Growing up as the oldest of four on a dairy farm, I held down the fort in the house while Mom milked cows morning and night. Dad worked second shift at a meat processing plant so that we could survive on the farm, which usually left Mom with the twice-daily milking of our small Holstein herd. Watching my siblings must have been uneventful, or I’ve just mentally blocked that part of my life, since I don’t have any significant memories of those days. Well, except for two incidents involving wild animals in the house. And on the farm, any animal in the house was wild because animals lived outside. All of them, including cats and dogs.
The first incident was when I was around 10 years old. One evening, my sister and I saw a mouse run along a wall in the kitchen. Post high-pitched screaming, we decided to take care of it before Mom came in from milking the cows, for we couldn’t stand the thought of it running around for another hour. We found a snap-trap, put some cheese on it, set it, and pushed it near the mouse-path. We moved to the mouse-free living room and waited – half hoping nothing would happen until Mom come into the house. But there it was… SNAP! We flew to the kitchen and immediately hopped on chairs and screamed, watching the mouse flop around in the trap. My story ends here; I continued screaming apparently with my eyes closed. I don’t know if my sister, or Mom, or perhaps even my baby brothers, scooped the trap into the dustpan and launched it outside the back door. I only remember the noise of the incident – our screams and the snap – and my approximate size relative to the chair I was standing on.
One winter evening, when I was around the same size, a larger rodent disrupted the house while Mom was milking. The faint smell of a skunk grew so intensely and so quickly, I was absolutely positive the animal was in the house spraying. Panicked, I got coats on my sister and my brothers and hustled them out the back door, around the corner of the house, and 30 yards across the barnyard toward the warm lights of the barn. I popped open the upper and lower barn doors and the warmth of the cows washed over us.
Ahhh, safety. Surprising Mom with bundled up kids, I explained about the skunk in the house. Mom’s incredulous look spoke to me before her voice. The strong smell had taken my imagination to a place of undeniable realism. Standing in the barn, it dawned on me that there had never been a skunk in the house before this. And, that I had just taken my sister and brothers ever so close to the skunk’s path by trudging them to the barn.
I learned from those lessons. Similar events have taken place in our current house with Bill and me. I take care of the mice; they are still cute creatures to Bill. Getting his American citizenship didn’t change his feelings toward mice. He’s still English through and through when it comes to rodents and spiders (aka: scoop and save).
The one time we both thought there was a skunk inside the house, I took the kids upstairs to our bedrooms and sent Bill in search of skunks in the basement. On second thought, it may have just been me that was convinced there was a skunk in the basement. Convinced that our basement door must have been left open. Yeah... pretty sure that was just me.
Yet, Bill took the helm and went scouting for skunks. And came back without rabies.
(Bill is an Englishman; we had very different childhoods -- Uncovering the Real England: Spiders paints one picture of the way we view life, particularly bugs.)