Bat Stuff

In 1974, we rented a 35 foot RV for our trip back to Kansas to visit our folks. Russ and Doug would be 16 in the fall and we figured this might be our last chance for a big family vacation trip. Terri was going to be 13 so she was old enough to share the grown-up attractions along the way and enjoy the trip also. So that Terri would have a buddy to share things with, we invited Susan Trivett as she and Terri were good friends of the same age.

The boys were typical teenagers, rebellious, and not about to admit that they might be enjoying something. Also, this was that sad time in history when all boys thought they should have long hair hanging down to their shoulders. I hated it but at the same time was proud that they took care of their hair and kept it clean.

We took the southern route and made it all the way to Las Cruces, NM the first night. The next morning we got up and headed for Carlsbad Caverns. At the Caverns, we took the tour and all enjoyed the spectacular sights. The boys were in their teenage mode and complaining about everything though we were pretty sure that they were paying strict attention to the tour guide and taking it all in. We enjoyed visiting the different chambers and hearing the stories of the guide. We were all fascinated when we heard about the number of bats living in the cave and about the thousands of tons of bat guano that had been deposited on the floors.

We reached the end of the tour and headed back outside. The boys, though absorbing the wealth of information dispensed by the tour guide, had complained non-stop. Russ had been particularly bad about it, so Pat, in an effort to lighten things up, (and maybe get back at him a little) told Russ that it looked like he had some of that bat guano in his hair. Susan chimed in and said she saw it, too. The rest of us jumped in and started pointing and laughing and Russ was completely mortified. He ran to the nearest restroom, wetted some towels and started scrubbing his hair. I don’t remember how long he worked at it but it was some time before he realized it was all a joke. Always a good sport, his face turned red but he was able to laugh a little. We had a great trip and shared a lot of sights and Pat and I believe that the kids will have nothing but good memories of the trip.

Dave Thomas
February 21, 2015


Cattle Drives

When we lived in Keller, Texas one of the things I enjoyed most was driving down to Old Fort Worth to watch the cattle drive. Fort Worth is the only city in the world with its own herd of longhorns. Twice a day, at 11:30 and 4:00, they have a cattle drive. There are 4 or 5 cowboys driving the cattle up 2 blocks of Exposition Avenue just to honor the city’s tradition of being Cow Town USA. They use 15 head of longhorns of various colors and horn configurations to make up their trail herd.We’ve talked to the cowboys many times and found that half of them work for the Fort Worth Parks Department and the other half are police officers.


Brindle Lhorn


Over in Dallas there is a big concourse known as Pioneer Plaza. It features a static cattle drive with 15 sculptured longhorns and 2 cowboys on horseback. The figures are 25% larger than life. and show amazing detail. The herd is winding around a small knoll and down a slope and fording a creek.

Longhorn 2

Longhorn 3

Longhorn 1

There is a large, bronze plaque in the sidewalk that shows the trail brands and gives the name of the trail bosses or ranches they come from.

Dave Thomas
July 23, 2014


Grandpa and Billy the Goat

Grandpa, A.A. Thomas, always had something interesting going on. One day I rode my bike down to visit Grandpa and Grandma. I might have been 11 or 12 years old and Grandpa was at least 80. When I got to the house, Grandma said Grandpa was out in the back yard so I went on out there. It turned out that Grandpa had bought himself a cute little billy goat. He was putting the finishing touches on a pen he had built for it. He told me he had named the little critter, Billy, and that I could get in the pen and play with him. Billy was a friendly little guy and enjoyed being petted and fussed over so I played with him that day and pretty often in the days that followed.

Then, for some reason I didn’t get down to see Billy for quite a spell and when I did go to visit, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Cute little Billy, the kid goat, had turned into a full-sized ram with a fine set of horns. Grandpa said he was still just a playful little guy and I should just go on in and give him some attention. Well, Billy was glad to see me and I enjoyed petting him and messing with him. I noticed that he had tipped over his water bucket so I thought I would refill it. I stooped over to pick it up and wham… I got knocked flat when Billy charged up and butted me in the behind. It turns out that “little” Billy had learned how to use those horns and loved butting anyone dumb enough to turn their back on him. Grandpa was laughing so I knew I had been set up. Grandma heard the commotion and came out and chewed on Grandpa and told him  he should be ashamed of himself. Grandpa just laughed more and said “that darned Billy has got me a dozen times!”

I saw Billy a few more times but one day I got there and Billy’s pen was empty. When I asked Grandpa of Billy’s whereabouts, he just said “he got me one time too many!”

Dave Thomas
April 26, 2013


Here’s Another One!

Thinking about it, our family has a lot of stories that involve birds and animals. Well, here’s another one.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences I have ever had is the ride on the Palm Springs Tramway from the desert floor and up toward the peak of Mt. San Jacinto (haw-sin-toe). The peak, itself is at 10,834 feet. The tramway starts at Valley Station at an elevation of 2,643 ft. and rises to the Mountain Station at 8,516 ft. That’s an increase of 6,000 feet, over a mile, and the ride is actually longer than that because you are riding the hypotenuse of the triangle.

Tram 1

Valley Station

The city of Palm Springs is in the desert and the temperature can easily be 115 degrees in summer. Imagine how good it feels to ride to Mountain Station where you may need a jacket. The temperature difference is usually about 40 degrees. 

Tram 2

The tramcars have windows all the way around for maximum viewing. Pat has ridden the tram 3 times and I have ridden it twice. At the time of our rides, the cars didn’t rotate so we had to move from one side of the car to the other to get a good look at both sides of the canyon. In the year 2000, the new tramcars were installed that slowly rotate 360 degrees and make 2 complete revolutions as you go from the Valley Station to Mountain Station.

Tram 3

In 1967, the first episode of the TV detective show, “Mannix” was shot on the tram and featured some wild scenes on top of the tramcars. (The star of the show, Mike Connors, is a distant relative of our son-in-law, Steve.) Pat and I enjoyed this show and also saw an episode of the TV show, “I Spy” that was shot on the tram. The stuntmen on both shows performed some harrowing stunts.

At Mountain Station there us a large lodge with a restaurant, gift shop, and viewing decks. There is a good selection of souvenirs and post cards in the gift shop in case your own pictures didn’t turn out well. Of course, the brisk mountain air will make you hungry and you’ll need to visit the restaurant for a meal or at least, a hot cup of coffee. The observation deck has telescopes mounted in a number of places and as you look around at this wild, mountain country you will further appreciate the amazing amount of planning and work that went into the building of the tramway.

Tram 4a

The first tower was the only one that could be reached by a road. The materials and workmen to build the rest of the towers were brought in by helicopter. All together, helicopters made 23,000 trips before the tram was completed.

Our daughter, Terri, and her husband, Steve, were taking the kids to Palm Springs for the weekend and invited Pat and I to go along. It sounded like fun to us. Grand-daughter, Christie, was nearly four and grandson, David, was a cute little infant. We enjoyed the ride over as Palm Springs is less than two hours from San Diego and we were looking forward to riding the Palm Springs Tramway.

We got to the Valley Station and Terri decided that she and David would stay at the bottom while the rest of us took the trip. We were mainly interested in the spectacular ride and didn’t plan to be gone long.

Tram 5

The ride to the top was just as extraordinary as it was touted to be. The height, the rugged cliffs, the changing micro-climate zones, the amazing construction of the thing, and the views, added up to an incomparable 10 or 12 minutes. We looked around Mountain Station to see what it was like. Steve read some signs about a hiking trail that went on up the mountain. Farther up, there were even camp sites where you could spend the night. Steve said he wanted to take a look at the hiking trail, thinking that he and Terri might want to return sometime for a hike. We all headed outside to enjoy the amazing view. We found the trail head and probably walked half a city block. The area was populated with pine trees, bushes, boulders, and big flat rocks. Steve found some signs telling about hiking trails and camp sites and was intent on reading them. Christie asked her Dad if she could climb on the big rocks next to the trail and he told her to go ahead but to be careful. She crawled up on one of the big flat rocks that was part of a pile and sat down. I got involved with the view and was busy taking it all in when I heard Pat saying Steve’s name. Steve and I turned toward her about the same time and she immediately pointed toward Christie. We looked and saw Christie sitting on her rock and just behind her was a big bobcat! Steve stayed cool and climbed part way to Christie and told her that there were some neat little animals near the base of the rock and she should slowly and quietly come to him so he could lift her off the rock so she could see them. Christie did as she was told and when she got close enough, Steve grabbed her. The bobcat faded back into the brush and a Dad and two grandparents breathed a sigh of relief. That being enough excitement for one day, we headed back to the tram so we could go down and join up with Terri and David. It was a memorable excursion from start to finish.

Dave Thomas
April 3, 2015



Terri and Alex

The boys, Russ and Doug, were six years old, so they were in school. Terri, only three at the time, was hanging out with her Mom as they waited for a plumber to show up. Pat had errands to run so she and Terri both were wearing their “go to town” clothes. Terri was wearing her favorite red, plaid dress.

After lunch, the plumber that Pat had called showed up and got busy. Terri was playing with Alex, the dog, while Pat kept an eye on the plumber and watched his progress. After the plumber finished his job and packed up and left, Pat realized that she didn’t hear Terri out on the patio. She went back in the house and went from room to room calling Terri’s name. That didn’t get a response so she went back to the yard and started searching. Terri wasn’t in the yard and Pat began to get anxious. She thought Terri might have gone to play with her friend, Susan, who lived on the corner but Susan and her Mom hadn’t seen Terri that day. Pat was beginning to panic and hurriedly ran from door to door, checking with other neighbors. No one had seen Terri.

We lived in a rural area just outside the city limits. Police work was shared by the Sheriff and the California Highway Patrol with the CHP being more available as they had an office near our home. Pat called the CHP and reported Terri missing and then called me at work. My job was half an hour from home so I jumped in the car and took off as fast as I could go.

When I finally arrived at the house Pat and some of the neighbors were out in the front yard. Pat filled me in on what had been done and what was taking place at the time. Some of our neighbors were checking the neighborhood and the Highway Patrol was searching a little further out. Terri was a self-disciplined little girl and never left the yard without permission. We couldn’t imagine her just taking off so were scared to death that someone had taken her.

As we talked we were scanning the area. Behind our house was a steep hill running up to the east. The hill was terraced and had been a vineyard or an orchard before being abandoned many years ago. After you crested the hill there was a canyon (now Interstate 8) and then you could pick up a dirt service road that went uphill into the foothills. This area was hundreds or maybe thousands of acres in size. At the top of one of the hills was a giant boulder that could be seen for some distance. This boulder gave the place its name of “Big Rock”.

As we glanced around, Pat suddenly spotted a patch of red with something brown beside it moving down the hill toward us. She realized then that being so worried about Terri, she hadn’t been aware that Alex was missing, too! As they got closer, we could see that it was indeed Terri and Alex. I took off up the hill to meet them. As I got up to them and made sure they were both okay, I asked Terri where they had been. She told me in a matter-of-fact way that Alex wanted to go for a walk so she went with him. There I was, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, and ready for action! But, there was no action to be taken. Terri was a very good girl and never did anything wrong on purpose so for me to go crazy would have been the wrong thing to do. When we got down to the house, I explained what had happened to Pat and she and I thanked everyone for their help and concern. Then, we went in the house and explained to Terri (and Alex) that we don’t just wander off without permission.


Dave Thomas
September 6, 2014


Alex the Dog

Alex the Dog was rescued or saved by Pat. One day she heard a dog crying outside our door. She opened the door and found this half-starved puppy, 2 or 3 months old, crying for help. She touched him and immediately had fleas jumping all over her hands. She took the pup into the kitchen and found some left-over’s in the fridge and fed him. Since he was so miserable from the fleas, she put him up in the sink and gave him a bath with dish washing soap. Then, she put the dog in the garage, gathered up the kids, and went to the store and bought dog food and flea soap. A can of dog food and another bath and the little guy was stabilized to the point where he could settle down and take a nap.

Over the next couple of days, Pat talked to the neighbors about the dog and determined that he must belong to the man at the end of the block. His house was set back from the street quite a ways and in his back yard he was raising fighting dogs. The current litter was half Pit Bull and half Rhodesian Ridgeback. I don’t know what the rest of them looked like but the one that escaped and came to us looked more like a Rhodesian Ridgeback or a German Shepherd than a Pit Bull. He grew up to be a fair-sized dog and had a handsome face, unlike most Pit Bulls.

After 3 or 4 days the man that owned the dog showed up at our door. I was at work so Pat told me what happened. The guy demanded his dog back. Pat asked him why and pointed out that he didn’t care of the dog and it was covered with fleas and half starved. The guy said he had to keep them hungry so they will fight. Pat told him that this dog wasn’t going to fight. Again, the guy demands the return of his dog. By this time, Pat was sick of him and says “You are not getting your dog back and if you don’t get out of here I’m going to call the cops and tell them what you are doing with those dogs down there!” The guy takes off and Alex became part of the family. He protected the kids, protected our home, and was the smartest dog we ever had. Once in a while he was too smart for his own good and got himself in trouble.

In these animal stories I’ve tried to come up with at least one anecdote to illustrate that the animal showed a certain amount of reasoning or developed an idea and acted on it. Alex was a “thinking” dog. He figured out all kinds of things like how to climb over a 6 foot chain-link fence. He looked like a man climbing a ladder and when he got to the top he took a couple of seconds to get his balance and then simply jumped off.

We had moved to the outskirts of El Cajon. It was a quiet suburban area and people let their dogs roam free. Alex had a bed in the garage and that’s where we put his bowls for food and water. We usually left the back door of the garage open so he could go in and out and get a drink or take a nap. One Saturday, Pat and I were going to go get groceries so we gathered up the three kids and closed up the house. Alex was in his bed in the garage so we left the back door open but gave him a lecture about taking a nap and staying out of the street. He had been chastised for this many times and he knew what the words meant.

We had an outing and picked up the groceries we needed and headed for home. As we made a right turn onto our street, we looked down toward our house which was the fourth one down the block, and saw Alex out in the middle of the street. He looked up and saw our car and high-tailed it for the house. He rounded the corner of the garage and disappeared into the back yard. I pulled up into the driveway and got out and opened the garage door so we could carry the groceries straight into the kitchen. The first thing we saw was Alex in his bed. He stood up and stretched like he was getting up from a nap and came toward us all bright-eyed and with his tongue hanging out and what looked like a big grin on his face. We weren’t fooled for a minute! Pat lit into him with “You lying dog! You weren’t taking a nap…you were out in the street, weren’t you?” Alex got kind of a sheepish look on his face, hung his head, and proceeded to slink back into his bed. BUSTED!

Unfortunately, Alex never learned his lesson and refused to stay out of the street. One day he took up with the neighbor’s female dog and when they went running on the highway, both were struck and killed.

Dave Thomas
August 31, 2014


Ms. Rambo and the Fox


Pat and I were sitting in the swing and talking about Ms. Rambo, a cat we had for several years. We have a lot of stories about her that we tell and re-tell and never get tired of.

The street we lived on was just a block long. It was a very steep hill ending at the top with a regular cul de sac type turn-around. We lived at the bottom of the hill and up at the top lived a family that had a white cat. Being all white, the cat stood out and you could spot her wherever she was in the neighborhood. One day the family moved out and just left the cat to fend for herself. We would see her up and down the block looking for food and taking care of herself. We heard stories from the neighbors of what a hunter she was and how independent and tough she was. We all felt sorry that she had been abandoned but she seemed to be surviving and doing okay.

The cat soon had a route established to cover the block in search of hand-outs. She was checking our back door so Pat started putting out food and water. Our house became a regular stop on the cat’s route and Pat enjoyed seeing her and always talked to her. This went on for a few months until the cat decided to change the game. It was raining one evening which is unusual for San Diego. I had just gone to bed and Pat was finishing up before she, too, headed upstairs. All of a sudden, Pat heard a squalling noise at the front door. It was that loud, eerie noise a cat makes when it has made a kill. Pat opened the door and there stood this wet cat with a rat in its mouth. The cat steps in and drops the rat at Pat’s feet and walks on into the living room. The rat is wounded but it jumps up and waddles off. Pat is yelling for me to get up and help catch the rat and she is checking to see what the cat is doing. The cat is calmly sitting in the middle of the living room and watching Pat go nuts and then watching me go nuts as I try to catch the rat. Fortunately, the rat is lame and I’m able to catch it and get rid of it. Pat and I look at the cat and talk about her and figure that she must have gotten tired of living in the rain and scrounging for food and trying to survive as a homeless person and decided to adopt us. She was smart enough to offer up the rat to pay her way in. 

After work the next evening we were trying to assess what we had. This cat was slim and wiry and built like a Siamese. When she vocalized a “kill”, it sounded like a Siamese. She was pure white but wasn’t an albino because her eyes were kind of a blue-green rather than pink. She’d been taking care of herself for months without the coyotes getting her so she was smart and tough. I tried to play with her and teased her and ended up with tooth and claw marks in my hand and arm so we understood that she would demand respect. Discussing what to name her, it was her fierce fighting ability and independence that caused us to think of the latest “tough guy” movie we had seen so we called her “Rambo”. Then, remembering she was a girl, we modified it to “Ms. Rambo”.

This little cat only weighed 7 or 8 pounds but she was extremely athletic. She liked to sleep on top of the refrigerator where nobody could bother her. Most of the time she would jump from the counter top but if there was anything in the way there she could jump from the floor! Pat had a big fruit bowl that she kept on top of the fridge and Rambo took it over for her naps. 

Ms. Rambo

One day we were afraid she might have a kidney infection. We couldn’t get in to see our regular Vet so we went to another. Once we were in the examining room we took her out of the carrier we had brought her in and placed her on the examining table. Pat and I were both petting her and talking to her so she was quiet. The Vet comes in and he’s a big dude, 6’3″ or 6’4″ tall. We explain the symptoms she’s displayed and the Vet says he will take her to the back and get a urine sample. Pat and I both volunteer to go with them. We tell him that she’s called Ms. Rambo for a reason and that other Vets put a muzzle and one of those straight jacket things on her when handling her. Well, the Vet draws himself up to his full height, looks down his nose at us and says “I think I can handle this little, tiny cat.” Pat and I look at each other and we’re both thinking “OK, Bud…we tried to warn you!” The Vet picked up Ms. Rambo and that’s when things got tough! She started screaming, biting, and clawing and the Vet looked like a man possessed. He and Rambo were everywhere. He finally got her tucked under one arm and went out the door with her. Pat and I about busted a gut, laughing, and were completely out of control for a while. Later, a technician brought Ms. Rambo back in and she was wearing a muzzle and one of those straight jackets and had a big towel wrapped around her, too. They finally got the message.

I had to tell you a little bit about Ms. Rambo so you could get the full flavor of this next incident.

I wasn’t home from work, yet. Pat was just getting there and as she rounded the corner, she saw several groups of neighbors standing out in front of their homes. They were looking up the hill, and talking excitedly to one another. We lived in the first house from the corner, at the bottom of the hill, so Pat pulled into our driveway and got out of the car. She yelled at our next door neighbors who were standing out on their drive and asked what was going on. They said that several neighbors had been out in their front yards doing yard work or doing things with their kids and they saw our cat, Ms. Rambo, coming down the hill. Apparently she had been hunting up at the top of the hill and was going from yard to yard as she returned to our house. A few minutes after seeing Rambo, they saw the  neighborhood fox coming down the hill and it seemed to be following Rambo’s scent. The neighbors all thought that would be the end of Ms. Rambo. Sure enough, all of a sudden there was a terrible commotion! There were cat screams, snarls, hisses, and growls. Then, it all changed to a kind of yelping noise and suddenly, here comes the fox up the middle of the street and he is running for his life! Now, everyone can see what is happening. Ms. Rambo is astride the fox’s back with claws dug in and is riding him like a jockey! Go, Rambo, go! The neighbors say it’s the funniest thing they have ever seen. That fox is running for his life and Ms. Rambo is raking him at every jump! This is how legends are born.

This was not Ms. Rambo’s only wild ride nor her last wild and crazy exploit! More later.

Dave Thomas
October 26, 2014


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