Childhood: Animal Friends

Story Introduction | Transcript | Annotated | 89-4286-BB-18-Z-3-6

I think the true picture of Jimba’ s growing up cannot be properly protrayed withou[t] describing the character and cunning antics of the animal fold who shared his hom[e], his bed and his environment.

Jim and I have never been able to regard animals as “lower” forms of life… (and being less than ourselves) but rather as equals with all of our virtues and few of the vises and many other beautiful attributes, and much more which nature gave them in attempt to equalize their lot since they can hardly make out in the present world evolution of things, depletion of their natural habitats, etc., indepe[ndent] of the love and help and tender care of human kind.

However, my husband, Jim’s father, and his family did not share these tender sentiments of ours and little else that had to do with us, except in time their reasons of trouble and adversity, when they were quick to seek my aid, and were not rebuffed though I had little in common with them or they with me, in fact. Some of them harbored a poorly concealed notion that being as fit and able as I was in the skills of survival was unbefitting a female of my size and stature and somehow detracted from the thing they called respectability.

And so it was concluded by the home of Jones that pigeons were messy things, none of which was good, and it was scarcely decent of me to have rigged a nurser[y] for “Pidge Widge” beside my back door. Time her droppings had to be cleaned frequently, but I had strung a bushel farm basket up on nails by the wire hand holds close under the roof of the back porch.. Kitchen and bedrooms were within sound of her voice as she crooned her babes to sleep while gentle winds in summer rocked their cradle. We adored going to sleep to the sound of her crooning, little Jim and I…

It is unfortunate that one must fight to have and hold a paradise permanency and m[ust] make wee creatures happy, but so it was with me in the course of marriage.

I had infrequently required the spouse and his younger brother to buff the back po[rch] on a few occasions to remove Pidge’s droppings because I was so often working away from home and this was none to their liking since it required effort, and they began to plot to remove Pidge-Widge. Took me a while to catch on… Fact is, Bill, the brother-in-law had made two 200 mile runs before I learned of this. Pidge had beaten him home on both occasions. There was homing instinct in her genes for which I was very thankful and to reinforce this, I held long conversation with her like, “Don’t let em put you in a car, girl, but if they do, be sure and watch direction carefully, sweetheart, because I have no way of tracing you.. yet. But don’t you worry, sweet girl.. I shall inform them that if once more they try it, they are in deep, dark trouble. I will band you, now, and put this little tinkle bell on. They can remove these, of course, so you must watch out carefully both for yourself, your mate and the babies.. etc.”

I passed these plotters taking the morning sun on the long front porch, as I lit out to work that A. M.

“Watch yourselves, me fine Buckaroos,” challenged I..“Lay hands on Pidge and her family once more or any of the others, and you no longer sleep under this roof or dine at yonder talbe.. Geronimo had spoken! Whereupon I mounted the car which was incorporated in a workers car pool, and like Sir Gallahad, mounted his white, gayly comparisoned charger – and was off to my habi­tual daily slavery. The nation was at way, and I worked in a defense plant… 17 miles away from our quiet town.

Two weeks later, these cohorts having repented their aggressions against Pidge and her family, took off on a fishing trip, forgetfully of having Lady Bug our toy eskimo spitz along, they returned without her. It took me all night to locate the river and recover Lady Bug who was helpless, being of advanced years now would I hear their impassioned plea that this had been an accident…

I replied: “That’s what I’m gonna tell God about what happens to you, too, if the likes of THIS ever happens again.” It didn’t happen again, but young William, the brother-in-law up and stole my car and headed for the asphalt jungle of an adjacent town where he’d had a long standing hubub of disappearing and being “ripped off” if he happened to have been working or recently had received a pay check. He was later murdered there, and it was a sorrowful things on the heels of what I called the wasted years of his life.

Loss of the car was too much! I headed for that town, stopped at the police department and they said: “ye can’t go there! ‘Tis as much as your life is worth… it could easily cost your life.”

Replied I, “That car IS my livlihood, so what?” Said I, “I came to suggest that you have a look if I do not return inside of 12 hours, and bring an ambulance along, if ‘taint too much trouble.”

I sniffed and departed as they yelled in unison: “You can’t.” So I sought the bell­-weathers of this flock both male and female and in the more dangerous and most likely byways. Really, wherever I spotted cars that appeared slated for stripping down for the parts for which there was a lively market at this point in time. I didn’t get abusive or speak with less than firm convictions either.

I did not appear greatly upset, but merely said in all the right (or wrong) places: “I shall expect my car to be parked with all parts intact out on the main highway before 8 am tomorrow where I shall stop and pick it up.”

“Nay” they all contended, they had no knowledge of anything having to do with my car. Then quiz your grapevine, said I, “but get it done like I have said,” said I as if I was tougher than all skid row toughs put together, and I was a very good and convincing actress.

“I hold no soul in these parts innocent of this, “ said I, calmly, “and I have contracted to do another census for the Federals and do it I will, even if I have to “rip up these parts brick by brick, first.”

The car was at the designated place at 8:00 AM and no part missing. I insisted the police start it, though, for I had no intent to be taken in by a booby trap and leave Jimba at the mercy of a cruel world.

Jimba and all of the others we had befriended, especially our darling and so dependent animals. There was Madam O’Possum and her uncouth children who rode her back when we went for walks in the evening time. There was Miss Skunk who threatened me every time I fed her by squaring off and sighting over her shoulder, but restrained herself seeming to realize that I could not afford to take weeks off the job in effort to rid myself of such havoc as she was fully capable of delivering in less than a wink of an eye. She was a beautiful thing with her white stripe against the sable blackness of her, and that mischievous twinkle in her eyes. There ­was Bobby the raccoon… and Missey Mouse who when she saw me putting a colorful border around my kitchen wall which I had painted light green fixed one for her cleverly designed house from bits of cotton.

That was a night no sleep was had. Missey’s house had a hand hold for carrying her wherever I went — to make up to her for my long absenses which must have been very lonely for her. I was unable to catch her message for sometime, but when I finally did, I was too excited to continue border-building and for her sake, discontinued it until later. She discontinued only when I did. Th[en] we got serious about the message she was attempting to convey.

“Missey,” said I, “If you can forgive my weariness and fatigue, and give me your message… again, I think I can read you, now.”

Missey made it so plain that only a fool could have erred therein. She dove into he[r] snow white cotton tee pee and came out bearing a fatted, hairless object, but littl[e] larger than a healthy grub work and when this light of comprehension dawned upon me, belatedly, she was placing the 4th object for my inspection.

“Missey,” breathed I, always more than somewhat overawed at the miracle of birth. These are without doubt the most beautiful babes on the face of this earth – but HOW? Oh, yes! Now all is clear. ‘Twas the day I took you and Horatio down by the creek for a dip and an afternoon of freedom. There was soft winds, the odor of many flowers and the music of clear running water, and the birds sang — and spring hung heavywith promise upon the air.. Ah, I should have known. Horatio never does anything by halves, neither do you, my darling. I opened the door of her house and cradled her as usual, but her excitement was so great that I KNEW this was NOT the usual. I scooped up the hairless objects and Missey suckled them right there in the palm of my hand while I crooned and swayed them, gently, as the cradle rocks. Missey dozed. The babies unapolo­getically slept. All activity was suspended while nature had her way with them.

And Bobby, the raccoon had been run over in the highway in front of the house. When a neighbor, Mr. Kennedy, who together with his wonderful wife Myrtle, were the kind of neighbors every female breadwinner should have to keep their moral courage up, reported this to me. My grief knew no bounds – Mr. K had asked if I could come and pull Bobby out of the street before he was “struck again” since he seemed to be dead or unconscious.

Said he would do it except he figured Bobby would bite him if he wasn’t dead.. I was able to control my grief enough, and finally asked him to put on his winter coat and heavy work gloves to do it which he did, even though I was sobbing and saying “it is no use, he will not be alive, and I love him so much I think I cannot live without him. Mr. K. came in with the little unconscious form in arms and I thought I heard a soft mewling such as Bobby always gave when he wanted me to pull down the covers of my bed and lay his head on mypillow. This I did, and he pulled my face down to his and kissed me, salt tears and all. I put cold cloths on his head and massaged his body gently, and my household inclusive of the Kennedys was soon in excellent spirits, because no harm had come to Bobby, the raccoon.

That was the beautiful part of the Kennedies. They rejoiced with me in times of you, and cried with me when sorrows came. They were the salt of the earth. Mrs. K. is still living, in Lynn, Indiana, my sonvisited her with his 13 church buses and numerous members of his congregation. The re-union was a great joy to all.

A very religious person, Mrs. K had always hoped my only son would be a minister, and her work at that time was tremendous and very side spread. Up and down the west coast of California with missions in the southern hemispher[e] and in the Islands of the South Pacific, Mrs. K’ s only child had been a daughter. A very able and likeable girl with no yen for the ministry. I think, though, in after years, a very devout church member which gave her mother much happiness in the later years, following the death of Mr. K. Sr.s husband, her father.