Down to the Sea

Barbara Dyer: Critters

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 8:15pm

Pets were always a must with me. It was important that I had a cat, and I never saw one that was not beautiful, in my view. We had “Snooky” when I was about 3, and lucky enough to have her for 19 years. To my knowledge there were no veterinarians. No cans of cat food to buy. They ate the table scraps and loved to drink milk. One was not enough, I told my Mother, but her reply was, “Yes, one is a good number.”

I assured her that when I grew up, I was going to have 100 of them. After many years, I understood her logic.

Well, if I couldn't have another cat, there was a cute little chipmunk living in the stone wall, and the cat also took notice of the furry little thing. So Snooky caught the pet for me, but I did not know that soft little creature had sharp teeth. I found out very quickly, letting him return to his home in the stonewall.

On the sidewalk was a garter snake, so I picked it up and was so excited that I ran in my home saying, “Look, Ma, I found a pretty angle worm!”

She was not impressed, in fact she was startled: ”Get that out doors, where it belongs. It is not an angle worm. It is a snake!“

We moved to Chestnut Street from Harbor Road. Mother, Snooky and I were the last load and left by taxi. The next day was the first day of school for me in the fifth grade. When I arrived home Ma said, ”Snooky is gone.”

I was devastated. “Gone where?”

Mother let the cat go out doors and she disappeared.

She said, “perhaps the cat has gone back to Harbor Road, as they say they know where their home is.”

In my mind I wondered, how she would know to walk all down the hill on Chestnut Street, walk through the business district, with all the cars, people and traffic, turn up High Street and walk another distance and know to turn down Harbor Road?

So I said, “Give me a hot dog, as she probably is very hungry and I shall find her.”

Off I went for the long walk and there was “Snooky” waiting on the doorstep of the home we left.

I rested while she devoured the hot dog. Then we started our journey back, while she rode in my arms. The dogs, noise and traffic frightened her so much, she was clawing my hands. At the foot of Harden Avenue, I met the Warrant Officer's wife, who calmly said: ”Dear, take off your little velvet jacket. Wrap your cat in it and she cannot scratch you or get away.”

What a wonderful idea (except for all the cat hairs on the blue velvet jacket) but we made it home.

A classmate lived two houses down from us. One day, he told me they had some baby chicks, but one was picked on by the others. Maybe I would take it home for a pet.

Sure, I would rescue it and it looked like the cute little Easter chicks. We were happy together, until she began to grow white feathers.

When I was very young, our ugly rooster flew at me and although I didn't remember the traumatic experience, I was always afraid of feathers. Spiders, snakes and mice were fine, but I would run a mile to get away from a feather!

“Dickey” grew to be quite a large white hen, but she would follow me around and even come sit on the straw chair on the porch, while I was there. I finally would bravely pick her up, if she did not flap her wings. She and the “bird” dog we had, “Lulu,” would eat together out of the same dish.

I always had a cat, until my last one died a few months ago. I knew no other would take Shadow's place. After all, I had been his slave for 15 years. The lovable, black coon cat would look at me with his big, green eyes, and I would wait on him whenever and for whatever he wanted.

Now the critters are finding me. I built my home 60 years ago and never had any creature in it, until lately.

First I found something in the middle of the kitchen floor, that must have come in on a shoe. When I saw it didn't move and was covered in ants, I quickly grabbed a Bounty towel, picked up whatever it was, and threw it, ants and all, out the door. It took another few days to get rid of the ants that went into hiding.

A few nights later, I heard strange noises and thought something was trying to get in my cellar. Turning on the outside lights I saw nothing, so went back to knitting. Then I made a visit to the bathroom and thought, what is that in the toilet bowl? Another look and I saw it had a long tail and ears, but had drowned.

If I flushed it, then I knew I would have to get a plumber, as it wouldn't go through the pipes.

I took a long pair of “picker uppers” and put it in a Walmart bag for the dump. It was a squirrel who had been angry and frustrated because he could not get food out of my squirrel-proof bird feeder and must have walked in the open kitchen door, when groceries were being unloaded. If he could not get bird seed, he came in to eat my cookies.

Then, Thursday evening, I heard strange noises that the furnace was making. It was midnight and I wasn't about to call the furnace repair man then, so I shut off the furnace and waited until morning and called. Besides, what if it were my imagination?

He came in and then went down cellar. He came back to my door 20 minutes later. It was all fixed. He had four mice in a paper towel in his hand and said they had made a nest around part of the furnace to get warm and died of a heat stroke, I think.

What next? Maybe it will be the chipmunk, who came to my front door, but wasn't invited in.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.


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