REBECCCA Williams (that's right, her name has 3 C's) enjoys what might seem like an unusual hobby: Learning about and caring for reptiles and amphibians.
Although some children run when they see snakes, Williams as a young girl was fascinated. Next week, the 20-year-old Four Seasons woman will share her enthusiasm in a presentation at the Crofton Library called "Revealing Reptiles."
Williams' first pet, Barnaby, was an African clawed frog she got when she was 5. Fifteen years later, Barnaby is a healthy, happy member of the Williams home. Williams says this kind of frog can live into its 20s.
Barnaby was joined over the years by an assortment of other pets, some purchased in pet stores and others found in the Williams' neighborhood.
Williams laughs as she recalls that whenever she found a lizard or toad outside, she took care of it. She read every book she could find about reptiles to learn how they live and what they need to be healthy.
Now the Williams menagerie includes American chameleons, American tree frogs, Cuban tree frogs, African clawed frogs (one of which is Barnaby), an Eastern ribbon snake, a corn snake, an iguana and two Eastern box turtles.
A few years ago, a Nichols Bethel Methodist Church preschool teacher preparing a lesson about reptiles asked Williams to talk with the children about her pets. Williams enjoyed showing the children her pets and giving them an opportunity to touch the animals. She brought some snakeskins and turtle shells so that children who were afraid to touch live animals could experience the feel of the animals. She talked about how reptiles live, which reptiles make good pets and how to tend them.
Since then, Williams has discussed her hobby with several local schools and Scout groups. Recently, she approached a librarian at the new Crofton library branch and asked whether she could arrange a presentation at the library. After all, the library has lots of books about reptiles, and her talk might encourage children to read more about the animals. The library assented, and Williams will bring her animals and her knowledge to the library from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 11.
The program is open to children and adults age 4 and older. In addition to her animals, Williams will have a "hands on" table with snakeskins, turtle shells and other items for children to examine. She will talk about reptiles in general, and discuss the best kinds for novice pet owners.
Williams will be joined by her boyfriend, Daniel Mutter, an automobile mechanic who shares her love of reptiles. Mutter will bring some of his favorite pets, including a Colombian red-tailed boa, a ball python, a California king snake and a Maryland snapper turtle.
Williams often is asked about safety: Aren't snakes dangerous? Don't reptiles carry disease?
She notes that many reptiles carry salmonella. For that reason, it is important to wash one's hands after handling a turtle or snake. As for more dangerous or poisonous animals, she says that only licensed people may own poisonous animals in Maryland.
For the good of the pet as well as the pet owner, Williams believes that it is important to understand the lives and care of reptiles. Some animals, she feels, should never be pets, such as certain lizards and snakes that are known to be bad-tempered.
With her love of animals, one might expect Williams to pursue a career as a biologist. Instead, she is completing her degree in computer programming at Anne Arundel Community College. For her, reptiles are a hobby, not a career, and she loves spreading the word about them. In fact, she says, "I think everybody should have a lizard."
The safe ones, that is.
Civic group to meet
Residents of the Crofton Taxing District are invited to take part in the general membership meeting of the Crofton Civic Association, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at Crofton Elementary School. Association members will be asked to vote on a proposed increase for the fiscal year 2004 budget.
Steve Grimaud, president of the Crofton Civic Association, reports that the increase is called for because of many expected expenses, among them a significant rise in the cost of liability insurance.
Details of the proposed budget are enclosed in the association's newsletter, "The Advocate," recently mailed to homes in the taxing district. Information about the budget or the meeting: 410-721-2301.
Catholic social thought
The Rev. Paul Surlis will discuss "Catholic Social Teaching" during the third installment of his lecture series at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Jan. 16 in the Seton Parish Center. Over the years, the Catholic Church has developed a body of teachings dealing with topics such as unions, a living wage, the right to strike, global poverty, environmental issues and the principal that the goods of the earth belong equally to all persons.
Surlis will trace the development of this teaching and discuss its relevance today.