Ann L. Weber

March 5, 2000

Post #1055 – 20000305

Hi! I’m Ann Weber, a psychology professor in at UNC at Asheville, and I listen to you any chance I get on WCQS, our NPR affiliate in Asheville, NC.

On Chinwag Theater this morning (Sun Mar 5th) you commented on ordering two near-dead anole lizards (“American chameleons”) from a supply house when you were a kid. That’s how my own love for reptiles began, very similarly, and I wanted to tell you the story briefly. Probably in 1961 when I was 9, my younger brothers and I were fascinated by a book by Evelyn Sibley Lampman titled RUSTY’S SPACE SHIP (it’s out of print but I found a copy through a book search service, and I love it, and you would too!). The hero is a big bipedal lizard named Tiphia, from the planet Eopee in Andromeda Galaxy; Tiphia helps Rusty and his sister get their soapbox spaceship off the ground and onto other planets, and eventually uses their help to get home to Eopee. We wanted a lizard named Tiphia, and we found a tiny, TINY ad in the back of a “Field and Stream” magazine my Dad had, offering four “chameleons” for $1! We pooled out measly resources and sent away for them. About a month later, long after we’d given up, an odd package arrived in the mail. It was a small cylinder wrapped in brown paper, addressed to me; the return address was a biological supply house in New Orleans. We opened it to find a beer can, of all things, stuffed with excelsior. We dumped the stuffing onto the kitchen table, and there among the shredded paper and wood, were several mealworms, alive and dead, and four limp, barely alive chameleons! We named them Tiphia, George (after a talking stegosaurus in anothe Evelyn Sibley Lampman book–THE SHY STEGOSAURUS OF CRICKET CREEK, another book you’d love; George loved bananas in the book), Cammy, and Fella. They all lived, not real long in adult time, but many months and longer in kid time, a satisfying time to watch and learn. We had already prepared a lush terrarium for their home and read up on them, so we knew we could buy mealworms at a pet store to feed them. We also became very adept at catching live flies in mid-buzz, and releasing them in the screen-covered terrarium; the lizards LOVED that meal, they bobbed their heads and then flicked their tongues, and after swallowing, they turned a blue-green shade that meant “happy.”

We were there when each of them died, and one of the most striking memories I have is that, sad as I was when each one died, I noticed they turned blue-green “happy” in death. This convinced me there IS a Reptile Heaven (a place some of my ex-boyfriends should only dream of going when their existence here is ended–a wisecrack I admit is unfair to real reptiles!), and comforted me in my sadness.

Thanks for sharing your story of real childhood lizard love. I’m really enjoying every installment of Lizard Music. Best to you and yours.

Oh, my husband and I have one dog and six cats; we are seriously bi-petual. Your well-known love of dogs is another fact that increases my warmth toward you and your work. Write, talk, thrive, and enjoy!

Thanks for the pleasure and wit you give your listeners.

Your fan,


Daniel replies:

Ok, Ann alluded to my chameleon story, and told yours. Here's mine, Part II: When I was writing Lizard Music, the publishers gave me cause to go on strike, stop writing the book, and consider directing my energies to developing my dog-training business, and forgetting about writing altogether. One day, I was sweeping up in the puppy school, (in Hoboken, NJ), and there was a little green anole! I scooped him up, punched holes in a jar lid, and found a kid who wanted him. Curious, finding a southern lizard in a northern urban setting, in the middle of winter! A few days later, I found another, larger, more aggessive anole. This one I set up in a little terrarium, and got some equipment and a chameleon book, (yep, he was one, for sure), at the pet shop. He kept eyeing me and inflating his throat pouch. Made me nervous. I got the hint. He went to live in a classroom, and I went back to writing the book. The lizard sightings stopped. Jill swears she had not planted lizards to get me to go back to work.

Thanks for writing from beautiful NC, where the anoles come from.