During an overnight camp stay at Grayton Beach State Park in Florida’s Panhandle, my husband, Frank, and I met researcher, Jeff.
Frank, Jeff, and I were waiting to use the one outdoor public telephone. Although we had cell phones, no signal was available at that location. It was 1999. Many of us still used public telephones when traveling.
As we waited, we learned that Jeff was camping there for several weeks to study the Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse.
Beach mouse? I didn’t know there were mice on beaches. It makes sense though. I suppose mice are pretty much everywhere, but I had never thought about that. Up until meeting Jeff, I had only pictured beaches with sand, shells, gulls, terns, crabs, jellyfish… shore creatures.
Jeff’s enthusiasm and caring for those beach mice was so powerful that my husband and I almost got up at 4:00 AM the next morning to join Jeff on the beach and observe the little creatures, as we had been invited to do so. I even set the clock’s alarm in our RV. But, when it went off, sleep was more appealing than looking for mice with Jeff.
Before leaving that beautiful state park, we did get to see a few Choctawhatchee Beach Mice at Jeff’s campsite and to learn more both about the mice and about Jeff.
Jeff had left a lucrative job working on oil platforms to follow his heart’s desire. Even though it would require an investment of time and money and result in a career that paid less money, Jeff chose to go to undergraduate and graduate school so that he could study endangered species and work to protect them. Jeff loved nature and realized that he wanted to use his time and talent in a way that would respect and care for the environment.
Wow. Jeff, wherever you are all these years later, you are one of my touchstones for the gift of talent.