Starting Point
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Issue Date:  February 18, 2005

Starting Point


I was in the next yard when I heard my wife yell, “Mike, come here.” I ran and found her in our backyard with our son Brendan excitedly pointing to the grass. June was nervously examining the largest bug I’d ever laid eyes on. “Don’t touch it,” she said. “It might be poisonous.”

I hurriedly got a clear plastic container, and June carefully picked up the creature with a stick and placed it in the container so we could inspect it.

It was a fierce, menacing-looking creature approximately five inches long with dark green skin. Spikes protruded from its back, and its head held four pairs of horns. This was nothing to mess with.

June went into the house to see if she could find information about this creature on the Internet. A few minutes later she was back smiling. It’s a Hickory Horned Devil, she said. If there was ever a name that matched an appearance this was it. I could hardly believe it when June said it was a caterpillar. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. We were relieved.

Then amazement overtook me. Here was an insect I’d never seen before. I felt like Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands. Our backyard had never been so revelatory. That day, unlike most days, I couldn’t take nature for granted.

When we showed the bug to our neighbors, they reacted the same way. My daughter, Cara, took it to school the next day. She was by far the coolest kid that day. No small feat for a kindergartner.

We knew we’d possessed nature long enough though. Later that evening, with some regret but more appreciation, I let it go. We’ll never forget the day we discovered the Hickory Horned Devil though.

As the psalmist proclaims: “How varied are your works, Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (104:24).

Mike Daley, a writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, recently edited with Bill Madges Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories.

National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2005

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