Project Sublizard

In the summer between 6th and 7th grade, my friends and I had formed a science club. I think we called it the “California Science Association” or something like that. It sounded very official and looked good on a letterhead, and we were able to get a lot of free scientific samples and hardware by writing letters to places like Edmund Scientific. They thought we were adults or at least college students.

One of the experiments we did was called “Project Sublizard.” I did a whole paper on it with drawings and everything. Yes, it sounds funny, and thinking back on it I find it even funnier because I was completely serious.

Project Sublizard consisted of a gallon wine jug made of clear glass, two straps, four bricks, some sand, a long strand of aquarium tubing and an aquarium aerator pump. I put sand, some succulent plants, and a bluebelly lizard in the wine bottle, strapped it to the bricks, and sunk it down to the bottom of my father’s swimming pool (about 10 feet down). The aerator pumped a constant stream of air through the tubing down to Project Sublizard, providing positive pressure and a constant source of fresh oxygen. Also we found we could catch flies and put them into the tubing, and the aerator pump would send them down to Project Sublizard special delivery, like a vacuum tube at a bank. Actually this part was so fun that this was one of my most well-fed lizards.

The lizard thrived down at the bottom of the pool for about six weeks. When it was over I let it go, and it didn’t seem to have suffered any side effects. What did we hope to prove? I have no idea.

It was just fun.

Another thing we did that summer was find a nice little sandy beach down one of the local creeks. This was about two miles down from anywhere, right in the middle of farm land, and it was big enough for 4 of us to spread out blankets and sunbathe. It was a sandbar formed by a flash flood sometime in the past. It was neat.

So being the junior geeks we were, we dubbed this as our biological research center. All my test tubes, sample collection jars, what-have-you went into an old metal ice chest that we buried in the sand where we could get to it easily. Sometimes my mom would drive us out and we’d spend the day there, wading up and down the stream catching baby catfish, pollywogs, and salamanders … anything we could find. When Mom came back and honked, we would stow all our equipment into the ice chest and seal it shut (it was very waterproof), and brush sand over the lid so that it wasn’t visible. The next day we’d come back, uncover the lid and open it up again.

Little did I know that these were my last days of childhood. These were the very last carefree days. When summer ended and we were all going into our first year of Junior High, suddenly everything was different. One of the members of our science club, my good friend Mel, wouldn’t admit in public to being involved in any of this. He was hanging out with a group of stoners, and being seen with a geek like me was embarrassing.

My other friends went into drama or music, or both. Science was not a cool thing to be involved in. It wasn’t long after that when I abandoned science as well, having discovered photography and girls (not necessarily in that order).

The next year, in mid-winter, I went down to our biological research center to see if I could retrieve the stuff. At the very least I wanted to get the ice chest back for my father (they’d had it since the early 60’s). To my dismay I found someone had run a bulldozer down the middle of the creek, destroying it completely. I guess the water wasn’t flowing fast enough. As I was walking along, feeling sad for our lost days out there, I spotted the crushed and mangled ice chest. Remarkably one of my biological field guides was still in it, and was still in good condition.

It wasn’t a total loss, but it felt like it. It was hard to let that part of my childhood go. But the future held exciting things, and so I moved forward. Have I looked back since? Occasionally. I don’t think I’ll be building any more biological research centers, but if I ever get another swimming pool…

Project Sublizard 2.0!

From Tales of the Lizard Hunter
By Jerry J. Davis

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