MG_9643Thanks goodness I don’t have to keep this bird bath filled.  It’s on an automatic water drip.  I’d surely be drained of all blood by the end of the day if I had to do that.


Many of the refuges that I’ve worked at sell the National Wildlife Refuge Passport Book, and have stamps for you to commemorate your visit.  Remember the stamp Diana and I designed for Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR?  Well today I had a man (I won’t call him a gentleman) purchase one of the passport books.  I watched as he went over to put the stamp on the Pea Island page.  We have stamps for both Pea Island and Alligator River.  You can see that he tried both of them out on the visitors registration book, and then stamped his book and groaned.  That’s when about a dozen other people in the VC required my attention with questions and purchases, and I had to turn away.


While I was busy, he took the wrapper off of a second book, stamped it, and quickly went out the door.  What he left behind was the book he purchased with the Alligator River stamp on the Pea Island page.  So now we have an unwrapped book with one incorrect stamp in it which means we can’t sell it.  Would it have been so awful to just put the correct stamp next to it?  What a cad!  I hope he was swarmed by a gazillion mosquitoes as he left the scene of the crime.

Shortly before closing time, a little boy came in to ask our most popular question.  I told him the bathrooms were on the other side of the parking lot.  About ten minutes later, he returned to ask if I had a telephone.  He then shakily told me that when he came out of the bathroom his parents were gone, and had left him.  Turns out he was eight years old.  I asked him to tell me his parents’ phone number, and he recited it for me.  Problem was, he didn’t know the area code.  When I asked him what it was, he told me his zip code. 

Eventually, I was able to find out that there were three cars in his party traveling together, and he had been riding with his uncle.  All the cars had left, and I assume they each thought he was in a different car.  I ended up calling the NC Highway Patrol, and they said they would send out an officer.  In the meantime, I told him he should stay in the VC, and that he would be all right.  He was really scared, but did the right thing by coming inside for help. 

As I waited on some customers, a father of three young children began talking to the boy, and was able to get the full phone number from him.  He used his cell to call the mother since he noticed that I had great difficulty talking to the police dispatcher since the land line in the VC has the worst reception of any phone I’ve ever used in my life.  Longer story a little shorter is that the parents did arrive to pick up the boy.  The father was furious, and the mother was just glad to see him.  This was the beginning of their vacation, and they had not yet realized that the boy was missing.  I called the police to let them know, and finally began to close up a half hour late.  I was just happy that everything turned out all right.


I’ll leave you tonight with a glimpse of last night’s sunset.  Not spectacular, but not too shabby either.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy


  1. Sounds like "Home Alone." Glad he came in before you were closed. It would have been terrible for him if no one was there!

  2. Oh that poor little boy. The dad was out of line to be upset with him. Since they permitted him to ride with his uncle, the parents should have checked to be sure that is who he was with before they left. I hope he can enjoy the rest of their vacation.
    Concerning the man and the stamp...it takes all kinds.

  3. Good thing you were there for the little boy.

  4. This reminds me of when I was young....my family traveled with a overhead camper. Once at a gas station I was left behind...my mother counted 8 but there were only 7...ha! Wasn't but a few minutes...my sisters and brothers were screaming "We left Sheryl behind at the gas station"...we still laugh about it to this day!

  5. The story about the little boy just reminded me of how poorly our family communicates when all of us get together at a family reunion. "I thought you said you were going to the...." "We said we were meeting at..." "You didn't hear that? I thought so and so told you!" We're good natured about it, but I could easily see someone left behind, it's a miracle it hasn't happened yet! Lovely sunset makes up for the jerk of the day.

  6. OK....Tonight you need to get a great glass of wine, give Emma a big kiss, put your feet up and relax...How scary to have a lost youngster needing your assistance...It is sad that they didn't miss him, but it turned out OK....Good job, Judy..you deserve a much needed rest..

  7. Oh my! The story of the boy reminds of our own embarrassment. We stopped for petrol and the youngest asked to get out and go into the shop. I told him no but he got out anyway. Father got into the car and left the garage. I thought nothing more about it. It just hadn't registered we'd continued without one child. We arrived home, about three miles. We stood talking in the sun with our daughter and her teenage friends. Eventually Jane asked where was Wayne. OOPS!

    John had not realised he'd got out of the car. I had forgotten him. John drove back down the road and picked him up. This 'always getting into trouble four year old' was already half way home. It was and is one of our family jokes but could have had far more serious consequences.

    We lived in a small country town and had been out to The Farm to do some chore or other. Even back then it was a fairly busy provincial road.

    I guess we all learned a lesson that day. But it still makes me laugh.

    Glad you were there for the youngster. He must have been in a bit of a panic.

    You deserve a reward ... how about a Mosquito Free Day.


  8. Poor little guy! You did good Judy. That father, not so much.

  9. What a mean Dad...

    Have you ever tried those clip on mosquito things? They're kind of big (maybe take a battery?) and have a fan looking thing in them. I suppose you put in a disk with mosquito repellent in it and the fan like thing disperses it. Watch for the TV commercial. Our daughter in law wears them outside and the mosquito's leave her alone! They used to always find her first and bite her madly like you describe!

  10. Holy Moly, Judy, what a day! (just a day in the life of a NWR volunteer?)

    Maybe you could stay off the boards - kinda sneak up on the bird feeders?

    Love the sunset picture.

  11. I know exactly how that little boy felt. Fortunately for me, when my parents left me at the St Louis Zoo both families were traveling in the same car. When they started wondering why there seemed to be more room going home, they turned back and discovered me still standing by the restroom. I had been taught to stay put so they could retrace their steps to find me and it worked! I didn't cry until I saw my Dad coming over the hill. First time ever I think he didn't scold me.

    Yes, those bug repellant fan things work. At least they work for me when sitting outside visiting. Since, I don't move much I'm not sure how they would work walking around.

  12. I can see why working at the Visitors Center drives you crazy - people - instead of working with animals. I bought one of the mosquito repellent fans that clip on your waistband, went for a walk and got bitten up. Then I read the instructions - works only when sitting still.

  13. you had quite the day, Judy!..nice ending to the 'boy' story though..even if the Dad was a bit of jerk!
    watch out for that Canadian General!!

  14. Life is never dull for you, is it? OK, well; I'm sure there are days when things are slow, but this one sure wasn't. The passport buyer is an IJIOT, as a friend would say ... even after testing the stamp on the sign-in page he still got it wrong! I'm glad the boy was re-united with his family; the father probably felt like an IJIOT too, which probably fueled his anger. Not an excuse, though.

  15. Here I thought every kid in the USA was equipped with a cell phone these days! About the mosquitoes... we wear "The Original Bug Shirt" and just pull the hood up when we're outside. Bill sprays bug spray on a bandanna and wears that as well. Do you have deer flies, black flies and no see ums? Seems there's always something out there just waiting to nab us.

  16. So, why is it that you don't want to work at the VC every day? ;)

  17. Just goes to show ya... you need a rest for sure, definitely deserve it. Glad the lil boy got reunited with family, shame on Dad for scolding him. Mom, yep most always simply relieved beyond words.

    As for the so-so sunset... OBX Sunsets are always AWESOME, thanks for sharing the pic.

  18. It's amazing how insensitive parents can be. I wonder how that little boy can process getting left and then getting blamed for it.

    As for the man, don't you wish you could find his information from a credit card he used to buy the book and then charge him for them both? He must be really anal if he can't deal with what a great memory having done that wrong would be.

    Patience is a virtue they say but I'm not sure I'm designed for the VC.

  19. I am so glad you story had a happy ending. I can understand how that could have easily happened. Poor little guy!!

  20. What a day! Poor kid, and his father should be smacked along with the idiot who stamped the wrong page.

  21. Poor little boy. Sounds like the parents need a check list. Hope he doesn't have nightmares over being left behind.

    That man with the wrong stamp is just a jerk. Can't believe he did that. What kind of people are out there? Make you wonder.

  22. Wow, every parent's worst nightmare! You're a heroine! Can't believe the Dad would be mad--poor little guy. As far as the stamp guy--fortunately, he's in the minority.

    As always, your posts are always so interesting and entertaining.

  23. That poor little boy. I can imagine how scared he was. I agree with Paul and Marti, the parents need to add the boy to the check list. :) Oh, well, that episode will become part of that family's history, and I'm sure will be retold many times.

    Why am I not surprised at that customer with the wrong stamp in his first book? He must have a bad case of OCD.

  24. You have some of the best days and stories to tell.

  25. We left my oldest at a Pizza ht once. He too was in the bathroom and we were there with lots of family and several cars. When we got to my brother in laws one of the cousins noticed he didn't get out of the other car and asked where he was. Luckily he was about 16 and it was just across town (small town) but he has never let us forget it. Now he would have had a cell phone and we would have known sooner. :)

  26. I can see a book deal in your future with all these great stories you are gathering. Put me down for a copy now:)

  27. Wow. Judy -- two idiots in the same day. The father should have been upset with the uncle and not in front of his son. Poor kid.

    The guy who stamped the book: not much hope for him.

  28. Many years ago, my dad was checking the church before locking up after Sunday night service. There, sound asleep under one of the pews, was one of the Stillwell twins (either Ronnie or Donnie!!). Parents were called and they returned for their missing boy, embarrassed but relieved that he was right where they left him. And the Dad was not angry with the kid!! Can't believe that dad at the VC would be mad at the child - grrr!!