What was it like to collect birds and to conduct fieldwork in Mexico in the "early days"? For me it began not at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, half a century ago, when I lost a ping pong game to Ernest P. "Buck" Edwards and won a trip to the tropics, to tropical Mexico, a dream come true. Instead, it began from the experience of growing up with parents who knew and loved farms and the rural-suburban interface. Their experience and the insight about ecology one gains from living on a farm, even one close to a major metropolitan center, is a gift from the gods. A great deal happened before that ping pong game. Without numerous outdoor experiences and adventures, including field trips with the West Chester Bird Club members or on my own, and especially with summertime farmwork, I might well have ended up enmeshed in some more conventional career or profession. I might never have played ping pong on the top floor of a building housing ecologists before the word had gained much currency. I might not have applied for admission to Cornell, or been accepted, if I were not already an ornithologist on the launching pad, deeply interested in birds, their distribution, habits, and habitats, which is to say, their ecology.