Going Rural–Really, Really Rural

Connecting the dots of where I’ve traveled, it looks like a maniacal spider spun a web over a map.  Rhyme and reason don’t have much of a say in my endeavors.  I find a comfort in living on the edge, as backward as that sounds.  With each new move, I develop a deeper understanding of who I am and a greater philosophy of what it means to live.  Included in these renaissance ideas is a definition of the word “home.”

For the past five years, I have dipped into my savings to fund my life of adventure, culture and animals, working to live instead of living to work.  From traveling with my freshman college roommate in her homeland of the Dominican Republic, to building a school in the Brazilian Amazon, to saving monkeys and fearing tarantulas in Ecuador, to a solo backpacking trip through Europe, my hard-earned savings have been well spent.  I was lucky enough to have Mom and Dad offering their parental support and independent enough to financially support my undertakings on my own.  By living each day simply, I have been able to work toward my dream of rescuing wildlife.  The path to animal rehabilitation is long and arduous, with years of unpaid internships and networking to get a foot in the door.  I’m on my way to fulfilling my dream.

Baby season at WRR meant highrises of wire cages and mountains of plastic crates.  Orphaned opossums, skunks, squirrels, birds, raccoons and fawns made their way to the clinic for nursing and eventual release.  Sadly, many of their mothers had been hit by cars or killed by locals who viewed them as pests.
Baby season at WRR meant highrises of wire cages and mountains of plastic crates. Orphaned opossums, skunks, squirrels, birds, raccoons and fawns made their way to the clinic for nursing and eventual release. Sadly, many of their mothers had been hit by cars or killed by locals who viewed them as pests.

During the summer of 2009 in Ecuador, the jungle became my temporary home.  In the summer of 2010, home traveled with me as I hopped from hostel to hostel throughout Europe.  I embodied comfort and relaxation, adventure and happiness.  I don’t need knick-knacks and picture frames, a closet of clothes and shoes, or even a pillow under my head.  Everything I need to survive physically fits inside a fifteen gallon backpack.  Anything else—memories, experiences—I carry inside me.  My body, my mind and my heart are my home.

At the conclusion of my six month internship in Kendalia, Texas from January to July 2010, the trailer I shared with a group of co-workers was no longer my home.  For six months, the rusty, boarded up shack on wheels was my solace, but in the end, exhaustion and frustration from the workplace became too much of a daily occurrence.  It was time for a new home.  But I needed to recuperate first.  After about three months in Perrysburg, I headed south again.  This time, instead of cowboy boots and desert, there is an invasion of palm trees and oranges.

Texas was an entirely new chapter in a life that continues to be fueled by animals and travel.  There were ups and downs, moments of hilarity and heartache.  Overall, everything I learned in the desert was invaluable.  Like any book, each chapter is an integral part of the story. So, even though my days of wildlife rehabilitation in Texas are over with for now, I think it is best we start with that adventure, in the middle of nowhere.

Kendalia, Texas won’t show up on a lot of satellite maps. (See old school map below for verification of the town’s existence.)  There is no grocery store.  Cell phone reception is limited to non-existent.  Lucky enough to have a post office for sending only letters, the mail room is inside a shack the size of a walk-in closet.  And yet this town is still in America.  A convenient store is the only other public service building, connected to the post office.  The one truck fire station doesn’t have enough volunteers to stay running.  Seventy-five people reside in rural Kendalia.  I guess I made it seventy-six.

Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation is off one of two main roads going through the town.   The facility takes in mainly native animals, those who are ill, injured or orphaned, but also fosters companion animals and provides a permanent sanctuary for rescued exotics.  On average, six thousand animals are admitted annually to WRR.  Initially, I was drawn to the center’s mission that encompasses providing “individualized care” and “a voice for animals in need.”  We did not discriminate against the mean, the ugly or the smelly.

At the beginning, I was only trained to open the clinic.  My daily schedule began to vary once I advanced to the closing shift, intern on call for rescues 24/7, and animal care for the permanent residents of WRR.  The hours were bearable for the first couple of weeks, then increasingly less bearable as baby season exploded.  During this season, the clinic is bursting at the seams with orphaned songbirds, squirrels, skunks, opossums and other Texas native wildlife.  It was just around the corner when I arrived.

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