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bombers in Europe, Asia, and Africa. I was named Harry Walter Greene after my grand-
We were never in one home more than three years at a stretch until Daddy retired
from the air force, just before I turned seventeen, so over the course of twelve grades
I attended schools in five states and a foreign country. Bill and Marjorie were strict
but supportive parents, and although our family attended Methodist and Presbyterian
churches, my younger brother, Will, and I were encouraged to read and think inde-
pendently. We were good students and in our spare time flew model airplanes, watched
Saturday matinees about cowboys and war heroes, and romped with Sunny, our collie.
Mother and Daddy weren't inclined toward the outdoors for its own sake—she owned
a dirt farmer's practical view of nature; his hobbies in youth were ice hockey, reading,
and photography—but they mustered enthusiasm for countless zoos and museums, tol-
erated my wild critter pets, and otherwise nurtured our interests. My favorite childhood
topics were Elizabeth Baker's Stocky, Boy of West Texas, about the adventures of an
orphaned pioneer kid, and Raymond Ditmars's Snakes of the World. 2
I developed passions for travel and the outdoors at an early age. As a four-year-old,
while Daddy worked at nearby Lowry Field, I was mesmerized by dioramas of bison
and other large mammals at the Denver Museum of Natural History, and on family out-
ings we used a child's primer on domestic species to identify Hereford bulls and York-
shire pigs. By age seven I was catching box turtles and horned lizards on visits to my
grandparents' East Texas farm, and that same year, on a summer camp hike while we
were stationed in the central Texas Hill Country, I watched a western diamond-backed
rattlesnake crawl into a cactus patch. Shortly thereafter we left Sunny with the grand-
parents and took an idyllic troop ship voyage to the Philippines, during which Will and
I pretended to be sailors and watched flying fish, whales, and other marine life. For the
next sixteen months we lived on the island of Luzon, my roaming tendencies curtailed by
cobras and communist insurgents in hills neighboring our base, but finally, when Daddy
was assigned back to the same Texas outpost, Sunny and I were again free to explore
our surroundings.
After school and on weekends I scampered across the street from our quarters on
Gray Air Force Base into scrubby woodlands and shallow limestone outcrops, imagining
myself an adventurer. I marveled at bluebonnets and other spring wildflowers, always
on the lookout for what my mother labeled “varmits” or “creepy crawlies.” Evidently
neither parent thought of those excursions as hazardous for a nine-year-old. Once,
however, I scrambled under huge tree roots on a stream bank, entranced by cobwebs
and dank earth smell, only to find the frog I was chasing replaced by a prowling Texas
coralsnake. From Ditmars's topic I realized the color pattern a few inches beyond my
nose fit “red and yellow, kill a fellow” rather than the “red and black, venom lack” of a
harmless milksnake, so I knew better than to grab it. Another day I found Sunny lying on
our patio with fluid draining from paired punctures on her nose, recognized the wounds
as snakebites from my reading, and vowed to henceforth kill every rattler I found. She
recovered thanks to good veterinary care, relieving me of a promise I surely couldn't
have kept.
Almost every year we visited Mother's parents near the tiny town of Lindale, inspir-
ing my most provocative childhood memories as well as some sense of rooted place, a fa-
miliar and permanent home to which we always returned. Grandpa and Grandmommy's
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