Izzie-7: Izzie’s Bad Dream

One of the nice things about being an old man is that you have more time to think about stuff. I’ve learned a lot of things about our world but more importantly about humans and animals. Today, I’m thinking about the animals.

I’ve always liked all animals but up to now, haven’t given much thought to their mental ability or feelings. I’ve learned so much by watching our cat, Isabella. I’ve read that cats have the mental abilities of a two to three year old child and I believe it. They can reason things out, remember the things that are important to them, remember the things that frighten them, express emotion, memorize words, and remember the things they should or should not do. Knowing of all these wonderful qualities, it still never crossed my mind that cats could dream.

Pat was out of town, visiting a friend, so it was just Isabella, the cat, and I. When I went to bed, Izzie curled up on the floor near the foot of the bed. In the middle of the night I was awakened by crying sound and couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I slid out of bed and into my wheel chair and rolled down to the foot of the bed. A night-light made it possible for me to see Izzie lying there. She was making a crying, whimpering noise as if she was terrified. I think we’ve all had those dreams where you are so scared you are paralyzed and can’t move and can’t yell for help. As I got closer, she continued to whimper so I reached down and picked her up. She awoke when I touched her and recognized me and buried her head against my chest. I stroked her head and back and talked to her and told her she was okay. This went on for several minutes until I finally felt her relax. When she felt safe and comfortable, she started squirming and I put her back on the floor. I was relieved to think that I had been able to calm her. It had never occurred to me that a cat could have bad dreams.

I wish that Izzie and I could converse so that I might explain the scary things to her. Also, she could clue me in on a lot of the things in her life that we are doing wrong. We really need to know more about what she prefers to eat. We spend a small fortune on food that she turns her nose up at and we throw away.

It probably won’t be long until some genius kid comes up with a computer program that will allow us to talk to our cats. You could probably record a few thousand videos and document the circumstances and activities surrounding them. Then, take the grunts and meows from the videos and run them through a spectrum analyzer and match the sounds that are alike to the cause and effect findings of the videos. Then, using the nuances of the cat talk, you could create algorithms and develop a program that would enable you to talk with your cat. I’m looking forward to it.

Dave Thomas
August 6, 2015

 

Advertisements

Shorty

There will be a steady parade of people through your life. Let’s hope that some of them are characters. Characters will add something to life…kind of like putting Tabasco sauce on your eggs in the morning. They are refreshing and cause you to wake up and enjoy what’s going on around you. The character I’m going to tell you about is a man that I haven’t seen for almost 60 years. Yet, when I think of him I still get a smile on my face.

Shorty Miller was a character. No, Miller isn’t his real last name but its close enough. If you just saw Shorty from the waist, up, you’d think you were looking at a giant of a man. His broad shoulders, a deep chest, and powerful arms were impressive. The problem though was short legs. Shorty was somewhere between 5’2” and 5’6” tall. When I first knew him, he was probably in his late 50’s. He had a wife and 4 or 5 kids. The kids were all at least 5 years older than me but I knew a couple of them well enough to say “hi”. Shorty worked for one of the local oil companies. I think he was involved in working on pipelines.

Now, to get serious about this, I’d have to say that Shorty loved his beer and a good time. Come Friday night and/or Saturday, he was generally down at the pool hall shooting pool and drinking beer and having a good time. I think everyone pretty much liked him. He always had time to share a laugh or a wink with everyone, kids included. I was told that since he and his wife both knew how he was about a good time, his paychecks went to her and she gave him an allowance. If he used up his money too early in the evening it became a serious problem for Shorty and good entertainment for everyone else. It was said that he had been a circus performer in his early days and could do a lot of strength tricks. Beer was only 10 cents a glass so Shorty would try to involve the other patrons in betting that he could or couldn’t do certain tricks. The locals all knew what he could do so if they bet against him it was just a nice way of buying him a beer. If there was an out-of-towner in the pool hall then the betting might get serious.

After I turned 18 and could be in the pool hall legally I was able to see Shorty in action. I only got to see two of his tricks so they are the ones I’ll tell about.

The first trick was pretty simple. Shorty would bet that he could go out in front of the pool hall, stand on the curb, there on State Street, bend over and place his palms flat in the gutter. Seems impossible, doesn’t it? Most people can’t bend over far enough to touch their toes but Shorty could go way beyond that. His big torso and long arms took care of that.

The other trick that I got to witness three or four times was more a matter of strength and endurance. Shorty would bet that he could shinny up a light pole backwards! This trick usually attracted bigger bets (more beers). Once all the bets were in, Shorty would lead the crowd out onto the sidewalk and to the nearest street lamp. He would walk over to the light pole, lock his arms around it, swing his legs up into position, and commence going up that pole upside down. It was actually easy for him but he would make a show of it. Then, when he reached the top he just turned around and slid back down and collected his money. With any luck, he would have enough to keep him in beer for the evening.

Keep your eyes open for these characters and remember what you see. It may be good for a chuckle 50 years from now, when you need one.

Dave Thomas
November 10, 2013

 

 

Cool Inside!

It was a hot Saturday in July and there were 4 of us in the car. We had no plans for the day and finally decided to ride down to Oklahoma just to see something different. We drove south on US 77 and went through Winfield and Arkansas City on our way to the state line. We crossed into Oklahoma sometime around noon and by then the temperature was over 100 degrees.

Continuing south, we were still a few miles from Newkirk when we started seeing signs for a pool hall. The signs all mentioned pool but additionally said things like “Air Conditioned”, “Ice Cold Beer”, and “Cool Inside”. We noted the signs and their messages and thought it would be a great idea to stop and have a cold beer in an air conditioned place. This was the 1950’s and air conditioning wasn’t universal as it is now. Department stores and banks and other large places had “air” but the run-of-the-mill stores didn’t.

We got into Newkirk and immediately spotted the pool hall. The signs said “Pool”, “Beer”, and “Air Conditioned”. We were thankful because it was really hot and we were excited to just think about cooling off. We stepped inside and immediately felt the change in temperature. As our eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness we looked around and saw the “air conditioner”. On top of a small table was a galvanized tub containing a large block of ice and right behind it was a very large fan! After we got done laughing, we took seats as close as possible and ordered a beer. It was really quite pleasant. We cooled off a little and resumed our road trip, mindful that we had learned some lessons about advertising and marketing.

Dave Thomas
December 8, 2014

Work Horses

I was born in 1936 so I did most of my growing up during the 1940’s. Of course, the most important part of that decade was World War II but there are a lot of memories in addition to that. For instance, I’ve got some fond memories of draft horses. We referred to them as “work horses” as opposed to saddle horses or pleasure horses. In the early 1900’s, my great grand-dad, Will Peebler drilled wells but also had what was described as a “handsome” black team of horses and hired himself and the team out in order to make a living.

By the time the 1940’s rolled around, cars, trucks, and tractors were already doing a lot of the work that horses had done for us. I can recall a few teams that were still working as I grew up and will try to tell you about them.

Across the street from the house we lived in was a regular-sized city lot. The owner put the whole thing in as a garden each year and hired a man with a team to plow it for him. The place wasn’t big enough for a tractor and at that time, we didn’t have things like roto-tillers or small garden tractors so it was the perfect job for a team of horses. I always enjoyed watching them because the man and the horses knew their jobs and got the work done with a small and subtle amount of communication.

Another team of horses I saw practically every day was the team that worked with the street cleaners. The street cleaners were two men who worked for the city and with the help of a team of horses kept our city streets clean. At that time most of our streets had concrete gutters and the surfaces were either covered with bricks or asphalt. The street cleaners had push brooms and shovels and a team of horses who pulled a specially designed wagon that had high sides and was a bottom-dumper. The surfaces of the streets stayed pretty clean from the normal breezes and the wind created by passing cars so the men mostly had to sweep the gutters. They would sweep along for a few feet until they had a small pile and then the horses would automatically advance the wagon to where the men were and the men would take square point shovels and pick up the dirt and throw it in the wagon. The horses would stand still until the men advanced a few more feet and then they would catch up with them again. The men were nice guys and would talk to us and let us pet the horses. I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember the men’s names but the horses were Dick and Prince. Of course, at that time, 95% of all teams in the world, I think, were named Dick and Prince.

The next team I’ll talk about is the team belonging to the Garbage Man but I need to start with an explanation of how trash and garbage worked back in those days. There was no trash pick-up by the city. When the trash baskets in the house got full, you took them out back to the alley and dumped them in the trash barrel. The trash barrel was a 55 gallon drum with the top cut out and would have a piece of screen or mesh over it to keep sparks and embers from flying out and setting your yard on fire. You burned the trash when the barrel got full. If you had items that were too big for the barrel or wouldn’t burn, you hauled them to the city dump and there was no fee for dumping.

You took care of your own garbage, too. There were no garbage disposals back then. You would set a pan or can by the sink and as you prepared a meal you would put the peelings or cut-offs in the pan or can. Then, after the meal you would scrape the dishes into the pan. When everything was cleaned up you would take the pan out back of the house and dump it in the slop bucket. The slop bucket was a 5 gallon bucket with a lid on it to discourage flies and critters from getting a free meal. Once or twice a week, depending on the schedule, you would set the slop buckets out for the Garbage Man.

For most towns the garbage man was a local farmer who raised pigs and used the garbage for feed. Quite often he was one of the most successful farmers in the area. Along with being enterprising enough to pick up the garbage so his hog farm would prosper, he generally had a good business head and was productive in all his ventures.

The garbage man would take a standard 4-wheel wagon and line it with galvanized metal to make it as waterproof and drip-proof as possible so his profits wouldn’t leak away and also so that the townspeople wouldn’t get mad at him for stinking up the neighborhood.

To make his collections, the Garbage Man would walk alongside the off horse from house –to-house, stopping to pick up the buckets and dump them in the wagon. The horses knew their job and always stopped with the wagon right beside the buckets. Quite often we kids would walk alongside and visit with the man and the horses.

My great-great uncle, Will Church, had a team of mules. One day, when I was around twelve or so, I rode my bike out to his farm to see how he and Aunt Ella were doing. They happened to be harvesting corn that day. Uncle Will or one of the men helping him would cut the ear of corn off the stalk and pitch it into the wagon that the mules were hitched to. The mules knew their job and would only take a couple of steps at a time so the wagon was never too far from the men doing the picking. The mules pretty much took care of themselves until they got to the end of the row and then one of the men would help them to get turned and lined up to go back the other way.

It was always fun to see the horses and mules and watch them work. They knew what they were doing and would patiently do whatever was asked of them. Also, they never seemed to mind when some kid wanted to talk to them and pet them a little.

Dave Thomas
October 28, 2013

Fossil Rim

We actually got mixed up with some exotic animals a couple of times when we lived in Texas. We lived in Keller and about 70 miles south is the city of Glen Rose. Just 4 or 5 miles outside of Glen Rose are the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Fossil Rim is large and has several miles of dirt roads that allow you to give yourself a self-guided tour to see the animals. The countryside is of low, rolling hills and when you are out in the middle of the property you can easily imagine that you are out on safari when you encounter the African animals that you have heard of and seen in books all your life. You can buy a bag of feed at the gift store (8 bucks and you are allowed 1 bag per vehicle).

There are many types of animals in the Wildlife Center. To name a few, there are ostriches, emus, zebra, giraffes, wildebeests, many species of antelope and deer. In separate pens are black rhinos and white rhinos. There is a fenced area for cheetahs and the Center’s breeding program has produced 180 cubs in about 30 years. There is also a herd of American bison.

The different types of deer and antelope, along with the the ostriches and zebra roam free and they all have their favorite feeding and loafing places within the park. You can encounter and feed one group and then drive a short way and find another group. The zebras and some of the deer will come up to the car and eat out of your hand. Some will get close but you have to toss the feed on the ground.

The zebras get pretty pushy. Actually, the zebras are thugs, have no manners, and don’t display any reticence at all when it comes to eating. The first time we went to Fossil Rim, we had our grand-daughter, Michelle, with us. Shell was driving as we went through and fed the animals. A couple of times, she had to duck as the zebras rammed their heads in the window in an effort to get to the food.

The second time we went to Fossil Rim, Pat’s Aunt Mable was with us. Her daughter Kathy and son-in-law, Richard from Wichita, had come to Dallas to visit friends and had dropped Mable in Keller to stay with us for two days. We thought Mable might enjoy something out of the ordinary so took her to Fossil Rim.

Mable had never really been around animals much so she wasn’t prepared for their aggressiveness when being fed and wasn’t sure how to do it. We told her over and over to extend her hand with the palm up and flat and to have the food lying in the middle of her palm. She didn’t listen and picked up the food with her fingers and offered it to a zebra. Naturally, the zebra nipped her fingers, causing her to yelp and jerk her arm back inside the car. Pat and I got a good laugh out of it because we knew she wasn’t hurt. We continued with our tour and Mable did ok with the feeding. Later, on the way home, we asked her what she thought about the experience. She said, “Well, if anyone asks me if anything interesting happened when I went to Texas I’ll tell them that I got bit by a zebra but other than that, not much.”

The Quartet

Dave Thomas
November 1, 2014

 

And A Porcupine

 

For a short time (1 ½ days) I had a pet porcupine. I was 13, going on 14, when I spent the summer of 1950 in Safford, Arizona with my Grandpa, George Sicks. I had never seen a porcupine and all I knew about them is that when they got mad or scared they threw their quills at you and you ended up looking like a pin cushion. I figured them to be pretty mean animals.

Grandpa sold Allis-Chalmers farm equipment there in eastern Arizona. He spent a lot of time on the road calling on the farmers and ranchers in the area. One day, he said he would be going south to make some calls. I couldn’t go with him because he had hooked me up with a job on one of the big farms in the area. When Grandpa got home that night he told me about his trip. To get to the area where he wanted to make calls he went south out of Safford and after a few miles arrived at the Pinaleno Mountains. As the elevation increased he got up into the pine forest. As he went over the crest of a hill, he almost ran over a porcupine in the road. It was standing beside the body of another porcupine that had been hit by a car or truck.

Grandpa went about his business but when he returned in late afternoon the porcupine was still beside the body as if grieving over the loss of its companion. They may have been involved in a mating ritual or, as we learned later, this may have been a mother and baby as the babies stay with their mothers until they are about 6 months old. Grandpa pulled over, got out of his car, and walked back to the porcupine. It didn’t move. Being afraid that the animal would eventually be hit by a car, Grandpa picked it up and put it in his car and headed for home.

When he got to the house, Grandpa told me what had happened. He had a big cardboard box and some chicken wire and we used them to fashion a pen. We got a bowl of water and some vegetables from the house, put them in the pen, and we were ready for our guest.

Grandpa was good with animals and believed that touching was the best way to establish a bond and begin communicating with them. As he got the porcupine out of the car he began showing me how to stroke its back as he spoke quietly to it.

The quills normally lay flat and needless to say, you should always stroke “with the grain” unless you want to deal with quills sticking out of your hand. We put it in the pen and I spent the rest of the evening sitting beside it and talking to it and stroking it. I didn’t get any reaction at all until I started rubbing the bridge of its nose. Then, it started leaning into it a little. I knew the animal was unhappy and scared so it was gratifying to get any kind of response.

I didn’t have to work the next day so I just hung out with the porcupine. It didn’t eat or drink or move around in the pen. Besides the other trauma in its life it couldn’t get any peace now because some kid was checking on it every five minutes. I talked to Grandpa about the situation when he got home that afternoon. He said that he had been worried about the safety of the porcupine but shouldn’t have interfered. He said he should have left it to Mother Nature to take care of business and we would have to make it right.

The next morning, Grandpa put the porcupine in the car and said he would leave it where he had found it. That evening, he told me that the remains of the other porcupine were still where he had seen them last. He moved the body several yards off the road and then got the other porcupine from the car and placed it beside its former companion. We were both sorry that we couldn’t have done more.

For the record, porcupines don’t throw their quills. They are passive little animals but when forced to defend themselves, turn their back to the aggressor and “bristle”, causing their quills to stand up straight. If the adversary persists and gets too close they whack it with their tail. That’s when the pain comes in.

This is a sad memory but I am grateful for the things I learned.

Dave Thomas
October 21, 2014

 

The Two-headed Snake

I believe it was in the spring of our 8th grade year that our classmate, Leland Collins, brought a two-headed rattlesnake to school. He had caught it over the weekend and wanted to share it. I’m not sure who was most fascinated by it, the teachers or us kids.

It was a young snake, between 6 and 9 inches long, as I recall. Both heads were perfectly formed with bright eyes and those tongues that dart in and out. Leland and his snake were the center of attention for several days as he carried it around town and showed it off. There was a write-up in the Augusta Daily Gazette and one of the large city papers in Wichita even carried the story with a picture of the snake. I don’t remember exactly, but I think Leland ended up donating the snake to the Wichita Zoo.

Dave Thomas
October 27, 2013