Clinton Schulze. This name draws in memories of someone very, very special to me. This man was a gentleman. He was kind. He was intelligent but never made others feel small or simple. His goal in life was to live each moment of each day. He constantly tried to find ways to help others who could not see the beauty of simplicity. During the three years that my daughter was the steward of The Eckert James River Bat Cave, if there was a workday, he would be calling her to get a ride. He didn’t just ride out, he worked as hard as anyone else.
As my superintendent and substitute teacher, he taught me the reason for rules. He showed me that rules had purpose and without them, life would be total chaos. Certainly, the rules that he explained to me all had their place, but I did find hundreds of rules in my life that were just “there”. I never had him justify those to me, but he probably could and would have. The last time that we visited he told me how proud he was that I was the one being used as steward of the bats. He loved the bats and even when it was not popular to love bats, he planted his feet and heart down firmly in their defense. He was instrumental in having his cousin, Richard Eckert, donate The Eckert James River Bat Cave to the Nature Conservancy. He knew that this non-profit organization would strive to protect the bats and every living thing that existed on the property. He had every story, video, or document ever done on the bat cave. That is why I had gone to see him. I wanted to pick that brain for details. I arrived as he was going out to lunch. He told his caretaker that he needed just a few minutes. I have never laughed so hard. He had a certain twist on things that made you see what he was seeing as he told a story. Time ran out too quickly that day. We made plans for me to come the next week and visit. Before then, I got a call that made my heart go limp. Clinton was dead. How do you grieve for someone like him? I cried but that didn’t seem to be enough. Then, the memories that I had of him just danced happily around in my head and I knew, I just knew that my life was special because of this dear man. That was enough...he had passed on to me the beauty of everything living. He showed me by his dying that the rule of life is that there is also death. This man had my respect and appreciation and always will.
One of the reasons that I wrote about Clinton this week is that something very wonderful happened on Sunday night at The Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve. I met Clinton’s granddaughter and her family. She, her husband, Chase Smith, and their two beautiful little girls, Heidi and Landyn, (see attached photo) came to view the bats that Clinton held so dear in his heart. I quickly saw the “Schulze” in these two cuties. Heidi named a bat, “Heidi”, and promised to come back and visit her. Heidi (the little girl) will be in pre-K this year and is excited to tell her teacher about the bats. Landyn, who is not quite two years old, almost made me laugh out loud as she stood on the bench beside her mom and dad. She had her tiny finger pointed toward the bats and I could see that she was saying something, but couldn’t quite hear. Her mom said that she was counting the bats....she got up to eleven. Now I am certain that there are at least eleven bats in the cave. As I responded to her precise count, her sister, Heidi, put her little finger to her lips and said, “Shhhh, you are supposed to be quiet!” Her mom and dad have also instilled in her and her sister the same feelings about rules and obeying them that Clinton taught me. I know that after they saw the “Quiet” sign on the trail that they took the time to explain the importance of being quiet at the cave. It was for the protection of the bats. Now, there is another generation protecting and caring for this life-filled eight acres that creates memories for so many, many people. This is the legacy of Clinton Schulze!
Come on out and learn the rules. Learn why there are rules. Learn the importance of these rules....and while you are at it, enjoy the awesome beauty that unfolds at The Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve every night until they leave in October. We are open Thursday-Sunday evening until then. The emergence is around 7:30 P.M. so try to get there around 7:00 P.M. to keep from disturbing the bats. This is NOT a rule, but it is a great way to show appreciation for these tiny creatures. See ya at the cave....