Rock hounding, bug housing and dinosaur bones

I see bugs everywhere.

Now, more than ever, the glint of a rock catches my eye when I’m on a walk.

And is that layer in the hillside just some more rock, or is it dinosaur bones?

I have caught a fever from my 5-year-old grandson and it’s not about getting sick. The fever is being interested in things—like bugs and rocks—and stretching the imagination. He’s a nature kid—fascinated by just about everything around him whenever he is outside.

My nature kid likes to range around his back yard and pick up rocks from the bedding to add to his box.

On a sleep-over recently, I showed him my rock collection—a modest number of various shiny stones, crystals and fossils—which I store in little boxes. Now, he has a rock box and it is quickly getting full.

I said that at some point he would have to start deciding which were the cooler rocks and maybe toss the rest back in the yard. He reached into the box and picked up the first one at hand and said, “This one’s cool.”

I looked at it and sure enough, it was cool—there were little, tiny sparkles all over it when I turned it in the sun. He sees “coolness” where I see just another rock and he has a whole box full of “coolness” already.

Sparkly stuff, however, is not enough for my nature kid. He scrutinizes the rocks and sees stripes in the stone and questions their shapes.

Currently, everything he sees in rocks is a potential shark’s tooth or a dinosaur bone. He gets it about fossils—they’re about long ago things that were alive then turned to stone—and he wants to find them.

There’s only one thing that can challenge my nature kid’s intense focus on rocks these days and that is bug hunting.

Bug hunting, of course, is a seasonal thing and the new season is upon us. And my nature kid is out there in the open space behind his house, looking for conquests.

Grasshoppers are the main catch, but the search goes on constantly to find other stuff—such as lady bugs and beetles. Of course, we don’t mess with bees or wasps, try to pick up spiders or centipedes, or stand in the middle of a pile of tiny red ants.

This season, my nature kid has graduated to a true bug house for his relentless study. It has a sliding door big enough for the hand to deposit a find. It has lots more room than the basic jars used last season and the sides are netting so there is a lot of air.

Now it is standard practice for my nature kid to let his daily catch go at the end of the day—at least most of his catch. Some grasshoppers are just more fascinating than others and deserve further study, you know.

At the end of bug season last year, my nature kid asserted that he was going to study bugs when he grows up.

But now, it seems my nature kid is going for a triple major—entomology, geology, and paleontology. I’m impressed. He doesn’t even know the words yet, but he is already on track.