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Through the Bump Gate

A ”bump gate” is a drive-through gate used in rural areas to provide a barrier to livestock but does not require the driver to exit the vehicle.

The first time I saw a Gar, it was the carcass laying along the bank of the Pecos River in Texas while on a fishing trip with my father. We had gone to Langtry and to get there we had to go through a series of bump-gates, which were new to me. You simply drove right up to the gate with your bumper touching and then you accelerated and pushed the gate forcefully enough to open it and RUSH through before it hit the backside of your vehicle after passing onto the other side!

And once through several of these, we got to Langtry, Texas, with the population sign that read, “Population varies” because we had just added to it by being there ourselves! I know that little store had been there a long time because along the side of the road I found a soda pop bottle as proof, so old it was not flat on the bottom, but ROUNDED!

My Dad had taken me and my brother there one other time, but since he didn’t like fishing, we went without him. I love fishing, but mostly because I love to eat fresh fish. The best I ever ate were what we caught there on that river, cooked in a cast iron skillet, that I still use to cook fish.

That time after tiring of the act of fishing, I parked my pole and went exploring. Out of sight of my dad, I found a carcass of an ancient creature. The bones were clearly old and looked to be a complete set. Nowadays, any number of children would have known the Latin name since so many LOVE dinosaurs!

I was shocked and intrigued by what I saw, it looked like an ancient miniature alligator about a foot long with so many teeth! In my imagination it must have been there for the millennia and uncovered untouched by the last big rain event there in far west Texas. And then I walked farther and found a fresh carcass of the same species on the bank, partially eaten. They weren’t extinct! There were small alligators HERE! I was so scared and began quickly turned to find my way back with this knowledge to the security my Dad would give.

After expressing my fear he simply said, I had seen what he called Alligator Gars!

And on the last stop on the Toxic Tour with the children in LEAD’s Summer Youth Camp while standing on the banks of Tar Creek right here in Miami, OK, unable to cross on the low water bridge, because of HIGH water, we peered in the water hoping to see life. Small fish in little bunches were darting along, but there in the water was… a GAR and a baby GAR. OH MY GOSH. You can’t imagine my amazement! And the kid that catches one of those will have quite a story to tell, won’t he?

In another area, after peering into the water, it was clear enough to see the distinctly marked curled up young snake. Knowing never to say, “SNAKE” with children around, I was silent and amazed and took a photo so as to identify later. Children are generally fearless about snakes and tend to poke at them, as you know!

This group of children were concerned about the birds and animals at Tar Creek and in the superfund site. They went to learn and listen, see and with their determination were able to find there was life. But they wondered and worried all might be experiencing harm from the poisons that lay in the water, sediment and the soil. Their concern was real, as it should be for us who care about the environment and the beings who inhabit it with us.

The little ones spent some time researching the effects of lead to children and carefully drew and printed signs to warn of the dangers. They posted them at the entrance to Tar Creek used by many their own ages as their summer begins.

There will be a time soon you will be able to see the movie our Summer Campers created and hear their voices as they sing their hopes for a Clean Tar Creek. They didn’t notice, but I sang along with them, as I know you will find yourself doing too!

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim


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