06 January 2009


I miss Steve Irwin.

I was channel-surfing a few days ago in the late afternoon and the only show on television that didn’t involve murder, police brutality, or illegal activities was “The Crocodile Hunter.” Not just any episode, either, but a special on baby animals.

I hadn’t watched the show in ages – probably not since the death of its star. I’d forgotten how insane Steve was. And how insightful, and knowledgeable - about every creature on God’s green earth.

He had no natural fear. He reached into a den of baby rattlesnakes and pointed to the mother snake’s monstrous teeth. “Never, ever try this. I’m a professional … no one should ever touch a rattlesnake.” He wrestled with crocodiles. He stuck fingers into mouths full of sharp teeth. He rubbed the bellies of big cats. “Lion cubs have got a great bite!” He picked up and carried hungry young black bears.

Steve found beauty in even the most hideous of animals. He pointed out the delicate nose of an orangutan, the tiny venomous teeth of a baby diamondback, the clumsy elegance of an elephant’s stride. He could find the hiding place of the stealthiest of animals, lure the shiest of marsupials from their home, identify specifically the most hideous and generic looking insect. He let iguanas sit on his arm and head or bats hang from his shirt while he explained to the camera the creature’s preferred diet (which seemed at time to include Steve’s hair and khaki shirt).

He used words like gorgeous, glorious, magnificent, beautiful, lovely.

Steve loved animals and he respected them. He didn’t fault an animal for behaving like an animal as so many idiots seem to do these days. If an animal bit him, he knew it was his fault for not being more careful. And he didn’t let bodily harm stop whatever he was doing.

“The Crocodile Hunter” was one of those shows that always seemed to be on. Anytime I needed something to watch, I could turn to animal planet and there it was. I watched a lot of television many years ago – much of it educational, believe it or not. I watched the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, the History Channel. I didn’t learn much. But somehow when I watched “The Crocodile Hunter” I remembered. I learned about the wombat, the iguana, the sloth, the possum, the sun bear, the armadillo and about twenty other animals. What Steve said stuck with me – perhaps because he said it with such enthusiasm.

It seemed particularly ironic that he died from the sting of a normally docile creature. I always thought he’d be eaten by a crocodile or torn apart by Tasmanian devils. But a stingray? It didn’t seem right.

I still watch Animal Planet sometimes, but it’s not the same without Steve. I miss his child-like delight and wonder and unwavering enthusiasm. No one on TV has been able to match it, and I don’t think anyone ever will.

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