We were so glad that we were picked by Rax to be his dependents. Family life more or less revolved around his basic needs and emotional requirements. He enjoyed being an independent lap-cat. R.I.P., Rax.
What a name for a dog! But she was truly a golden nugget among the gravel of mediocrity. Looking like a medium-sized collie, she had other blood lines. One of her jobs was to keep the groundhog population down, and she did!
When we first moved on to this property, a dog named Midnight came with it. She was an outdoor pooch and was friendly to us. Not so to the insurance man. She only managed to rip his coat!
Silky helped raise our kids. She was picked from the pound in New Castle . It was like winning the lottery. Silky was an ideal pet for children. We think she was a combination of dachshund and ........terrier. Maybe some beagle. The epitome of patience was she.
And the strangest pet ever in our family (not counting the pet fly
Grandad McC kept one winter) was a horned toad from the western desert.
Dad must have bought it on one of his frequent trips to Pittsburgh. We
kept Zipper in a terrarium and fed him bits of hamburger and flies. His
spines would sort of jag your skin when you played with him. His
underbelly was soft as a baby's a....nkle.|
One day somehow Zipper escaped. Mom and Dad and we four kids looked high and mostly low for this denizen of the sands with no results. It was a few days later that Dad was downtown when he spotted a familiar figure basking in the florist's window. There was Zipper dryly surveying the passing shoppers in this tough northern steel town.
The florist, who was Dad's friend, after hearing of Zipper's bid for freedom, explained that a citizen had brought the animal in after he had found it on a sidewalk. Presuming that the lizard had dropped from a passing truck, it was agreed to provide him a safe haven as part of the window display.
When the florist learned of the beast's true owner, he offered to return Zipper , but Dad declined his offer. I believe the decision was that the viewing of this little monster by the public would add interest to the everyday life of the community. And so, after a write-up in the newspaper, Zipper continued his role as an ambassador of goodwill from the Southwest.
The OddsDaughter Melinda's husband, Martin, regularly cycles for physical health. Lately, he was taking a solo trip on the back roads through new country. As he was biking along enjoying the scenery, Martin suddenly heard someone calling his name. Being in a strange area, he could not imagine anyone nearby would know him. As the calling continued, a large dog came into view and immediately rushed to possibly do him harm. Quickly alighting, Martin put the bicycle between himself and the beast, using the bike to protect himself. In a short time, a fellow came running toward the scene of action, still calling, "Martin, bad Martin, down, Martin !" As the dog's owner grabbed the animal's collar, the two-legged Martin remounted his wheels, and without a word exchanged, raced off to complete his circuit. The four-legged Martin maybe was soon relegated to his doghouse. What are the odds for such a coincidence of names?
The Hole StoryI went out in the yard to trim back some of the ancient limbs on our large white lilac bush. In earlier years, many of the side branches had been pruned from some of the main trunks which were now hollow. As I started to saw into one of the overgrown trunks, my eye caught a movement in one of the deep dark holes where a branch had been lopped off many seasons ago. Peering closer, I saw two tiny eyes staring back at me with some alarm, I'm sure. Below the terrified eyes were a few twitching whiskers which verified the presence of a field mouse. As I headed back to the house with my mission not accomplished, I hoped the little animal would remain in his cozy outdoor hideout all winter. I'd hate to give him his 'last' meal of peanut butter on the traps I would soon be setting inside.
The Educated CatIt must have been during the late 30's. Times were tough. Hoboes, bums and just guys out of work would come to the back door for a handout. They never got money, but they always were given food. Sometimes on a winter day, Mom would have a pot of rich beef and vegetable soup on the stove. Given a big bowl of that along with a hunk of homemade bread, the wanderer would hunker down in a spot out of the wind to enjoy the warm repast. Returning the bowl and spoon at the back door. the "guest" was offered a refill which ,to my recollection, was never refused. And Mom was always politely thanked. What were they called, 'Gentlemen of the Road"? Then, too, the stone wall beside our back gate had secret hieroglyphics on it which indicated to the next nomad that this was a good place to stop!
Our garage was unattached and faced Fourth Street. When the car was in use, the door was usually left open till the rounds of the day were done. One morning Dad went to get the car out and was soon back in the house. With enjoyable anticipation, he herded us all out to the garage to take a look. There in a box of rags against the wall was a stray cat with her family of kittens. And what a smart cat. There, printed on the side of the box were the words, "Katz Clothing"!
Black on BlackMaybe tropical fish weren't that expensive during the depression. At any rate, Dad's year-long hobby was maintaining two or three fairly large tanks filled with several types of tropical fish. I can recall scads of guppies, the neon tetras, the sleek swordtails and the heavenly angelfish. But the hero of this tale was a black molly.
Once in a while the aquaria had to be completely cleaned. This operation entailed the removal of the resident fish to temporary quarters. A small dip net was used for such a transfer. This time Dad caught Mr. Molly who had a rambunctious nature. In the deft movement between his two watery abodes, our piscine friend leapt over the net's edge and fell toward the floor.
Ordinarily such a mishap could be easily corrected. In this case there happened to be a gaping hot air floor vent below. Into the dark depths of the dry dusty duct dove the dauntless dusky demon with double-quick dispatch.
Dad immediately grabbed a small jar of water and headed for the basement. After locating the proper conduit, Dad proceeded to separate the pipe sections involved. He reached into the sooty gap, retrieved the escapee and put him into his natural habitat. Even with the coal soot rinsed from his scales and gills. Mr. Molly looked not much different but retained his majestic ebony hue.
Mr. Molly recuperated after a few day's swim in a mercurochrome-laced bath. He frittered away the rest of his life frolicking in frisky fashion with his finny fellow fraternity in the filtered fluid state.
Discharging my duties as a conservationist, I ended up one day at the small summer house of Kaspar Monaghan and his wife. It was located in the backwaters of the county where it served as a retreat from the hectic pressure of city life. I was soon introduced to the boss in the form of a small Corgi-type pet dog named Brandy. I presumed the pup received his title as a tribute to one of his Irish master's favorite drinks. The dog was friendly and that is all I can recall about Brandy.
Kap was a newspaper reporter. At the time, he was drifting toward retirement as a theater and art reviewer for the Pittsburgh Press, I believe. Earlier in his career Kap had done some investigative reporting about which he told me the following tale.
He said one time his editor called him in to explain to him his next assignment. It was deceptively simple. "I want you to find out just how rich is the illustrious Richard King Mellon." Now Gen. Mellon was at the time an outstanding local financier, conservationist and civic leader and one of the richest men in the country. Monaghan was given no deadline. All resources of the paper were put at his disposal for his quest.
Kap dug in with all the fervor of a ferret. Doing his diligent research and following various leads, Monaghan was kept busy for weeks. He would find where the General had investment in a large corporation only to discover an array of other businesses branching from the parent company. The more Kap searched among the intertwined tentacles, the less he learned and the more frustrated he became.
Persevering beyond a reasonable time span without arriving at a concrete answer to the challenging question before him, Kaspar Monaghan finally gave up his efforts. He explained to his editor the tortuous path he had trod in trying to pin down records of the Mellon assets. He ended his recital with, "Boss, all I can tell you is that General Mellon is one helluva wealthy man!" So any story that was contemplated was never written.
Footnote: The Richard King Mellon Foundation had assets of $1.7 billion as of the end of 1998.
Bulletin May 27, 2000--It has been many moons that this home has been "sans le chat". Rax departed for Catnip Fields Forever in 1997. For the past six months or so we have seen a group of grayish cats roaming the nearby environs. They seemed to be semi-feral so they never made friends with us although they finished off any handouts which were offered. Lately they seem to have moved on and been replaced by a single orange red and white which was stalking the area alone.
Then yesterday 'it' padded fearlessly near Randy and me while we were doing yard work. When the stranger responded to "Hi, Kitty" with a few friendly "meows", I was encouraged to offer a few handsful of dry catfood pellets which were quickly gobbled up. Randy soon added a filled water dish to the banquet . It didn't take too much longer to offer access to the closed-in front porch and soon after that a tour of the house was arranged. After a few playful back strokes and tummy tickles, it was very clear that we had been adopted. Until verification to the contrary, we were now "Peaches" ' new family.
In the past couple of months Peaches has fully adapted to our family
life. Or is it really the other way around? She enjoys playing hide and
seek, chasing a length of moving white yarn and batting and racing
various balls all over the downstairs. She eats dry food and drinks her
water straight. Her siestas might be taken on various over-stuffed
chairs or on a work table on the front porch. Quite a bit of her day is
taken up sitting on the dining room windowsill, tail a-twitching,
watching her bird friends come and go at the feeder.|
So far we have not recovered one or two of her toy balls which may be under heavy furniture. One favorite sphere is a golf ball which she can hold well in both paws, probably because of its dimples. Peaches is slowly attacking the custom-made scratch post instead of the door trim or upholstery.
NIX"The Depression" found our family abiding in Verona, PA, a moderately-sized borough sited on the east bank of the Allegheny River about 10 miles north of Pittsburgh. We had only had a few white mice as pets for a while. Mom had helped her mother attend to the everyday needs of her younger siblings. It reasonably followed that in caring for her own four offspring, she was quite cool to the idea of having a family pet underfoot to add to her housework.
And then 'The Eggman' arrived one fateful day. Normally. this huckster, from his farm some distance away. brought fresh eggs and in-season produce to our door each week. While Dad was at the curb selecting food items, the farmer showed him a puppy which he hoped to "unload" on some customer on his route. His reason for this, he said, was that this little furball gave him more 'trouble' than all the rest of the litter. Dad knew from this fact that this animal was surely intelligent.
Heading to the house with eggs and sweet corn and maybe snap beans, Dad also carried under one arm a fluffy white puppy "for Mother to see." Well, one look is all it took! This Eskimo Spitz pup invaded Mom's heart on the spot. The little female had just a faint touch of lemony-tan fur on her back which denied that she was pure-bred. Although Spitz dogs were touted to be ill-tempered, our new pet had a curled-up tail that wagged in constant friendliness.
The newcomer was soon dubbed as "Nix", the Latin word for snow, to describe her luminous coat. Nix went on to endear herself to her six human family members, adding many happy hours to their lives for the next 15 years. She was diagnosed with a cancer while I was serving in the Army in India. Dad had her treated by the vet who was successful in lengthening her doglife in comfort so that she was able to welcome me home.
SNAP DRAGONA short-term "pet" showed up at our house one afternoon. Our neighbors, the men of the Milligan clan, hunted turtles by feeling under the banks of streams. With experience, painful or not, they had learned how to identify snapping turtles which were holed up in the soft mud. Moreover, with their huge muscular hands, they could grab a snapper by its tail, flip it out onto the dry ground, and still retain their fingers!
So that day, Sam and Jim brought Dad a big live gift snapper. It was dumped out of the burlap bag into a wash tub in our cellar to await its ultimate fate. We kids, having been given ample warnings on the bone-crushing ability of its jaws, then had opportunity to inspect this powerful reptile. With long stick or screwdriver, we tested its accuracy and speed in 'putting the bite' on them.
During supper it was decided that perhaps Mom should try her hand at concocting some fresh turtle soup for the next day's supper. Oh, we had heard that there were seven different types of meat in a turtle, but Mom would not differentiate, but put them all in the same pot. That evening, Dad and my older brothers Dick and Ray learned as pure amateurs how to butcher a turtle. I cannot recall the details, but most every tool in the house was eventually tried in the attempt.
Pets are to be a part of life's experience. This one taught me two things. First, this old species survived millennia by being truly tough and tenacious. Next morning, hours after its death, the decapitated turtle's head still had an unyielding grip on the handle of a pair of pliers! And second, turtle soup is delicious.
Summer visitors of ours, I always saw hummingbirds having dinner at various blossoms near our house. Ah ha! Last week I went out to check out how the blueberries were ripening. There UNDER the net was a trapped thieving hummer with an accomplice hovering above. Now I didn't actually SEE her stealing blueberry juice. Could she possibly do it with her long proboscis? Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I declared amnesty and released her to the ethers.
Offered July 2008