My interest in family grew on June 28, 2008, when my wife and I drove to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to a wedding I got to participate in, between my daughter Lynda and a man named Terry Rodgers. For the first time ever, I got to give my daughter away, in a brief outdoor ceremony, a perk of the bed and breakfast mansion where the two were staying. First impressions of a new family member were positive. They still are.
Recently, I spent a long weekend in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where the family tree seems to have taken root. I reconnected with both my daughters, five of six grandchildren, and saw, for the first time, two great-granddaughters. Terry, of course, was there. I got to know him better.
Terry has a part-time job that I admire to the point of envy, so I chose it to write about. I called him Sunday evening to discuss it. He filled me in on his life, his work, and his new job. He’s optimistic about it growing. Once he got started, he said, the job just “took off.” Since April when he started, he’s “bagged” 34 “critters.”
He told me that working with animals had long been one of his dreams. When he was on the police force in Bixby, Oklahoma, there was no official dog catcher, so the officers took turns. Later, an inspirational spark came from meeting a star from Animal Planet at the airport where he works, and getting some encouragement.
Terry’s career has been mainly in law enforcement. He’s been at it in several permutations, on a police force, security guard, and currently working security at the Tulsa, OK airport. He’s been at it long enough to start thinking about retirement, and in the planning process has started a small business, live-trapping animals and releasing them where their presence would be less intrusive. His vocational background, maintaining order and security has blended with a love of the outdoors to become at once an income, a hobby, and a challenging sport. He actually used the word “enjoy” to describe driving his truck out in the country, meeting new people, and removing unwelcome “critters” like raccoons, who had literally dropped in by chewing a hole in the roof and setting up housekeeping in the attic.
Not everyone would like Terry’s new job. Long hours, hard work and an unpredictable schedule have to fit in beside his regular full-time job. There is some money, but overhead consumes a lot of it, considering the price of gasoline and long miles to drive on secondary roads. Besides a hunting license, the state required him to become an official Nuisance Wildlife Control Officer. And of course there were live traps he had to buy or build himself.
But there are rewards. He likes helping people, and has met some remarkable ones in his work. He also likes the ever-present element of surprise.
What makes him good at it? During our phone conversation, he referred several times to a gift he has, a “way with animals.” Somehow it was always easier for him to calm them.
It is wonderful to have the opportunity to use a special talent to fulfill a dream. So many beneficiaries, including “critters” that, after all, have to be somewhere. Terry simply makes it somewhere else.