Thursday, May 24, 2007

Family pets

Johnny Virgil reminisces about his youthful pets.

The toilet was my mother's solution to not just fish, but all pet funerals. I swear she would have tried to flush cats and dogs if she thought it wouldn't involve hacksaws and plungers. If it would fit, it got flushed.

They must have had sturdy plumbing in Upstate New York in those days.

We in Ohio confined the toilet obsequies to fish, but we did a big business in backyard funerals for poultry.

Every Easter, the local Woolworth's store would sell baby chicks, some of them dyed blue, pink, and green. They were a pretty sight in the store, little balls of pink, blue, green and yellow feathers, and we all fell for them. All the kids in the neighborhood got them. I don't remember what we fed them, but at night we put them in the basement with a hot water bottle, where they cheeped unremittingly until morning, keeping the whole household up. The next day, many of them were dead, and subsequently they all died, mourned by the whole neighborhood.

So we neighborhood kids did bird funerals. There were some doctrinal differences among the group, which almost led to fistfights, until we came up with the world's first ecumenical funeral service. These funerals were very sad.

I guess this got old among the adults, because the next few chicks to disappear were delivered to a local farm, where they could lead long, happy and productive lives, according to my mother. She even showed us which farm, on one occasion when we were driving in the country. I wanted to drop in and see that our chicks were being properly cared for, but mother said there was no time. Anyway, how would I knew which chick was mine? Easy, I said, a green chicken would stand out in any barnyard. Some other time, said my mother.

I believe the sale of baby chicks to kids was subsequently made illegal, at least in the State of Ohio. Anyway, they disappeared from the local stores, mourned by none.

Our next pet was a dog, given to me and my brother by Uncle Doc, who I guess had a spare dog lying about. I believe he wanted to teach us good citizenship and responsibility, and had high hopes of the two of us feeding, walking, and grooming the dog. If he had these hopes, they were disappointed. Almost the first thing my brother did with the dog was to send him down the laundry chute. The dog didn't seem to mind all that much, but when Uncle Doc heard about it, he was miffed and retrieved the dog. The dog was in our care for so short a time that I don't believe we had thought of a name for him before he disappeared.

Our subsequent pets were all cats, which were easy to care for--a good thing, for my mother didn't have too much time, and if any feeding, etc, was done, she had to do it

Uncle Doc didn't care for cats, and didn't care whether we took care of them or not. To him the cat was a disappointing animal.

1 comment:

airforcewife said...

We spent an awful lot of time growing up on my Pop's farm, so animals there were in abundance; sheep, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, African Guinea Hens (god awful ugly creatures), and goats were among the tame animals.

These all got funerals when they kicked off, except the chickens. We all hated the chickens. The stupid things ran free around the farm and the roosters used to chase us if they got the chance. One day I turned around and kicked one attacking rooster with my pointy boot. At that point I think I realized that I should have been the kicker on a football team

In any case, the roosters never chased me again. My sister, however, was an entirely different story.

And I love cats - especially the evil ones that plot attacks on the dogs from the tops of the bookcases.