People often ask me how I got interested in snakes. I always answer, "I didn't get that way, I WAS that way!" I really don't remember a time when I wasn't trying to catch, keep or breed some kind of reptile. My parents were supportive but, that said, we had the "no snakes rule" at our house. I kept mostly turtles in those days. My grandfather would bring me box turtles he found crossing the road. I'd keep them until they escaped the flimsy outdoor enclosures I'd constructed for them. In 1963 a friend's mom brought me an adult red eared slider (Trachemys s. elegans) that she found on the road. I kept that turtle for the next 40 years, even bred her a couple of times when I was in grade school.
I pursued my interests through high school and college, eventually getting a BS in Biology from the University of Kansas and a Master's Degree in herpetology there as well. I left the university in 1979 with a great education and no idea what to do with it. I had no interest in teaching or research. I'd worked part time at a large clothing store in Kansas City while attending college and, faced with some of the hard realities of life, went to work there full time. I was promptly transferred to Oklahoma City and became assistant manager of their downtown store. After a stint as assistant buyer I became manager of one of the company's suburban stores were I remained until August of 1988.