Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Six

Over at Mommy’s Piggy Tales there’s a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she’s hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When I think back to the fourth grade, the thing that jumps out at me most is animals. You see, we had settled in a bit, there in our cozy tent on the hill. I was really getting accustomed to our odd way of living. Mostly.

The one major problem I had was the wildlife. For some reason, our tent attracted Daddy Long-Legs spiders. Lots of them. The corners of the tent would fill up with them, a mass of legs and bouncing bodies. It was seriously creepy to wake up and see that every morning.

My other encounter in the tent was even less pleasant. One evening, as I was getting into bed, I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. I cried out and jumped back. My dad searched my bed and uncovered a nasty little visitor…a scorpion. He quickly dispatched the scorpion, while my mom treated the sting. I was fine a few days later.

Other wildlife included field mice, which were kept in check by our two cats. We also had rattlesnakes in abundance. In addition, we had king snakes and coral snakes, and learned quickly how to tell them apart, especially when I encountered one stretched across the road as I walked home from school. It was a coral snake and I threw rocks at it until it moved.

In addition to our cats, we had a Bassett hound named Tony. Tony’s one great love was chasing armadillos, something else we had in abundance. The only problem is that he would get so involved with chasing them, he lost track of where he was. The armadillo would disappear into a hole and Tony would be left, standing and baying until someone came and found him and took him home.

Eventually, we added several rabbits, two Nubian goats named Billy and Blue, some turkeys and some chickens. I gathered eggs every day and really loved the Ameraucana chickens because they laid colorful eggs, with various tints of pale blue and green. Of course, we also had some Rhode Island Reds and some Leghorns as well.

An incident that is etched in my mind happened on the school bus one morning. After I was picked up we went a couple of miles down the road to pick up an older girl and then a few minutes later, three brothers who lived on a farm there. This particular morning the boys were full of mischief and acting squirrelly. They sat down behind me and we continued down the road.

Suddenly I felt something in my hair. Imagine my horror when I reached up and felt something moving on top of my head. I began to shake my head and frantically try to get it out, when a tarantula the size of my palm dropped out of my hair, accompanied by the shrieking laughter of those boys. They have no idea how close to death they were at that moment.

The bus driver stopped the bus, pitched the spider off the side of the road, asked me if I was hurt and then scolded the boys, who didn’t look one bit repentant. At least they didn’t until the older girl told them they were either really brave or really stupid. When they asked why, she turned to me and winked and then turned back to them and said, “She’s German and they have tempers like rattlesnakes. They don’t get mad but they do get even when you least expect it. I’d watch my back if I were you.” They looked at me wide-eyed and gave me a pretty wide berth after that.

Later that year, we moved down the hill into a small structure my dad built, because a different sort of animal, the two-legged kind, ransacked our place while we were visiting relatives, and stole what they deemed as valuable, destroying the rest by throwing it out onto the ground for the weather and animals to have their way with. Most of our books, my dad’s paintings, and all our pictures and keepsakes were destroyed. We came home to waterlogged things strewn everywhere amidst the broken ceramics and dishes. Our mattresses had been dragged out as well. It was a mess and it all seemed so senseless.

I never felt really secure out on the property after that. It seems funny that I felt perfectly safe in the midst of scorpions and rattlesnakes, but one or more human animals shattered my peace.

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