As most of you have no doubt heard by now, that curious but colorful character Steve Irwin, TV's "Crocodile Hunter," was killed in a freak accident involving a sting ray at the age of 44. I always enjoyed Steve Irwin's animal antics, even though I often wondered if he had a death wish or something.
I got to meet Steve Irwin very briefly some years ago when he was in the Tennessee/North Carolina mountain region filming a segment on timber rattlesnakes. He was giving one of his impromptu snake handling demonstrations at a nature center near where I had been hunting over in North Carolina. I happened to run into a fellow at the hunting lodge who told me that the "crazy Australian TV guy" was going to give a lecture the next morning.
Sure enough, he was doing his snake routine at the nature center. I got to shake his hand and listen to him a bit after the demonstration. Most of the people that were there were hunter/outdoorsy types who knew a thing or two about rattlesnakes and copper heads. Most of the crowd thought he was a lunatic. This was back before he was an international celebrity and was just a curiousity on Animal Planet. As I recall, he seemed as exuberant and personable in real life as he is on television. I remember him saying at the time that the only education he'd had was at a trade school as a diesel mechanic but his real love had always been animals.
For all his antics (which I thought were well intentioned but ill advised) he was wholesome entertainment in an era where that is increasingly hard to come by. I was saddened but not surprised to hear of his death. I especially feel bad for his wife and his two young children. I have never cared for speaking ill of the dead, but the fact of the matter is that if you mess around with dangerous animals long enough, they will eventually get you. There is a good reason they are called "wild." That having been said, I do have to say that I think he died doing what he loved.
If only that could be be said of all of us when our own times comes.