What do you do when there are more fires than there are firemen? more wounded than medics? My experiences with Wrede’s Wildlife Rescue twenty-odd years ago — understood, heard, digested, passed on — could have saved civilization: as could any of a dozen other things I’ve tried to report. But the Jew can save his breath screaming at the Nazis: the Jew can only hope that God hears, and that something will yet be done. Meantime all the Jew can do is scream, and hope. That’s all Jesus could do after the Temple insisted on torturing him.
In a word: I had a deal with Wrede’s that could have served both of us to a T: I’d camp at the Rescue, help out, write their funding proposals, take 10% commission on such funding; help around the place, earn $1 here are there helping David Wrede’s delivery business … As I built their financial records and other data bases on my Toshiba I discovered that they’d been feeding me misinformation: financial misinformation. They fed it out everywhere, I’d helped! I had to yank the emergency brake on everything we were doing until I could explain to them that profiles had to be truthful, especially financial profiles. If you’re expenses are 80% covered by a few patrons then you mustn’t say that all of the Rescues’ expenses are funded by the Wredes; you must say that 80% is covered by donations and the 20% balance is covered by the Wrede’s.
Should have been simple enough. What the Wrede’s were doing and had done was already wonderful, helping injured wildlife, providing charity work for the spiritually anxious … Everyone understood that they, Karen and David Wrede, had launched it, borne all the initial expenses … They didn’t have to lie.
I suspected that they did know that they were lying, exaggerating their contribution: they’d probably never seen a simple financial chart of their history. Initially, they’d done everything and paid for everything, but by then, outside help was catching up to their costs: it was time to distribute credit acurately, especially where asking for more help: substantial help: corporate grants!
The Wredes also needed to be warned about a few latent physical dangers in their administration: they had liability coverage up to a million, but how happy would the carrier be if they found out that an injury had been caused by David Wrede’s chronic carelessness: with tools, with machines, with people? Once, not looking where he was throwing it, he bounced a crow bar off my thigh! kept walking, never looked. We were busy, catching a deer, so I didn’t even peep.
I made an appointment to speak to both David and Karen Wrede together.
Half hour before the meeting David Wrede came to my trailer, told me to get out, immediately. I couldn’t even say goodbye to Karen!
David also told me that I was a volunteer: the deal I’d made with Karen for 10% of grants received was never a deal I had with them; I was a volunteer!
Yes, I was a volunteer: who was to get this, that, and the other thing: and 10% of any grant I initiated for them.
David had towed my trailer to their compound; now I had less than 24 hours to find someone to tow me back off their land!
David still doesn’t know how he hit me with the crowbar! And I’ll bet they’re still misrepresenting the financial facts.
Gracious Catherine funded my return to Sebring Gardens.
I’ll jot stuff scrapbook style, a little here, and little more there, see what accumulates.
How I Met the Wredes
It was Highlands Hammock State Park that first tempted me to spend 1989’s Easter Weekend in Sebring. I’d been intent on getting back to NY, the place I’d always made the most money the most easily. But the writing bug had had me for a series of years. I paused at the Park, loved the hammocks, wrote, couldn’t stop.
1990 or so I’m riding through the western verge of the park, pause on the bridge over Charlie Creek, see a Sargasso Sea of trash. I introduced myself to the park captain, Pete, told him I’d dispose of the trash if supported with trash bags, instructions where to park the garbage. I also told Pete I’d love the trade services for a camp site.
What Pete did was offer to hire me full time: conducting the tram rides, commenting on ecology, park history … showing the public the hammock, the ‘gators …
I told Pete that I’m a writer, can’t work more than twenty hours a week. He said why not work full time half a year? I agreed to give him one season.
I did. I learned the spiel, already knew more than enough to improvise for hours extra. I got standing ovations by my second trip on my second day. So:
One day, finishing the loop, I’m trucking my forty-five passenger audience back to the picnic circle, passing the orange grove at the head of the loop, and I see a crowd. There’s a deer at the edge of the grove. A woman is gesturing with her hand. The deer, a young ‘un, stands, legs a’tremble. I have no explanation for my riders: but I start my verbal loop about not feeding the wildlife, and why …
Later, the ranger manning the entrance station that afternoon, Corinne, tells me in unfriendly tones that Karen Wrede of Wrede’s Wildlife, friends of the park, has complained about me: says I’d said she was feeding the deer. What she was doing was releasing the deer. Her hand gestures turned out to be her reassuring the deer she’d nursed, trying to shoo it: not very effective: and not a good idea by my lights to be performed before an audience!
There was more than one thing wrong, but that’s how, where, and when we met. I started visiting the refuge regularly, helping with this and that, talking them up: meeting David Wrede also.
Wrede’s Refuge / Wrede’s Subsidized Pig Farm
I loved visiting the Wrede’s, for several reasons. One day Karen was feeding medicine to a horned owl using an eye dropper. David took the owl from Karen, held it before me. I plunged my right forefinger into the owl’s head feathers, expecting to encounter the skull, gently! within a knuckle or two; but my finger kept going, and going. Thus huge predator was actually tiny! It was all feathers! What feathers!
And Wrede’s was a great place to dine. The Wrede’s ate venison all the time: not all their crippled deer recovered. They also had feral pigs brought to them, the fixed some injuries and slaughtered others. The pigs bred like crazy, always crowded the pen. I love pork, David loved pork: we ate a lot of pork, mush of it wild, or part wild.
Here’s the thing: at any given time the Refuge might have an injured possum in residence and an injured owl, maybe even an eagle! (Oh the first eagle I met up close and personal was so buzzing with parasites it broke my heart: electrocuted, it didn’t survive the first night. But it died clean and relatively comfortable: warm at least.) The bobcat in one lone cage filled me with awe: Karen threw it a steak like a frisbee, the cat reached through the bars and snared that meat with blinding speed: terrifying.There were always a few deer in the big deer corral.
But the biggest cage, the cage that was always full (the corral wasn’t a cage) was for the pigs. The pigs were for the Wrede’s table.
The Wredes could nurse a feral pig if they wanted to, but Florida Conservation, the parks department … has no truck with wild pigs, they an alien, an invader, an enemy. The Park traps pigs, removes them, kills and buries them.
The rangers are forbidden to eat the pig they shoot. They must bury it on the spot immediately. The state knows well that otherwise they’d by paying rangers to hunt pigs for their own table. A ranger could put in a very busy week tracking pigs, killing them, butchering them, smoking them, broiling them, and dining like a king among hunters.
Point is: a great deal of Wrede’s Wildlife Refuge’s time and resources went into pig feeding, cage cleaning … pig killing, pig butchering …
I loved the pig, I loved the venison, but I noticed: the Wredes don’t always tell the full or honest story.
1990 or so. I was broke, as usual, but now I was saddled with a travel trailer for a home, not just a pop up tent trailer as before, or a plain backpackers tent as before that. It took more money to be broke with a trailer than with a tent.
I’d worked a season for Highland Hammock State Park, giving the ecological / park history tours. Another state park promised me a place to park my trailer in exchange for monitoring their museum: unlocking the door, answering the public’s questions for an hour or two a day. I imagined no trouble moving from Sebring Gardens to Bowling Green: but then I found no truck to pull me. Bowling Green declined to help.
David Wrede of Wrede’s Wildlife found a trailer hitch ball that would fit my hitch but too late for me to get to Bowling Green: David did something better! He towed me to Wrede’s Wildlife, said I could live there rent free forever, in exchange I’d take charge of Wrede’s Wildlife Rescue’s grant proposals. Of course I helped him cut the grass, feed the pigs …
I used my Toshiba laptop to set up a series of data bases for Wrede’s.