I was born June 14, 1949 in Granite City, Illinois, one of three children. During the depression a large segment of folks from in and around Dover, Tennessee “migrated” to Granite to work in the steel mills. My parents were part of that migration, although they actually met in Granite. My dad, Shelby, worked on the St. Louis Terminal Railroad, and my mom, Ruth, managed the apartments they owned.
Granite was a tough, hard-working, blue collar steel town. It was what we had, what we knew, and we made the best of it. A very different time and place. The 1950’s wonder years were spent in relative peace and prosperity, interrupted by an occasional atomic bomb “duck and cover drill” in grade school, which consisted of hiding under our desks and covering our heads! Favorite activities included riding our bicycles downtown to shop at Woolworths, or attending a movie matinee at the Washington Theatre. As many of our generation look back, the idea of riding our bicycles behind the truck spraying for mosquitos was probably not the best way to spend our time.
In contrast, the 1960’s teen years were alternately turbulent and exciting. Cruising up and down Madison Avenue in muscle cars, visiting our favorite drive-in for pizza burgers, dances at the “Y”, listening to the latest British invasion music, working on our tan at Fun ‘n Sun Beach, and yes, “parking” at the levee.
Post high school graduation, our classmates scattered to the wind. Friends made their final rounds through Granite that summer before leaving for college, while others were drafted and shipped off to Vietnam. I was a blank slate. I didn’t particularly want to attend college. My goals were simple: get a job, get married and start a family. I was hired as a secretary at an insurance agency. The highlight of that job was working in downtown St. Louis when the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series. Confetti rained down for what seemed like hours! Walking to the bus stop that evening was like walking through a snowstorm of knee deep confetti. Eight months later I was bored with my job and my boyfriend broke up with me. What better time to move out of town.
Dateline Miami, Florida. I moved in for a time with my uncle’s family until I could find a job and save enough money for an apartment. My jobs included working for juvenile court, and as a police dispatcher for the City of Miami. I met my first husband, Richard, after he returned from Vietnam and moved in across the driveway from me. After a short courtship we were married in 1969.
While visiting friends in Rhode Island our Yorkie, Blue, escaped from their house and ultimately got hit by a car. Blue sustained a broken leg and was taken to a vet by the people who hit her. The vet immediately shipped Blue off to animal control and by the time we tracked her down, animal control had euthanized her. Richard originally wanted to attend college and major in anthropology, but after the incident with Blue he quickly changed his major to veterinary medicine. This was the first clue of where my life was headed.
We moved to alittlefarmhouse in Brighton, Illinois and Richard started pre-veterinary courses at SIU-E while I worked at Western Union. One day in 1972 we noticed a rabbit lying in the middle of the road. We picked her up not really knowing what to do. Area wildlife rehabilitators were non-existent, and veterinarians were not schooled in wildlife medicine at that time. The rabbit’s broken leg was splinted, his head trauma causing temporary blindness eventually resolved, and despite everything we did, the rabbit lived! Watching him hop away into the brush I thought to myself that this is what I want to do. Second big clue here.
Knowing Richard’s coursework would take at least another seven years, we put wildlife rehabilitation on the back burner. In 1975 we moved to the Champaign-Urbana area for Richard to attend vet school at the University of Illinois where he started their first wildlife ward.Richard took care of the wildlife that were admitted, and I would help clean up the ward after hours, as well as raise the orphaned mammals. I worked as a temp at Solo Cup Company and then my only factory job at Vetter Fairing. —-
Upon Richard’s graduation in 1979 we co-founded TreeHouse Wildlife Center on our property in Brighton, Illinois. We built a small clinic, as well as outdoor enclosures. Starting from scratch we were truly a grassroots organization. Richard worked at Ralston Purina in St. Louis while I took care of the operation. In 1985 Richard moved to California to pursue other interests while myself and a few volunteers kept the organization running in Brighton for another 25 years.
In 1986 I met my current husband, Jim. We moved to Collinsville, had a son, Scott, in 1989 (and now have a grandson, Jace, born in 2013).
Meanwhile TreeHouse wasrapidly outgrowing our Brighton location. In 2010 we found the perfect property to relocate TreeHouse in Dow, Illinois. The building on the property serves as a perfect education center and rehabilitation clinic. Cages were built and eight years later we’re still building them. Since 1979 TreeHouse staff and volunteers have rehabilitated literally several thousand animals, and conducted educational programs for people from pre-schoolers to senior citizens.
In 2016 Jim (who had since retired from IDOT) and I moved back to the Brighton property that I love, and built a home. Family is important to me and I look forwardto our annual Travis Family reunion in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee.
Knowing what I know now, that rabbit shouldn’t have survived her injuries. Rabbits are highly stressed animals and it’s a miracleshe survived our rehabilitation efforts as well. I look back on the events of my unplanned life as TreeHouse approaches our 40 year anniversary and know that this is my life’s mission.
The blank slate I left high school with has been fully filled out: jobs, wife, mother, mema (grandmother), author and wildlife rehabilitator!
Check TreeHouse’s website at www.treehousewildlifecenter.com. Like us on Facebook.
Author: Adele Travis Moore