As a child my religion was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday evenings.Wild Kingdom Clip The show consisted of Marlin Perkins narrating what his trusty sidekick Jim would do next. Marlin reminded me of a skinny Colonel Sanders without the goatee, and I often wondered if they were twins. I imagined Marlin being the good twin who rescued and nursed sick animals back to health. And the Colonel being the evil twin, who fried then served them up in a tasty concoction of eleven herbs and spices. I lay mesmerized in front of our color television and watched as Jim would wrestle huge jungle snakes, tranquilize water buffalos, and run from snapping alligators. My young mind would wonder off into some steamy jungle, as Jim and I tracked down an elusive five legged snake or dive off the coast of Bimini looking for the cow who thinks she's a dolphin. I would snap back to reality only when my mother would yell, “You are too close to the television, slide back!” To this day I cannot see an ad for Mutual of Omaha and not think of the courageous Jim Fowler and the scardy cat Marlin Perkins.
Recently Steve Irwin was killed while swimming with a stingray. Doing what he loved to do. And I couldn’t help but feel a personal loss. Steve Irwin and Jim Fowler shared almost the same sense of curiosity and danger. Honestly however, I think Steve was braver (Sorry Jim). I would watch Steve tempt a twelve foot crocodile with a raw chicken and when the croc jumped towards the bait I would flinch. (How’s that for a big bad Paramedic Man) Often thinking he is going to lose his entire arm one day. Occasionally my youngest daughter and I would sit and watch Animal Planet,The Crochunter
where Steve would jump, swim and run (in the same khaki shorts and shirt mind you) chasing whatever animal he wanted to show the camera. My daughter would hide her face behind a pillow if she thought he was going to be bitten. I would laugh and tell her when it was all over. “Dad,” she would say breathlessly, “he’s crazy!” like she had been running along side him the entire time.
Then she would look at me and ask, “Would you do that?” and without hesitation, and with vibrant enthusiasm I would answer, “Why yes of course!” The cynical twist of her mouth said it all. She knew better. She knew her daddy would be mangled by the 15 foot crocodile in the first 2 minutes of the show. Or be drowned, and then swallowed by the 39 foot python. Her 10 year old mind knew Steve was fast and slender, and her daddy was built like a tasty biscuit---with feet. But alas, in my mind I could really do it. Just give me that Wild Kingdom music and I would make Steve proud. Crikey! We are all going to miss you Steve.