The Champ knows everything. It's true, actually.
The only thing he doesn't seem to grasp is the ability to get my attention without tugging on my shirt.
As I gaze down at the creature testing all his weight on my boiled wool cardigan, he smiles cherubically from under his favorite winter hat, his ears sticking out at an elf-like angle.
I catch his hand and gently peel each finger away from the over-stretched fabric.
“What is it?”
“Did you know bats mostly don't eat blood? It's true, actually. They eat bugs and fruit. We should have a pet bat. Can we get one next time we see a bat store?”
“Sure thing. Let's make a list so we don't forget.”
His expression, now puckered and overly cute, tells me he knows the bat store is a figment of his imagination. I have failed to take the bait.
He continues to quiz me.
“Did you know that there's a wolf what eats nothing but insects? It's true, actually. They're called ART Wolves!!! I think they also eat paint and crayons if it's winter out and the insects go off to hibernate or something. But that's only in the winter time. On all the other days they just eat bugs.”
For a moment, as I make a mental picture of a jackal-like ant-eater snacking away on a waxy stalk of Cornflower Blue in the arctic chill of a South African winter, I consider correcting him. “Aardwolves, a relative of the hyena, eat mostly termites, larvae and carrion. ARTwolves are mythical beasts who eat the crafts of children who don't put away their markers.”
Another failure on my part.
He and his sister are fond of nature shows. They've been watching “Wild Kratts,” a nature series for children on PBS starring the Kratt brothers – Martin and Chris – two science grads who've taken the basic documentary tenant of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and blended it with the modern animation and dramatic license of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Among recent topics has been the diet of aardwolves, the tracking of Monarch butterflies and how to identify venomous snakes. There's always some tidbit of information that makes you look at whomever else is in the room and repeat what you just heard.
“Did you know Zebras can't see orange?”
The adults will answer: “I had no idea.”
The sprogs will blank stare you as if you just walked in from the moon. “Of course they can't see orange.”
By the time the show is over both kids want to be zoologists, sneaking up on their stuffed animals in an effort to study their behaviors.
But the Kratt brothers sometimes do things you NEVER want to do … Things that will make you think there's a little more Steve Irwin in the brothers' background than Jim Fowler or Marlin Perkins.
Just little things like vexing a venomous viper … or hugging an 80-pound crocodile … cuddling up with a beaver.
It's not as if The Champ is going to be swimming with sharks or aping gorillas any time soon, but I still feel the need to tell him manhandling nature, no matter how gentlemanly, might not be in his (or their) best interest.
“Did you know apes can talk … with their HANDS? It's true, actually. If I saw an ape I would talk to him with my mouth.”
“That's probably a better idea then trying to get his attention by tugging on his shirt.”