Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Rabbit balls, mutated hamsters and giant rats. Oh my!
You see, one pet post did not suffice. I can hear the masses from my windowsill, screaming for MORE as if I were Madonna and they had mistaken me for Evita... and I was in a horrible 90's movie.
My last post got me thinking about the pets I had as a child: the ones I loved, the ones I despised, the ones that are now shoe-boxed and rotting. While contemplating my pet history, I became increasingly amused by how truly bizarre my family's pet portfolio had become. Let's take a brief stroll down memory lane...
WARNING: Do not read this if you are a rabbit lover.
The very first pet I can ever remember owning as a child was a large gray oaf-of-a-cat named "Nickel". Nickel was an outside cat with big bones and a bad case of high cholesterol. She spent her days roaming the backyard, looking aloof and hoping we would not try to pet her. The mice she killed did not outnumber the hearts she captured (a zero to zero ratio).
Nickel died when I was 8. We buried her in the back. My parents bought another cat and allowed the kids to name it. We went with "Nickel". When Nickel 2 ran away, we bought another cat and named it "Nickel 3". None of the Nickel's looked alike, but by naming each cat Nickel we were honoring the last cat's legacy; a legacy that we did not really give a hoot about to begin with.
Some people have their dead cats stuffed, put in a pet cemetery or bronzed and placed on their chimney to honor their memory. We simply named them all "Nickel".
My younger brother got a box turtle for his birthday when he was ten or so. By the time he was ten and three months, the entire upper floor of our home smelled like rancid zoo diarrhea. My mom - who is also a teacher - then took the turtle to school and her classroom began to stink like rancid zoo diarrhea. The turtle found a new, loving home with some unsuspecting child and parents who evidently like the smell of rancid zoo diarrhea. (This scent is made mildly better by a well placed snowcone shack.)
3. The hamsters.
At the age of 12, my neighbors had hamsters that loved to mate. I am not sure if they liked to mate more than other hamsters but I am sure that they always had baby hamsters. I believe the massive mating the hamsters and the hamster babies were a cause and effect relationship. (I am not sure about this though, because in 6th grade I did not attend the hamster maturation program.)
Upon begging for the 307th time, my mother finally relented and allowed me to get two hamsters. As part of the deal, I would have to buy my own cage and care for them myself. Not a big deal. I made a cage out of some old jagged wire and boards behind our shed, shredded some old newspaper, plopped a couple carrots in and then ignored the stupid rodents for a full week.
Apparently, in order for hamsters to remain friendly, fluffy and adorable, they need constant affection and human touch. I gave them neither.
One Sunday morning, I looked in my homemade hamster torture chamber and realized one hamster was dead and the other was hovering over it's body - looking a lot like a Marc Anthony had shrunk to near nothingness and then been possessed by Satan.
The hamsters had mutated into little, fur-less ribcages of evil. Honestly, I was just talking to my mom about these hamsters and she shuttered at the very thought of their red, soulless eyes radiating through your core.
I got rid of the other hamster. (I will not go into "how".) To this day, I think it was plodding my death.
4. The chickens
I have always been a city kid. Actually, I am not sure if where I grew up would qualify as "the city" or "the suburbs", but I believe it was much more city than suburb.
We lived within 8 minutes of downtown and no one I knew called driving to work "commuting". For many in our neighborhood, getting to work involved rolling up one pant leg and tossing your tie over your shoulder. While it was not a bad neighborhood, no one left their front door unlocked and the mailman actually walked from house to house. It was the city and, for this reason, my siblings and I were shocked when my dad came home one day with five full grown chickens in the back seat of his Honda Accord.
Dad has always been much better than I at handiness and wood work. He made a lovely coup out of boards and chicken wire and propped it against the inside window of our one car garage.
As is the case with many city boys, I was a spoiled kid. I remember complaining when I was asked to go collect eggs in the dead of winter. The 20 yards from the back door to the garage seemed like a mile of hell when you are a lazy 14-year-old and it is 12 degrees outside. Meanwhile, country kids all over the world were getting up at 4:00 in the morning and fixing fences in snow drifts taller than my head.
Alas, the chicken food in the garage drew the attention of rats the size of our Nickel's and it wasn't long before our city chickens went the way of the nugget.
I shot the rats with my BB gun.
5. The rabbits
I know what you are thinking: How could owning rabbits be anything but fun and enchanting for you and your little brothers and sisters?
Have you ever seen a headless rabbit's body flop around your backyard while your dad holds an axe in his blood drenched hand? The answer would only be yes if you are my sister or one of my brothers. (Or, if you live in Kentucky.)
It's not that I cared much for our stupid rabbits anyway; they pretty much stayed to themselves in some old wooden crates that dad had converted into cages. Sometimes we would get them out and let them hop around the grass like it was their own little Easter parade of death. Occasionally we would place them at the top of a slide and watch as they squirmed down the molten lava-hot metal. Most of the time they stayed locked in their pens, relegated to a life of eating, pooping and staring at the ground through the ridged wires.
We did not raise rabbits for the fluffy, virtuous camaraderie they offered. We raised them to be food. Food on our plates. Food in our bellies.
Once dad's nightmarish flocculent massacres had ended, mom would clean the remaining meat and make her most famous recipe in all the land: rabbit balls.
Once again, please remember that we did not live in Alabama. We lived in the city. Salt Lake City.
Making rabbit balls involved rolling the backyard meat in a breaded crust the size of a snowball and then baking until juicy and warm.
It actually wasn't that bad. In fact, it tasted A LOT like chicken. The funny thing is that our chickens tasted A LOT like rabbit.
Now, despite their quirky tendency for harshly dealing with disobedient backyard rabbits and then feeding them to their children, my parents are amazingly awesome. Besides the turtles, cats and cat-sized rats, we also owned a dog, fish of every variety and a flocked Christmas tree with just over 11 fake turtle doves adorning it's branches.
It wasn't that I didn't want to love the pets of my youth, it was just that it was so darned hard to love them. It just seemed like they were always mutating, eating each other or urinating on my pillow. It wasn't exactly "Old Yeller".
Certainly, your perspective changes towards your pets once you have eaten one of them. Especially if the pet is tasty. On second thought... maybe I SHOULD get my boys a couple of rabbits...