Breaking the Ice

Getting to know the girl with the big ol’ bass.

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Remember those beginning days of starting a new job or class? We were all shoved into some type of misshapen circle and forced to socialize with one another, to “break the ice”? I guess for a first blog post I should actually break the ice with any of you who are choosing to read about any of my adventures, so here it goes:

Twenty-three years ago I made my entrance into this world, covered in guts, a head full of hair, butt ass naked, and screaming (not much has changed since then, I still hate pants). I lived a typically normal life with two loving parents, a brother, and plethora of pets.

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My family minus my youngest nephew who is now 2! Left to right: Sister in law, Brother, Father, Oldest Nephew, Mother, and Me.

I grew up in Dayton, TX which is a small town half way between Beaumont and Houston, TX.

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Map, Dayton, TX is the purple star.

Growing up in tiny East Texas town had its moments. I lived in a place where everyone knew everyone’s business before Facebook was invented, where a traffic jam meant being stuck behind a tractor, and where it was not uncommon to see someone taking their cows to the car wash for a bath. I hail from the land of over twenty gas stations for nearly 40,000 residents (this was the population when I left). Entertainment was found by visiting the local Walgreens (we were never big enough for a Walmart), shooting things (we actually used to sell dead raccoons for money), or otherwise doing things that were illegal or frowned upon. I somehow made it out alive and not pregnant (why didn’t we give scholarships for that?).

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This literally came from a folder on my old laptop labeled “Redneck Crap”.

I left Dayton in 2012 and never looked back. I was accepted into Texas A&M University at Galveston after graduating high school and have been slaving away at this University since then.

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They actually let me speak at graduation. Of course my military honor speech contained a Captain America quote.

 

Growing up close to the coast, my family and I always spent an ample amount of time fishing on the weekends. There were several flounder run trips to Rollover Pass, weekends spent fishing the intercoastal on Bolivar Peninsula, and trips to Alabama for deep sea fishing.

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Family and fish. Two of the most important things in my life.

My grandfather was probably one of the biggest influences on my choice of career. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a Wildlife and Fisheries degree in 1954. He accepted a job in Charleston, South Carolina, but was drafted into the army the very next day. He never did go on to use his degree but he always joked that if he would have, then I would have never existed.

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Always have been and always will be a Grandpa’s girl.

My grandfather was overjoyed to know that I had been accepted in the Department of Marine Biology to complete two Bachelor’s degrees in Marine Fisheries and Marine Biology and would begin my career in August of 2012.

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My freshman year of college. 

I excelled in most of my classes and quickly became interested in research and all the volunteer opportunities that were offered. My original plan was to hopefully work with sea turtles (this all stemmed from foul hooking a large green sea turtle in the intercoastal waterway in Bolivar when I was probably 10). I began working under a professor who is to remain nameless who studied sea turtles. I started¬†my career at the Sea Life Facility (our University’s research facility) as a second semester freshman. There I learned about practices of aquaculture, animal husbandry, sea turtle rehabilitation, and much more. I still work there (my four year work anniversary is coming up!) and love every minute of it. I have been exposed to many different research projects and have learned a lot of valuable skills and life lessons working at the facility.

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Working at the Sea Life Facility – the cute turtle is Stitch, one of the many that I have helped rehab. He did have a sister named Lilo.

I also spent some summers working for sea turtle patrol. For two years I spent time combing the beaches by foot or UTV patrol searching for Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle tracks. Kemp’s Ridleys are the smallest, most endangered species of sea turtle in the world and in an effort to help populations, we collected eggs to be incubated in lab settings before releasing the hatchlings.

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Really bad photo, but we’re excavating a sea turtle nest on Bolivar Peninsula in the summer of 2014.

After spending some time working with the turtles, I began to realize that a lot of people I worked with were…bat shit crazy. The bad kind of crazy. And I quickly abandoned that avenue after two years of hard work. I was happy for the chance to work with the turtles, but quickly learned that they weren’t for me. I am still happy for the little bit of rehabilitation I continue to do at the Sea Life Facility. They truly are amazing animals and I was lucky to work with them for a small stint. People still call me the turtle lady an I am okay with it.

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My good friend, Murgatroid, another one of my rehab babies. He only had 1 good flipper.

As I continued to work at the University and take classes that were fisheries specific, I quickly knew where my heart belonged. Fish. Smelly, slimy, fish. For those of you who thought my job was glamorous and that I played with all the cute critters like dolphins and turtles, you are wrong. One of the things I enjoy the most about this career is the fact that I am usually covered in guts of some sort, smelling like sulphur from being in the marsh, and usually dog tired. However, all of these aspects will never disguise the smile I have on my face from being in the field and working with my fish.

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Helping a friend extract some vertebrae from stingrays in the necropsy room. Mmmm dead things.

I worked for an entire summer for Texas Parks and Wildlife, and I can say that it was the best summer of my life. The people I met and experiences I had are memories that I will always carry with me. My brother and I had always dreamed of working for Parks and Wildlife growing up, we spent a lot of time watching the Parks and Wildlife program on PBS. Unfortunately, he left this world entirely too soon on December 10, 2015. Going on to work for Parks and Wildlife was so much more fulfilling to me knowing that I was living the dream for both of us. Every gentle breeze I felt on those stifling days long lining, fiery sunsets and sunrises during gill net season, the little voice that told me to keep going when I was thigh deep in sulfurous mud, and every speckled trout smiling at me from the cooler was my brother letting me know he was there…and jealous.

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The coolest picture from my internship, giving this big momma bull shark a kiss before she was safely released back into the wild.

Currently I’m working on a few research projects (which will all have their own posts soon!) and hoping to graduate in May of 2017 with several honors, a couple of B.S. degrees, and hopefully a job.

My rock for the past four years, who is totally okay with me smelling like a fish, also deserves a mention in this blog post. Besides having an awesome career, I have a pretty bomb ass boyfriend named David.

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My bearded fellow.

We actually met in a bar. This sounds bad but being an East Texas redneck, I enjoyed time out with my friends two-stepping at the local watering hole. These events were generally coordinated with girls having dance partners, etc. Recently single, I got stuck with David. He was very friendly, we had some good, intelligent conversation, and the only thing I could remember after meeting this guy was that he had the hairiest knuckles I had ever seen. After dropping him off at his dorm, and realizing that he was corps boy, I decided to stay away from him.

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The early days of baby face David.

He followed me around campus (in a non-stalker sense), carried my books, escorted me to class, stood in line for me at the caf, and was always there to listen to me talk about my classes. We became quick friends (although he was persistent about wanting to take me on a date). I knew I’d be stupid to not date a guy who was pretty cute and genuinely nice to everyone he met.

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At David’s final pass and review ceremony. Circa 2014.

We’ve spent 4 years together and went through some of life’s biggest struggles and joys and I wouldn’t choose anyone else to share those experiences with. We also adopted a pretty cute cat named Julius who you’ll see plenty of. I am convinced that he is the spawn of satan, but he makes a nice pillow for the many months that David spends at sea as a merchant marine.

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Our little family.

In my spare time I really just enjoy being outside. Fishing, camping, hammocking, hiking, you name it, if it’s outside, I probably like doing it. I love to cook, shoot guns, and restore pieces of old, garbage picked furniture. You’ll probably find me on the weekends with my nose in a book. I have a witty sense of humor and there’s never a time where I’m not sarcastic.

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Me in my natural state.

Most of all, I want this blog to be a catalog of the many memories I’ll be making along this crazy journey we call life. Be prepared for some humorous, buzzfeed inspired lists. I have a lot of exciting things happening in the near future that I hope to share with whoever cares to read this…so stay tuned. In two weeks I’ll be shipping out for the craziest adventure of my life….Antarctica.

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-The Girl With the Big Bass

AKA – Katie

 

2 thoughts on “Breaking the Ice”

  1. Love it!
    Can’t wait to read all about your next adventure. Good luck, enjoy, take lots of pictures, keep in contact with the parents, update us here, stay safe! Love you!

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  2. I’m so looking forward to reading your blog and learning of your adventures! Jimmy has had a co-worker who made several trips to Antarctica, one over the winter, too. Always interesting things to be learned… like the item I usually ask my classes each year…. what’s the biggest safety hazard when living on Antarctica? Fire! Why? If you try to put it out with water, it freezes. Of course, I make the students work for the answer. lol Take care and Godspeed!

    Like

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