GRIZZLY ISLAND — Seven-year-old Dwight Reynolds of Fairfield could not get enough of touching the gopher snake named Slim while his mother hung back, commenting quietly that she prefers less scaly creatures in her life.
“It would be great to have one,” Reynolds said after letting the snake go and walking toward a Native American crafts exhibit.
“I think they do just fine in the wild, thank you,” Shirley Reynolds told her son.
The pair were two of several hundred people who spent their Saturday learning about nature and agriculture at Rush Ranch’s open house Saturday.
This is the 24th year that Rush Ranch has held the fundraising event to show the community how the nonprofit teaches about the Suisun Marsh’s natural history, the area’s agricultural heritage and the Native Americans that once lived here.
“It is all going very well,” said Mary Takeuchi of the Rush Ranch Educational Council.
The day-long Saturday event offered live music, displays by educational nonprofits, a marsh walk, blacksmith demonstrations and horse-drawn wagon tours. Proceeds benefit the Rush Ranch Educational Council and Access Adventures.
Saturday’s sunny, breezy weather was a blessing, but Friday’s rain was a challenge for some of the groups that spent the day setting up.
“Yesterday was certainly unforgiving,” said Bill Miller of the Diablo Buckskinners, the nonprofit from Martinez that teaches about the life and times of the mountain men in the early west. “We had to set up this camp in the rain.”
But that was mostly forgotten when Miller and the other re-enactors enjoyed showing visitors how to throw tomahawks and talked about what it was like to hunt, trade with Native Americans and shoot black powder muzzle-loader rifles.
They shared the day with other activities that included windmill demonstrations, cattle-roping clinics, local Native Americans teaching their crafts and tours of the ranch by tractor-towed hay wagons.
Slim, the gopher snake from the Suisun Marsh Wildlife Center, was a popular stop for the children who touched the reptile while Wildlife Care Director Kris Reiger talked about the center and its other animals.
“He is a very patient snake,” Reiger said.
Not far off, Corky Quirk of the Northern California Bat Rescue, held court to talk about bats while showing visitors the small bats she brought along.
“This one can even hear a grasshopper hopping,” Quirk said of the acuity of the hearing of the pallid bat she was holding.
The most common questions that Quirk was hit with about her charges were “what do they eat” and “are they vampires.” The answers were insects and no, they are not vampires.
Even Rush Ranch’s more nocturnal residents put in an appearance with a couple of its owls stolidly looking down from the eaves of the barn while youngsters were given plants to take home and educated on how to take care of them.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twittercom/ithompsondr.