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Alligators, lizards and snakes delight Hidalgo kids

February 06, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Dick Buchholz's mother didn't like it when he'd bring snakes into the house as a child.

Today kids can't get enough of the exotic reptiles he brings to their schools.

From mysterious plastic boxes at the front of the cafeteria, Buchholz produced one creature after another for students during informative presentations at Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School on Monday.

"Kids don't get to see animals like this up close. They just don't," Buchholz said.

To get the kids warmed up, Buchholz brought out his 4-and-a-half-foot American alligator and carried it around the room over his shoulder, showing off her claws, teeth and tail.

Buchholz also brought out an Eastern box turtle, monkey lizard, European legless lizard and a 10-foot albino Burmese python ferociously named "Banana."

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As an independent contractor for Mobile Ed Productions of Michigan, Buchholz travels the western United States giving similar assemblies to schools and classrooms while adhering to the company's commitment to "education through entertainment."

Telling stories and reciting interesting facts while carrying the animals around the cafeteria, Buchholz sought to leave the students with lasting impressions of his reptilian friends.

"I'm not here to promote them as pets. I want to raise kids' awareness and dispel some myths," Buchholz said.

A job layoff in Silicon Valley gave Buchholz the opportunity to explore this line of work, but students' responses when he introduces them face-to-face with animals they've only seen in pictures or zoos keep him at it.

"I was overwhelmed and taken in by the reaction of the kids," Buchholz said of his first experiences touring schools nine years ago.

For sixth-grader Kaylin Kelly, 12, her favorite part of the assembly was simply "that we got to see them (the reptiles)."

Josh Cornejo, 12, was most impressed by the alligator and python.

While not everything Buchholz told the kids was unfamiliar, Josh conceded he learned some helpful tips.

"Never touch a snake that has fangs," the sixth-grader said.

Touching Banana was perfectly safe, though. Buchholz actually encourages kids to reach out and get a good feel. As students left the cafeteria after the presentation, each was given the chance to run his or her hands over Banana's long, yellow body. Some were surprised by what they felt.

"I thought it would feel a little bit rougher," said sixth-grader Nick Wood, 11

Sixth-grader Oswaldo Valdez, 12, described the assembly as "nice."

"Reptiles are cool," Oswaldo said, echoing the program's title.

"They're bad," he said, complimenting them.

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3442.

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