Biology Reference
In-Depth Information
Texas alligator lizard, Chisos Mountains, Brewster County, Texas. This species inhabits the Hill
Country and Trans-Pecos parts of the state. (Photo: H. W. Greene)
As I emerged from class at noon that August 1, I heard popping sounds that I as-
sumed were firecrackers at an antiwar demonstration. Then I learned on my car ra-
dio that someone was shooting from the clock tower. A deranged Charles Whitman
slaughtered sixteen people before two cops killed him; that evening some of the victims
were laid out in an Austin mortuary when I went back to pick up a Georgetown resident
who'd died of natural causes. By then I'd already seen dozens of strangers crushed by
the loss of loved ones, and several people close to me had died as well. Grandpa Gibson
succumbed to cancer when I was seventeen, leaving me inconsolable, and soon there-
after, just as we moved to Fort Worth, my Missouri herpetologist friend Paul Anderson
suffered a fatal heart attack. Later, when a wreck killed our Warrensburg neighbor Stan
Fisher and two of his kids, I'd begged my mom for explanations. How would Mildred sur-
vive the loss of her husband and children? Why is life so unfair? As the summer ended,
with the tower sniper's carnage fresh in my mind, that last question felt more and more
In short order the debutante dumped me and my old Volvo conked out, so in desper-
ation I transferred to Texas Wesleyan College, where Daddy taught. I'd hit bottom aca-
demically and financially. I first sold clothes in a department store, then drove a laundry
truck, but both jobs were boring and paid poorly. Seeking cash and something edgy to
break the tedium of school, I took an advanced first aid course and hired on with an
ambulance company. Our manager tossed expired donor blood on a sheet to accustom
us to the startling mess we would encounter, and weekly training sessions included a
navy film on emergency childbirth. I worked round the clock four days a week, attended
classes the other three, and made excellent grades. Emotionally, though, I was well on
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