At odds with the animal kingdom

  • Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Although I was only 6 years old, I remember this day vividly. I was enamored by the greenness of the earth, blown away by the expansive terrain and surprised that more existed than what I had seen out of the tall windows of the snowed in Brownstone house we just left in Chicago. We were on a road trip as we moved to the tiny coastal town of Davis near the Outer Banks from Chicago, Illinois. I was fogging the glass of the big Buick tuning out the clamor of my brother and sister beside me. Herman and the Hermits singing "I'm Henry the Eighth I am" on the radio.
I felt so small and insignifigant, yet totally important simultaneously. It was the first time that I knew that I wasn't in charge of a darn thing and the person that was, well he was smiling above those clouds. He knew I was in for one hell of a ride.
Somewhere in the foothills of the mountains we stopped at a roadside tourist attraction. Mom put money in a bubble gum type of machine and food poured out into a pan. We slid the pan under the grate of an iron enclosure that led down from the mountain side. Wild black bears sauntered down to eat. One bear sat on his butt and stuck his furry paw through the iron rail, motioning with his hand for me to come back as we left. The only animals I could remember having seen before were monkeys with red behinds and giraffes inside fenced enclosures at the the Chicago zoo.
That first summer on the coast across from Ocracoke was an experience to say the least. It was here that I realized for the first time I was at odds with the animal kingdom. The first day we moved into the little white house I was stung by a wasp as I stuck my arm into a heavy laden fig bush. The onslaught of that summer included; Red ants, crabs, flopping fish, Poison Ivy, mosquitoes, lizards and crabs, no see-ums, wish I hadn't seen ums, green flies, ticks....
And there it began. Animals, insects, reptiles, it's not that they dislike me. They want to get closer to me than they do other people. Like real close.
I've locked eyeballs with a bobcat while picking wild plums on a dirt road in Dorchester, SC.
I've also had a paralyzing staredown with a huge python in a deserted hurricane demolished lot in Gulfport, Miss. while blackberry picking. He was probably a pet rendered homeless when Hurricane Camille devastated that coast and had lived in the undisturbed undergrowth for the 7 years since.
Froze in my tracks as a huge buck broke through the woods one day in NC. He rushed by me with a respectful stare that told me "Don't move and you'll be alright." I felt the breeze of his speed on my arms and legs as he flew by.
Coyotes slinking curiously around the perimeter of my yard questioned my allowance with darting untrusting eyes.
Oh, there was that alligator that tried to tip my jon boat over in a swampy Dorchester, SC pond while fishing for bream.
And mercifully, there was that truce with a skunk I surprised while gardening in NC.
I could fill a book with categorical experiences on fishing, snakes, spiders, animals and just weird stuff. All the while, I crave normalcy and peace with the creatures of the world.
Then came the day when I crossed over. Over to the dark side. It was bound to happen. Four kids, two boys and two girls. This usually means at some point and time a varmit is going to become a pet. Hence my youngest daughters hamster. She kept him in his cage in the bedroom she shared with her sister. It was around midnight and the household was sound asleep. I was awakened as something large and furry crawled across my neck and wedged next to my ear. I grabbed a fistful of fur and slung it onto the wall screaming. Lights came on throughout the house as four sleepy children and a husband filled the room to watch a hamster take his last breath. Now there were seven rooms in this house and six people to choose from. Really? Why me? No sympathy for mom though, just murderous accusing stares. I apologize and promise to buy my daughter another hamster. We get another and this one is a cyclist. Exercising fool. He spins on that wheel all the time. In a better world, he could have been the lab prototype for the "Spin Craze." It's clicking and squealing wheel became a torture drip to everyone in the house. After a particularly loud evening I lay in bed unable to sleep. I crept down the hall and into my daughters' room and quietly exit out with the cage. I place it in a closet so I wouldn't hear the clanging. The next morning, we get up running. I totally forgot that the hamster was in closet. As I walked into the door from work that evening my daughter wanted to know where her hamster was. I opened the closet door to get the cage and froze. The hamster is still and lying on the wheel. Jesus, I killed another one. He apparently didn't know when daylight came and his nocturnal drive had him running all night. Another burial. I am labeled a repeat offender. Please donít call PETA on me. Lord knows that I don't want to hurt them I would just like to be on RSVP basis with them. I have redeemed myself with varmits. A guinea pig we purchased for our grandbaby lived beyond it's expected years and presumably is in that Hamster exercise ball in the sky.
But, I am reminded once again recently that I will never escape the onslaught of the animal kingdom. The little green lizards. Everyone tells me of their sweet co-existence with these green snakes with legs. They pass each other along life's by-ways and hi-ways. Not here. Case in point. I go to the pool one morning. Lather up, tuck in, pull out and stretch out. I pull out my magazine and a flash of green from afar catches my eye. Across the pool deck at least 30 feet away, a lizard with intent scrambles down a post and hits the deck running. I look around me and there is no one in it's path but me. I pull up and it is still charging. When it is about to reach my chair I swat out with my magazine. Does it run away? No! It scampers stealthily beneath another chair and watches me ease back down into my laid back position. Then what does it do? It charges me again. I jump up and run the dang thing across the deck. It stands firm at the edge of the deck next to the pond, blowing bubbles at me defiantly. I flick it into the water with the magazine. For the next hour I can't think of a thing but that thing swimming up behind me for a flank attack. Yes, as long as I am breathing they are going to find me. June bugs that fly into my shirt at ball games, Bumble Bee's that make me say potty words at church cookouts, Palmetto bugs that decide they best place for them to fly and land is the middle of my forehead. I type this as I am listening to a chorus of frogs outside of my patio. I think they are singing " Why can't we be friends?" I answer, "We can, just send me a friend request"

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