Monday, October 08, 2007

First things first

Chris Clarke, who writes a very nifty natural history blog, started passing around this animeme, and tagged people I know. Next thing I know I get roped in by both Sherwood and Dann. So I'd better get on the job here. I will however, tag no one else, since most of the people I know who blog are already victimi- I mean tagged. Actually, my biologist brother might have some fun tales. I'll have to email him, though he's often on the road doing field work.


SPARKY, circa 1972
Sparky, like many of my animals, adopted us instead of the other way around. This was around my 7th grade year, 1966-67 or so. He lived several streets away but had a devoted relationship with a girlfriend, Spooky, who lived 2 doors down from us, and he simply bunked at our house so much that his family called up. The kids are grown, they said, he's always at your house, shall we just bring his stuff down? He became our dog. Mine most of all.

He and Spooky were a lifelong couple. When he was injured in a fight with a Saint Bernard (Yeah, really. Brave or stupid. We could never decide), Spooky came down to our house and stayed next to him, while he lay in his basket on the porch fighting a nasty infection from a really big bite.

He looked like a beagle, but his original family said he was actually a dachshund/basset mix. He was kind of an Eeyore dog, looked gloomy most of the time. My mom recalled a kitchen incident in which a mouse sauntered along the wall and disappeared behind the fridge, while she said to Sparky "Catch it!" and he looked at it, then at her like, "Oh please. Must I?"

He vanished a week before Christmas 1973. A week stretched into two. Surely he was gone for good.

New Year's Day, 1973, I went mountain climbing with friends. Sort of. OK, really just a big hill there in the Carolina Piedmont. Came home to find ...

Sparky, thin and exhausted!! He'd staggered back onto the yard and pretty much collapsed against the brick wall. He mostly slept for the next week. And we can never know what happened or where he was. But we've always joked that somebody, as my grandfather had suggested, had make the mistake of catching him to hunt rabbits. And had discovered, as with the mouse, that he looked at the kidnapers as though they were insane, and they either let him go or he escaped.

He was mine. I was his. I spent a lot of time with his head resting on my knee. He was getting quite old by the time I finished college, and had one last burst of energy Dec 23 1977, when he chased and was hit by a delivery truck. We buried him in the damn snow. That Christmas sucked.

I want to see all my animals again in whatever the next life is, but he's the one I want to see run out and meet me first. He appears in my dreams often to this day.


This would be marinated alligator, at a Gator Cookoff. Chewy.


One fun day during our NJ years, Larry and I took the kids to the Philadelphia Zoo and went into the Lorikeet Aviary. These little birds are hilarious. Here's a picture from another aviary, showing someone feeding one. You get a cup of some kind of nectar-y stuff they love and they land all over you and battle each other to get to it. Hard little claws. Pushy, funny little guys.


Our neighbors had a daughter with birth defects, and built a backyard swimming pool for her. It was a homemade pool, rough concrete walls. She grew up and got married, they sold the house to us. We'd drain the pool for the winter. In spring we'd clean and paint it and try to seal out the water leaks.

One spring a mole got trapped in it. I don't care how destructive moles supposedly are. I'm a bleeding heart. He was adorable. He scrabbled blindly around the concrete walls, lost and helpless outside his environment. I followed him with a bucket trying to catch him. Finally he bumped against the arch of my foot and just ... stopped, too tired and discouraged to move. I remember his hard, weirdly human little hand and the fine velvety texture of his fur. Scooped him into the bucket and tipped him out next to the fence, which he scurried under, and presumably dug his way to happiness.


Meet Betty.

Our tidal marsh is rather brackish, not an alligator's favorite thing, but once or twice a year, Betty hangs out for a few days to check out the local edibles. She solved the nutria-invasion problem in short order. This picture is from January -- she was around a couple weeks ago, but we couldn't get a picture. And since we fear for both Scooter and our feral cats, it's just as well that she didn't come in too close or stay too long.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Thanks for being such a good sport -- and, even more, for such a contribution!

Shame-faced confession: even though half of my heritage is from North Georgia, I didn't realize (or, possibly more likely, had forgotten) that 'gators prowl the Carolinas, too.

ronnie said...

Holy smokes - your "animal in its natural habitat" story sure puts the rest of us to shame! (Or maybe to "tame".)

Great entry!

Dann said...

Hey Ruth,

Great post!

Your gator photo reminds me of the creek that runs through the middle of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point near the North Carolina coast. The creek ran through a wooded area [almost a forest] that separated the NCO housing from the base. There was a paved walking path and foot bridge so you could walk to the PX....and in my case ride my bike to work....with relative ease.

One day when I was fishing from the bridge, one of our Staff Sergeants came puttering up the creek in his bass boat. He pointed out this pale green thing that was sitting on the bank further upstream.

It was a gator that looked to be about 15 feet from snout to tail. Give or take.

This Staff Sergeant puttered up to the gator and cast his bait across the gator's back a couple three times with no noticeable response. He...the SSgt that is....was disappointed.

Nothing like hanging out with Marines for the sheer entertainment value. [grin]


The bridge is right in the middle of the photo. The photo is from Google's map service.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Funny how exotic my gator seems to yall, while my own envy is with all of you who've seen a moose. We've spent time with relatives in VT and once did a whole ME/NH/VT tour but have never glimpsed one. The VT relatives are starting to feel bad for me, and give me moose mugs, placemats, etc. Larry gave me a moose beanie baby. But i still want to see a real one. Um, at a safe distance, that is!

ronnie said...

Your comment about thinking a moose more exotic than an alligator amazed me and really made me think about how different your perspective can be based on where you live!

I was traveling with a friend from Eritrea and she was talking about just getting her driver's license, and the talk turned to moose. She'd never seen one (yet) and she asked me if I ever had. I said, oh, yes, many. She said, "How many would you say you have seen?". I said, "Over my whole life? I suppose... I don't know - 35 or 40." I turned to look at her and her eyes were as HUGE AS SAUCERS. I laughed out loud, she looked so stunned!


Sherwood Harrington said...

ronnie, you've actually seen an ERITREAN?