Wisconsin woods to Valley thorn scrub: Laguna volunteer likes the trade

LOS FRESNOS — We’re not in Wisconsin anymore.

Peggy Wagner is a volunteer at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge here, working the front desk in the Visitors’ Center.

Wagner and her husband, Jeff, became full-time RVers in May and relocated to the Rio Grande Valley.

“This is our first volunteer position, so I’ve been here since the beginning of November and am enjoying it immensely,” said Wagner. “The people who come are wonderful people, as well as the volunteers I work with.”

The Tamaulipan thorn scrub that dominates much of the landscape of Laguna Atascosa stands in sharp contrast to the Wisconsin northwoods she left behind.

Lake Nebagamon sits in the deep snow zone in the north of the state, just south of the western tip of Lake Superior.

“Some of the animals here — I hadn’t even heard of an ocelot before,” Wagner said. “So now I know what one looks like, as well as some of the characteristics of it.”

“Seeing the terrain here is totally different from what I’m used to up in Wisconsin,” she said, “so it’s really interesting — a real learning experience for me.”

The beauty of South Texas isn’t the only thing she’s appreciating these days.

Wagner finished her 35-year education career in Wisconsin where she taught kindergarten.

“The rewards are the satisfaction of knowing that you’re giving back,” she said. “I really like that because all through my working career I didn’t have the opportunity to just do something that I wanted to volunteer for.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment and pride in the fact that you can really give back,” she said.