By Faith Humphreys, Texan by Nature Programs Intern
Although my birth certificate says I was born in Kansas, in my heart I was born in Texas. My mom is from Ohio, and my dad is from Kansas, but they met and fell in love in Texas. My family moved to Abilene, Texas, when I was just one year old, so Texas holds my earliest memories.
As a little girl, I was known as the crazy dinosaur girl who refused to play with dolls. Pretending I was a T. rex by holding meat forks in my hands was much more fun than playing dress-up. I was blessed to grow up with sweeping views of the Callahan Divide from my backyard with abundant space to explore nature. Expeditions with my sisters to “Faith’s Lake” (a small pond) were common, along with captures of many small critters and romps in the mud after notorious west Texas thunderstorms. Being constantly exposed to nature sparked curiosity for my plant and animal neighbors. I attended zoo school in the summers and quickly realized I wanted to be a zookeeper because I couldn’t think of a better job than one that allows you to take care of wild animals all day.
My family traveled a lot, and one of our favorite spots was Possum Kingdom Lake. We had a lakehouse on PK and spent many July 4ths there with my cousins and grandparents. We loved loading up the boat with cokes and hotdogs then watching the fireworks over Hell’s Gate. We also made trips to Waco to visit my oldest sister and go to Baylor football games, however terrible they were back then. I came to love the game of football, which would come in handy later as a football coach’s wife.
As I grew up, I learned more about the peril that wildlife around the world and in Texas was increasingly facing. However, unaware of any “real” careers in wildlife conservation, I chose to study business at Baylor University. During my college years, I loved running and hiking at Cameron Park, kayaking on the Brazos, and of course going to every Baylor home football game. I also discovered the beauty of Austin and the Hill Country during my visits for the ACL music festival.
After graduation, I married my high school sweetheart (with a reception at the Abilene Zoo) and lived in San Antonio for three years. I fell in love with the Hill Country even more, especially with all the yummy authentic Tex-Mex food. We loved hiking at Eisenhower Park and Friedrich Wilderness Park and shopping at the numerous HEBs in town. We then moved to Texarkana for my husband’s job and fell in love with the forested landscape of the Pineywoods. It was unlike anywhere else I had seen in Texas. Caddo Lake completely captured my heart with its dreamy bald cypress swamps.
After a couple years, we moved back to our hometown in west Texas, and I finally started pursuing my passion for conservation professionally through a master’s degree online with Clemson University. Although Clemson is in South Carolina, my term projects allowed me to choose local study sites, so I was still able to learn more about the unique flora and fauna of the Rolling Plains. I also became a Texas Master Naturalist and loved learning about all the ecoregions of Texas during my training. It’s been very rewarding to teach kids who don’t have an expansive natural area beyond their backyard about the wonders of our native wildlife. Just as rewarding is helping with trash cleanups around Lake Kirby and writing articles about native wildlife for the newspaper.
Texas, every part of it, has treated me well over these past 27 years, and it is truly a privilege to be able to give back to its natural resources by working for Texan by Nature. The diverse people and landscapes that Texas encompasses feed my desire for new and exciting experiences. My appreciation for this diversity is what makes me Texan by Nature.