Pets, Pests and Mimi

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November was a busy month. We celebrated my dad’s 95th birthday (still doing well), saw Crystal’s dad in Cincinnati (not doing great but still inspirational) , and then, of course there was Thanksgiving. With all of that family time it just helps to reinforce all we have to be thankful for. There is nothing like family. When I think of my family, growing up, I can’t help but focus on my mom.

Mimi (my mom) had a rough life as a child growing up in Germany. Her family was extremely poor, her father absurdly abusive, not to mention WW2. I think all of that contributed to how she spoiled me. Oh, there were times when I pushed the limit, and she would get out the little wooden spoon of discipline. I know it hurt her more than me. I tried to not push my freedom for her sake.

For the most part, I had a great amount of freedom as long as she knew where I would be. Most of the time, I was out with friends, playing some type of game or sport. Other times, I would go for a “bike ride” around the neighborhood. To me, that was code for exploring. Occasionally, I would bring back some type of souvenir. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well, I found a lot of treasures. I had a storage area in the basement full of them. There were some tools, broken toys, old motors, etc. I liked to take things apart and see how they worked.

Every now and then, something more animated would grab my attention. Mimi never knew that one of my favorite games was knocking down wasp nests with a long stick. The trick is, you have to get them with a single swipe, or they will be all over you. Then, run fast and far!

I also liked to watch bee hives and ant hills. They are fascinating if you don’t get too close. Of course, Mimi never knew about those little adventures. It was the critters I decided to make pets that involved her. She just couldn’t say no to her Ronny; and somehow always wound up taking care of my conquests. She was terrified of snakes, but for almost a year, she would feed my pet garter snake. I could hear her talking to it every day during its milk bath. Don’t ask. One day I was playing with him outside and the rotten thing got away. Sometimes a snake just doesn’t know how good he has it.

I also brought home turtles and Cray fish. I once caught a frog. It tried to escape down a storm drain. When I returned home, Mimi had a fit about both the frog and my clothes. She took care of it for about three months until it escaped into the basement. I couldn’t find it anywhere. About a week later. he came out. Unfortunately, he was too dehydrated and didn’t make it very long. Mimi consoled me, but I could tell she was relieved.

For about half a year (more than double their normal lifespan), I kept a large green grasshopper. We fed it lettuce and apple. When I left the house, I tied a thread around its neck with the other end attached to my shirt button. Unfortunately, my new pet was banned from my school. I never understood that. The other kids had no problem with it. Even some of the girls petted it. For years, every time I went for a haircut, my barber would remind me and the other barbers with a laugh.

I believe it was the summer of 1964 when we went on the ultimate vacation. I was ten years old. After driving forever (about ten hours for a ten year old) we arrived somewhere close to Bemidji, Minnesota. Dad had served inWW2 and was proud of his camping skills. We spent the night at a camp site, in a tent. I was so excited. The next morning dad and I went for an exploratory hike. I think mom was trying to see how much dirt she could sweep until the campsite was clean. All of a sudden, a large black snake (I would guess seven to ten feet), apparently unaware of our presence, slithered across our path. I reacted appropriately. Immediately, with the reflexes of a Ninja, I darted behind my dad and said,” catch it dad!”   He just stood there while my pet got away. I have since gotten over it.

Later that day, I had a chance to make up for our failure with the snake. I came across a stream which was lousy with crayfish. I spent the better part of the afternoon turning over rocks and hunting my quarry. At final count, there were easily a dozen new pets in my bucket. I was so proud. I would not come home from my adventure in the north woods empty handed. That night, however, as I was dreaming of my stories of victory for the neighborhood, we were awakened by a rustling. Mom immediately thought bear, and grabbed me as I rushed toward the tent flap. Dad and I then looked out. It was raccoons, two big ones and three or four little ones. They were heading away from my bucket and back into the woods. You guessed it: instead of pets all I had accomplished that day was to create a dinner buffet for some raccoons. Someday, with God’s help, I will get over that too.

Mom with snake 001

The only picture I could find with mom and a critter. Note the fear in her eyes. She really loved me.

Category: Animals and Pets

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