A Surprise Email

All, Stories

I have the rare privilege and opportunity to share significant experiences and information in the natural world through blogs. And in doing so, I never know the true impact. A few days ago, I received this special surprise email.


I was riding my bicycle through the park behind my house this beautiful spring day here in North Carolina, and I thought of Warren Wells, the Hamilton County Park (District) Naturalist.

When I Googled his name, your blog article popped up:
In the Blink of an Eye

I still have a copy of his book, “A New Look at Some Old Things: Selected Nature Articles.” But what I remember is the nature hikes he used to give to us grade schoolers at Damon Road Elementary. Conveniently, Winton Woods was right behind the school, so for a class nature hike we’d simply walk out the side door and into the woods!

He was a very engaging conversationalist. But what popped into my head today was his description of mockingbird behavior during WWI. That’s right: World War ONE!

He said a mockingbird at the Front was imitating the “burp-burp-burp” of the machine guns! Of course he was quite old when I was very young, but it still blows my mind to think that I knew someone who experienced that over 100 years ago.

Thanks to Mr. Wells, I can still walk in the woods and identify nearly every tree and forest flower.

Regards …

A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) rests on a tree branch.

To which I responded,


Great to hear from you. It is so amazing the reach we have. We never realize who will feel the touch of Great Parks of Hamilton County even many years later. You were really lucky to have known Warren Wells. I too have his little book. The description of the mockingbird that you mentioned from Mr. Wells nearly took my breath away. We may not be warring on our soils, but many a country is in strife these days. To me, it’s a sign of hope to hear the mockingbird as we return to the seasonal changes of spring and the green newness “showers” our world like the ever present early year rains.

It is so great to hear that you have retained the knowledge of the forest life from your travels in the woods with Mr. Wells. These days it is more challenging than ever to get the school kids out, as more schools have fewer field trips and kids in general spend much less time out in nature. We find our jobs as interpretive naturalists very challenging as we face a world often more embracing of new technologies, which may or may not connect people to the outdoors. Many children today do not know the long summer days spent exploring nature as I enjoyed as a youngster. I hope that you have the opportunity to share your love for the outdoors with others because the best we can do is invite others to love nature and maybe they too will pass this love and care on to future generations. Have a wonderful day and please visit our parks should you ever find yourself in Cincinnati.

Best wishes …

Warren Wells, circa 1975. Wells served as Chief Naturalist during his tenure with Great Parks and is the namesake of the Warren Wells Preserve area in Winton Woods.

And then, this response came,

Thank you for the reply.

Ironically, while walking in my park just yesterday, I spied some honeysuckle vine and showed my little nieces how to pull the drop of nectar out of the blossoms—which is something Warren Wells taught us school kids how to do when I was in the first grade!

So the link connecting the past, the present and the future has come full circle. Hope is never ending.

Susan Sumner
Nature Interpreter, Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve

(Editor’s note: While the original email states World War I, based on when Warren Wells was a naturalist with Great Parks, this individual is most likely talking about World War II.)