Well, he never really left, but a few issues of my renewed subscription to Ranger Rick have arrived. A 35+ year hiatus. What could have changed?
Well, now it’s more of a quick, splashy read with great photos and some conservation content, but more of a “let’s get to know some cool animals,” nature-lover’s bent. The pages per issue are 40 now vs. 48 then, with many fewer words, maybe a 1:4 ratio, now to then.
The games and puzzles are more rudimentary, brain-power wise. The jokes are as bad as ever; there is less crafting. There are no books for sale from outside publishers—the Scholastic Books element vanished long ago, no doubt. Readers ask Scarlett the fox about things instead of an owl. No conservation pledge, and much less emphasis on news and conservation issues in general—the sentiment is expressed here and there, but as with all the other non-photo content, things are more mentioned than discussed.
But the photography is still compelling and first rate. The covers are beautiful.
Sigh. Maybe Zoobooks will be a better successor, at least in combination with the original.
I set these two envelopes aside a year or so ago. One is from the Snow Leopard Trust, the other from the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS). These are two of my more favored organizations, the first bringing an international team to work together with locals to save snow leopards and their habitat by working in close harmony with the local populous. Check out their gift shop for one example of this. The AAVS has a comprehensive approach to reducing (and one day eliminating lab research on animals) and I donated my last exhausted vehicle to them.
In this day of online donations, I didn’t use these envelopes, but their charm stuck with me. What do I mean by charm? First, the inherent charm of a slightly outdated way of payment, still likely appealing to the older set or middle-aged nostalgists like me. More pertinent: the cute art on each that warms the cockles of your heart, encouraging a good impression of the organization, and a donation even if the envelope is not used.
The Snow Leopard Trust is very plain up front, the AAVS quite the opposite. Look at that grateful mouse, one of the creatures the organization is fighting for!
Instead of a normal seal, the flap on both are extended for easier printing, giving room for another message. Two different approaches here: the AAVS goes legal while the Trust prints the splendid logo with a thank you.
Beautiful, effective, and almost instantly retro treasures.
Again, no squirrels, but two great orgs and a rodent!
Welcome to the final post of this Ranger Rick trio. No squirrels to be found below, but I hope you will press on and enjoy these timeless photos of nature. Above, no friend of rodents, but a good friend of mine: a Scarlet King Snake gracing the cover of the first Ranger Rick I ever received.
Note the signed pledge in the image above. I was devoted immediately! This zebra mom and colt and birth sac, well, another immortal image as long as my synapses are snapping. His first steps reflect my first steps in conservation.
This issue is jammed with content, and I love how articles refer to articles from previous issues. An article about pawpaws, Happy Bee tidbits, a Q&A on rabbits and hares, Nature Club News featuring a kid-made wildlife quilt and…
Ranger Rick’s Wild Alphabet had quite an impressive kavalkade of “k” animals, with more striking images of the kinkajou, kiwi, krait, and koran! Ranger Rick and His friends appear in their monthly tale, again by the sea, again featuring a sea turtle, and this time with the gulls mentioned in other issues appearing as menaces to baby turtles! The theme of gulls in Ranger Rick stories needs to be examined.
The issue’s highlight might be the dense, almost poetic description of the life of the Nautilus, “Sailor of the South Pacific. Maker of fine castles. Mighty Mollusk.” And the word, “nacre,” what a word the be reminded of. On to some games and crafts, and this most memorable of jokes:
Q. How do two octopuses walk along the beach? A. Arm in arm, in arm, in arm, in arm, in arm, in arm, in arm.
The issue winds up with the above and a chickadee Q&A from readers with a special story from one girl and her dad and a bold Black-capped Chickadee named Chico. Never underestimate the power of squeaky noises and seed in drawing a chickadee close! This is followed by an article celebrating its varied vocalizations.
And the back cover is a close-up of a horsefly’s rainbow-striped eyes. With its usual combination of fun and learning, a sentence asks readers how many striped animals they can find in this issue, encouraging a re-scan of what they’ve just read. Brilliant photo and caption.
Well, that’s it for this visit to a trio of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Ranger Ricks from long ago. I have re-subscribed to see how much things have changed or (I vainly hope) stayed the same, so there may be more to come!
An issue from my birthday month, but one I don’t think I ever read. Only one of the pictures stands out in my memory, but it’s as much of a treasure trove as the February 1978 issue I browsed through in my last post. As you turn from the front cover, you’re met with a female Mallard in duckweed and, tiny on the left, this, very much in keeping with the conservation-human attitude of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Ranger Rick:
Ranger Rick’s Pledge I give my pledge as a member of Ranger Rick’s Club: To use my eyes to see the beauty of all outdoors To train my mind to learn the importance of nature To use my hands to help protect our soil, water, woods, and wildlife And, by my good example, to show others how to repsect, properly use, and enjoy our natural resources ____________________________ My Name
The duckweed piece isn’t the most engagingly written, but credit is due for covering such a wonderful topic and such imagery! Next is a story of humanely dealing with attic-dwelling raccoons, some poems from kids, and another “Ranger Rick and His Friends” tale, now under the title “Adventures of Ranger Rick.” This time on a Rhode Island beach with a hermit crab and sea turtle that lists all the hazards of the sea these beautiful creatures are subject to thanks to us. A call to action from Ranger Rick follows. A fun note about the story—Morgan Mockingbird again appears, and again is off with the gulls. Birds will be birds.
The most touching and intriguing section of the issue is “Willie’s Pack Rat Palace,” exploring the method to the unsung White-throated Wood Rat’s madness. Not only is its home ingenious, but the types of guests it invites is truly astounding, including other mice, reptiles, and various arthropods. Again, I learned a lot from this issue, although 38 years after the fact. And it’s a rodent; we’re almost there with the Squirrel of the Week blog!
The piece on zoos is more up-to-date than I imagined it would be, but then of course the 70s and 80s were the era where much was changing in the realm of animal rights and ecological protections. The Endangered Species Act wasn’t so old back then, and the magazine happens to point to two captive breeding programs of the time that have turned out to be successes: the Arabian Oryx and the Mexican Gray Wolf.
Two splendid articles on bird migration appear next, the first a little overview pointing out several facts I was unaware of. This is followed by a beautifully-illustrated case study of the color-changing Indigo Bunting’s journey to and from Guatemala. And then this:
The ways humans have used the millions of years old horseshoe crab through our meager ages are mentioned, but the article ends with the now perhaps naive hope that these creatures will continue to breed through to the end of the Holocene.
There’s one more issue to review, the first one I received in January 1978—and what a cover it has!
This magazine from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is an icon of my childhood, and I am overjoyed that at least three issues I received have survived. And, it’s still extant for those with kids or just an interest! I’ve re-subscribed as both a donation and a window into how the magazine might have changed. Once I receive an issue, I’ll post my thoughts.
Just about every image from this issue is indelibly stamped in my mind, as is the tone and outlook of the magazine, with its eloquent portraits of nature, and straightforward explanations of problems often still in play today. This issue starts with a portrait of Kingmik dogs and their human keepers, a Canadian relative of our bison, and a few jokes: Q. What is the wettest animal? A. Reindeer. Q. What kind of noise can scare you in the night? A. A cari-boo.
The issue winds up with more action. Beautiful bird artwork by and an interview with Fenwick Lansdowne, a story about tapping maples, a totem pole craft, books for sale, the life of Tufts the lynx, and gannets galore! Ranger Rick brings together beautiful images, the diverse panoply of the world of nature, and often shows the human impact or uses of nature by humans, optimistic and symphathizing with wildlife while not plunging into detestation of the human species:
“Canada lynxes live in most of the northern forests of Canada. In many areas people trap them for their soft fur, prized for making clothes. Tufts knew nothing of this great danger to her life as she walked homeward with her night’s catch.”
The matter-of-fact sadness underlying this speaks for itself and where Ranger Rick’s sympathies lie, I think. And the magazine encourages us to make a change for the better.
Maybe most charming of all, and indiciative of the sunny global spirit of the times: the metric system is either parenthetically used or woven into the text. If you glance back up at the “Ranger Rick and friends story,” you’ll see what I mean.
Maybe I’ll get to squirrels eventually on this blog, but next up are two more issues of Ranger Rick. I hope you look forward to reviewing them as much as I do.
Out early Sunday morning, peanuts in pocket. Beauteous, various robin songs everywhere, with occasional demented White-throated Sparrow songs punctuating the pleasant atmosphere. I’m enjoying the freedom of these chains.
A crow flew over and landed in a tall tree—maybe it recognized me?—and got a few of the four or five peanuts (with shells, unsalted) I tossed beneath it. It swooped down and gobbled them up after trying to gather them all up in its beak.
As I walked around the block to soak in the scene, and put a letter in the mailbox, I gave a few peanuts to a couple of gray squirrels too. One was quite tiny.
I returned to the spot where I fed the crow, and another (or the same?) crow flew back in, so I tossed a few more beneath a tree.
My thought while dressed so weirdly in cords, long black coat, black stocking cap with pom pon, and facemask: will this bird recognize me if I can ever shed my COVID gear?
Coda in answer: Yes. I’ve fed a few crows in this spot, and others since, wearing a less dark and elaborate getup, now that it’s warmed up further.