Friday, February 27, 2009

Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark

My first pet was a gift from the Easter Bunny. I got a little chicken and my brother got one too. We chose names for the little biddies that started with the first letters of our names. Mine had to start with an "S", so I chose Snoopy. Phil's had to start with a "P", so he chose Poopy. They fit their names well. Mostly they fit Phil's chicken's name. Mom and dad explained, after not so many days had passed, that these chickens were getting very very tired of our house and wanted to be with other chickens. They disappeared one day and were taken to a chicken coop about 4 blocks away where we never saw them again. It's funny because we probably didn't miss them much. Chickens are not the most cuddly pets after they loose the downy feathers.

We got a bunny that was black and we called him Whiskers. He was a cute little bunny. Dad built him a pen that was elevated off the ground and had a little feeder for fresh produce and a little bowl for rabbit food. Sadly, he got stuck under his feeder in the winter and froze to death. Just the beginning of the many pet tragedies we encountered.

When Phil and I were little, our neighbors had a pig pen in the field next to us. There is nothing quite like pig smell. I'd know it anywhere. But, the oinking and rooting of those big old porkers used to fascinate us. There were horses behind Kuhnie's house. We used to give them grass through the fence. There was a barn next to the fence, by the horses. The barns were so much fun . Everything creaked in the old barns. It was like playing Russian Roulette to see which board would actually hold you as you walked along the rafters.

Our first pet that actually knew how to interact with us was a dog named Sport. I think he was part Collie but mostly just a mutt. My dad was sitting in the bathroom, on what he called "the throne", if you'll pardon my details. It is only important to tell you what he was doing because I thought he was very negligent as a Father that day because he didn't come to my aid immediately.

My dog, Sport, got away from me. I was 5 years old and I couldn't leave the yard alone and my dad couldn't understand that I needed his help right then. He was enjoying the newspaper and wasn't about to be interrupted. He said, "Susan, he'll be back. He will come home on his own." I cried and kept pleading but to no avail. I was glad that he was right. Good old Sport did come home.

My friend, Melodee, and I each got a white kitten from a neighbor lady. They were from the same litter. She called hers Puffy. I called mine Fluffy. We were into rhyming. Fluffy fell down the window well of my friend's house (probably looking for her sister Puffy). But we didn't find her for a couple of days. Lucky for us, Melodee's dad found her and returned her to us, a little dehydrated but not too much worse for the wear.

When Fluffy died shortly after giving birth to a stillborn kitty, we didn't get any more cats. We got a new puppy we named Bounce. I practiced my hair cutting skills on him when he got older. He just seemed so hot, I thought he needed a new summer hair-do.

Bounce was named after my dad's childhood dog. I learned about "the birds and the bees" by chasing after him one day when he ran off. My uncle Don went with me to find Bounce and was shocked that I couldn't figure out what was happening. He chastized my parents jokingly for not filling me in on the finer points of animal breeding patterns. He said "What's the use growing up in a farm community if you don't use it to teach your kids stuff." A little squirt of water from a neighbor's hose and Bounce was trotting off on his way home very cheerfully. It was hard to believe that Bounce had enough pride to go off looking for ladies with that haircut he was sporting.

We had a cute little black dog named Mitzi and a sweet little brown dog named Daisy. They gave me a terrible reputation. Mitzi followed the car around the corner when I was driving Linda to her friend Lynda's on my way somewhere. I didn't know Mitzi followed us and I ran over her. We were all so sad to hear that her back was broken and she had to be put to sleep. Daisy had a terrible habit of chasing cars. She left the yard and chased a car one day and I yelled for her to stop. She turned and looked at me and was partially run over. We thought she was going to make it. I stayed up with her all night holding her to make her comfortable, but she died while I was at school. I loved these little dogs and I was tortured with guilt for a long time.

You'd think mom and dad would have said no more pets until Susan is out of the house. But, the neighbor dog, Butters had puppies and we got Ebony, a little black dog. Ebony survived me being around and lived until he had lots and lots of grey hair. He and mom's little canaries Cookie and then later, Boyd, kept mom and dad and Phil company for many years. Boyd even saved Mom's life when he kept falling off his perch. We surmized that maybe there was some gas leaking in the house and he was reacting to it. Sure enough. He was the best carbon monoxide detector anybody could ever have. Mom was at home all day and all night so she was affected more than Dad and Phil. Mom started feeling less dizzy and Boyd got back on his perch.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


CHEATED. I had been cheated I didn't get a sunny summer. It rained a lot and was cloudy which wasn't typical of a Utah summer. My mom was working in the yard and I was complaining that I wanted a nice day so we could go swimming. It was only days before school would start and summer was over!

I didn't get as many days to climb our neighbor's monstrous tree where I sat in a rustic homemade tree house and read Nancy Drew and Happy Holister mysteries. The upside was that I hadn't been stuck up on a too-high limb desperately hoping someone would hear me yelling for my dad to come and help me down. Thank heavens for fathers who eventually come and rescue adventuresome daughters when they are out on a limb.

Lake Creek, the stream that ran by my house was always flowing full tilt that year, instead of being slowed to a trickle, off and on, by irrigation upstream. That made it so we couldn't be daring and wade through shallow puddles under the culverts that ran under the streets (always warning each other to listen for "big water"). Big water sounded like a trickle at first and then grew to sound like limbs and branches being banged about and rocks rolling along in front of a mini-freight train.

To tell the truth, we were rarely in the creek when the water started flowing. We were always under the assumption that we could be drowned at any minute (never mind that the creek never got deeper than 2-3 feet). In defense of all the warnings by parents, the water did flow swiftly at peak season. I used to dream that my brother, Phillip, didn't heed the warning and I had to do a swift water rescue when he jumped off a rock into Lake Creek and nearly drowned.

We often pretended that an evil troll, the bloody Red Baron, lived under culverts and hid in dark spaces where two pipes of different sizes joined together. We caught minnows, crawdads and a fish called a "Sucker" in the puddles left by receding water. We collected rusty junk and treasures galore. I pictured myself as a coon hunter that set traps for raccoons in the river bottoms in Where the Red Fern Grows. We made friends with horses that were on our route down the creek. It was so fun to meet up with kids downstream who were also making their own make-believe tales.

Old ladies hated that we were traipsing up and down the creek bottoms from main street to 400 west, under fences and through stables and yards and pastures. Even though we were (of course) harmless, sweet, and darling children, sometimes an old lady or two would think it her civic duty to tell us to get off their property or to tell us they were going to call our mothers. We knew the creek was city property and thought we were within our rights to just stay in the creek. We just got sneakier when near their property and didn't care if they called our moms. Our moms knew where we were. I vowed to never be one of those old biddies that growled at kids for sport.

When the water was slow, a frothy foam of brownish white would form and we called it "Indian soap". That was to go with the Indian Tobacco that was a dried rusty plant that grew near Lake Creek and crumbled into a palmful of stuff that looked like the insides of a cigarette. There were some wild hops that grew next to the the creek next to our dentist's office near main street. We pretended to make beer. I'm not sure they were really hops. But, they were fun to pop to make a little noise. We had to leave the ditch once or twice to follow the creek to our house because there was a grid over the culverts in some spots to keep junk from plugging the creek and flooding. So we scampered as fast as we could across the street to get back in the ditch.

It might have been that year that we had a terrible spring flood when all the streams and rivers overflowed. We were afraid our basement would flood but we were on the high side of the creek bed. Ellis Clyde, the town clown, got in a row boat and rowed down main street, bringing everyone to laughter when main street was flooded. The water was up to the tops of the car wheels. Every store on main street had flood damage that year.

There is always a bright side to everything. I developed a skill that rainy summer that made me quite a long jumper. We called it the "broad" jump back then. My friend Nancy Moulton and I jumped Lake Creek when it was at it's fullest. Back and forth we jumped, trying wider and wider spots until we could jump great distances. We did it running and we did it standing in place. We fell in the water sometimes. But, we kept drier the more we practised. We jumped into grass at the waters edge that sometimes came up to our thighs and we sunk into the muddy bank with a thud. It was a Huck Finn existence. But, the next year brought much sweet sunshine and appreciated adventures.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hymn with Him or a Whole new side

I play the organ sometimes in church meetings. I made sure I checked what the opening song was, put a marker in the book, and began playing prelude. I wasn't paying close attention when the song was announced but when the bishop sat down I opened the book and began playing.

The chorister looked over at me kind of funny but I kept playing without regard to his curious look.

The bishop announced the next hymn by saying, "The alleged hymn will be "There is a Green Hill Far Away on page.....". After the meeting was over, my husband told me that I played one hymn while half the congregation sang it and the other half sang the song on the opposing page that the chorister was singing.

In a different chapel, I climbed onto the organ bench just as the meeting was about to begin and caught the slit of my skirt on the bench. I heard a rip and reached back to find that my skirt had ripped clear up to the waistband. I had to have my daughter run home to get me a new skirt but I couldn't change until the meeting was over. Thank goodness organs are often backed up against the wall because I had to sit up to the organ for the whole meeting. If I had moved to a different location I would have revealed a whole new side of myself.