MARMADUKE When the alligator got under their bed and started making racket, Chuck Long said it was probably time for the animal to go. His wife, Lorie, agreed. She only tolerated the live-in alligator because her husband used it for his work.
In his job as regional education coordinator for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Long often has animals in his Marmaduke home that are used for show-and-tell in area classrooms and presentations to other groups.
But the approximately 2 1/2-foot-long alligator was frequently escaping its cage, so it was released into the wild.
As a young man, hunting and fishing around the Coffman community east of Paragould, Long never imagined a future career where the great outdoors would be his office. He said if he could have written a perfect job description, it would be exactly what he gets to do every work day.
Growing up, one grandfather had beagles, he said, "so we rabbit hunted." His other grandfather had foxhounds and a duck blind, he added, "so I spent a lot of time duck hunting with him."
His grandparents farmed, and to keep young Long occupied, his grandmother, he said, "helped me dig worms and took me fishing in the summer."
He loves the outdoors, Long said, "I just never thought I could make a career out of it."
After graduating from Crowley's Ridge Academy in 1983, Long attended Crowley's Ridge College and then Arkansas State University. He planned to follow in his father's footsteps and become a certified public accountant. He even worked at his father's Paragould office while still attending college.
But after a few semesters at ASU, he decided accounting was just not what he wanted to do.
"I just couldn't see myself in an office for the rest of my life," Long said.
With friends in wildlife management classes, combined with his love of the great outdoors, Long said, "I thought, I'll try that."
He enrolled in science classes and particularly enjoyed the fieldwork that kept him outdoors. He loved it, but he still didn't know what kind of job he might find.
After graduating from college, he went to work for Steve Keeter at a fish farm in Paragould. He worked there for 2 1/2 years and was then hired at the fish hatchery in Corning in 1991.
Even though as a young person he was shy about public speaking, when it came to a topic he loved, he had no trouble talking to groups about the fish hatchery and its operations.
After nine years at the hatchery, he took a job with the Game and Fish Commission and for the last 10 years has been the regional education director covering 12 northeast Arkansas counties.
"I'm on the road quite a bit," he said, working in schools with several programs such as "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs" and "Project Wild."
He tries to base his talks and demonstrations on "what the teacher is teaching and what's going on in the classroom," Long said.
And, he said, he even works with teachers on Benchmark testing by trying to incorporate into his presentations "what they need teach to get their kids ready.
"It might be something with endangered wildlife or with animal habitat ... a certain animal species," he said.
When he first began working with the education programs, it was strictly with hunter's education and boating education, "which are mandatory," he said.
Over the last decade, the commission has increased its programs and offers a greater variety, such as the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program and National Archery in the Schools.
He averages 11,000 contacts a year and does a radio talk show Wednesday on Jonesboro's The Fox.
Ask any child or adult about an elephant and they will know a little something about the large animal, he said.
"But ask them what they know about a black bear in Arkansas, and they don't know we even have black bears here," he said. "They just aren't aware of what we have in our own state. ... That's something that's been interesting to me ... the lack of knowledge of something just outside the back door." There is misunderstanding about what the commission really does, he said. Most think they are just game wardens writing citations.
"That's not true. We've got a lot of folks doing a lot of different things," he said.
The commission's mission statement is, Long said, "to manage the resources of our state for the maximum enjoyment of our people."
"We try to keep that task in the forefront as to what we are doing," he said.
The education director also said people need to understand regulations are established based on biological data, as well as public opinion and safety.
A perfect example is the wearing of hunter's orange, especially this time of year, he said. It's a regulation that has seriously reduced the number of shooting incidents.
On the other hand, he said, "most hunting incidents occur from a fall from a deer stand simply because hunters don't wear a safety harness."
And those are accidents that don't need to happen, he said, if hunters would just exercise caution.
In his off hours, Long enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, Bethany, 14, and Hannah, 12. The family moved to Marmaduke about seven years ago, where he is on the city council and Marmaduke School Board.
"If you are going to live in a community, you ought to be involved," he said.
As far as hunting and fishing, Long doesn't get to do as much as he would like, he said.
"But I do get to talk about it almost every day," he added with a grin.
For more information see Monday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.