Long Lost Childhood Survival Skills

This past weekend, I was watching Thomas eat chicken feed when a flood of memories came rushing back to me of the time I ate dog food as a child. To be honest, it was a bittersweet memory, not in the sense that the dog food was bittersweet (if I remember right it was rather bland), but it was nice to think about bygone days, when children didn’t need to spend all their time fiddling with an iPhone and could focus on the simpler pleasures of life, like sampling food intended for domesticated animals. Despite his mothers’ protests of his food choices, Thomas is really becoming a first rate scavenger and secretly I’m a little proud. So I’m not exactly sure how to deal with his newfound passion for scavenging. Last week, for instance, he ate a petrified potato chip that he found in a couch cushion. In some scenarios, say a post apocalyptic world, scavenging would be an essential survival skill, so I don’t want to discourage it completely. That said, I also don’t want to get a visit from child protective services. 

Anyway, this dilemma got me thinking of all of the essential survival skills we instinctively hone as children and then slowly let fade away as we enter into the norms of adulthood. For instance, most children are great pouncers, but most adults have completely forgotten how to pounce despite the fact that if a man or woman can pounce, then they’ll never go hungry. It’s like that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to pounce and you feed him for a lifetime.” Pouncing is the prerequisite skill needed for fishing. A man who can stalk and pounce on a cricket or grasshopper will never be in want of bream or sunfish. And a man who can pounce on a lizard will never be in want of a mate. There is nothing that impresses and attracts the fairer sex more than catching a lizard and then letting it bite your earlobe and dangle like an oversized ‘80s earring. This courting display was widely practiced among second-grade boys of my era, and obviously it was effective because Britney Sampson sent me a little folded up note asking, “Do you love me? Check Yes or No.”  

Another survival skill I perfected as a child was trapping various and sundry creatures. I suppose children have gotten a bit soft because they can just count on habitat loss to keep all the dangerous animals away, but back in my day we had to take matters into our own hands. Me and my neighbor Andy dug pit traps (i.e. holes covered with twigs and a thin layer of leaves and grass to camouflage their existence) all over the backyard in hopes of catching a bear or other ferocious animal. However, the only thing we ever caught was my dad on the lawn mower. That was good enough to prove the concept though. Generally speaking, my dad wasn’t very ferocious, but he played the part of the bear pretty well, roaring to life when the lawn mower bottomed out in a cloud of dust. 

Which leads to another childhood survival skill: running. Me and Andy were such advanced runners that we won the main event in second grade field day, the wheelbarrow race, which utilizes running with your hands. Thankfully, I still have some vestige of my childhood running ability because, if you’re a government employee who works on farms day in and day out, you really need to know how to make a quick get away. There are all types of enraged animals to flee from, not just the farmers. I’ve run from enraged momma cows, an enraged wild turkey mom that I stumbled on in the woods, an enraged German Shepherd that had obviously been trained to protect private property, an enraged nest of yellow jackets that I discovered in an old hay bale, and an enraged box of bees that I accidentally dropped. In many of these cases I didn’t escape unscathed, but I at least survived, which means the time I spent running my parents ragged as a child paid off. 

How To Run Away From Farmhouse Ghosts

I had an interesting thought the other day: Where do ghosts go when we bulldoze their haunted farmhouses, when we pave purgatory and put up a parking lot? If you ask me, it’s an issue that rarely gets the attention it deserves. 

The Kendrick Family in Front of Our Farmhouse

Our old farmhouse was built in 1897. You can tell Kendricks built it. Kendricks, my in-laws, have a tendency to build on the fly and verbalize all their decision-making processes at the moment of cognitive conception. They decide in milliseconds what to do and move forward, no second thoughts, no regrets, hammer to the nail, then another nail, another nail, and so on, till they have a house with as confusing a floor plan as a house of mirrors. It may seem impractical to have three front doors, a bathroom as a hallway, and a fireplace in the closet, but, as I said, Kendricks built my house and there are no regrets.

These three front-doors doors make it easy to flee the premises from Kendrick ghosts who are equally vocal and decisive in the afterlife. Don’t get me wrong, decisiveness has its place, like the Battle of King’s Mountain, when my wife’s ancestors fought with the Overmountain Men to whip the British. (If the battle had depended on the Bishops, my ancestors, we would have surely lost for fear of hurting the British’s feelings. Or, we would have starved to death, unable to choose which campfire to eat at and insisting someone else choose. My wife has studied my genealogy and says I have a French ancestor, which explains a lot). 

But self-assured and outspoken Kendricks are not who you want haunting your farmhouse. Kendrick ghosts have no qualms about terrifying an in-law now inhabiting their old domicile with disembodied utterances and footless footsteps. I’m certain it’s Kendrick ghosts because no other ghosts could navigate our house without getting lost and asking for help. Plus, a Kendrick ghost would never ask for help as a point of pride. 

Furthermore, I did see a real Kendrick ghost once, no joke. It was a grayish apparition in the shape of granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. I saw it on the same night my wife was laughing in her sleep with a strange, childlike giggle. When I rolled over to investigate the cause of her laughter, my wife was still clearly asleep, yet still clearly giggling. And standing beside the bed, beside her, was this grey granny. I rolled back over, put the sheet over my head, and tried to convince myself I was dreaming. The next morning, I told my wife about the giggling and asked her what she was dreaming about. I had yet to mention anything about the ghost. She said she had been dreaming about her great-grandma, at which point I nearly created a fourth front-door in our house. 

Penola Kendrick, a.k.a. Granny Ghost

My Astute Observations on Goats

Well, we are now the owners of three goats, ticking off another species on our bucket list of livestock. Frankly, I was worried. The reputation of goats preceded their arrival on our farm as I scrambled to repair and erect a barrier that would be “goat-tight.” I’m quite pleased with my efforts since it took six long days for a goat to escape my enclosure. That shows you how far I’ve progressed as a farmer. Years ago, when we first got pigs, it took one pig about 60 seconds to escape and become an infamous ham on the lam, bounding into and out of briar thickets with such haste that even rabbits were impressed. All I can say is, rule number one of pig chasing is “Never follow a pig into a briar thicket.”

Also, rule number two is “Never follow a pig into a graveyard.” A graveyard is a bigger trap than a briar thicket. Yep, after luring a farmer into a graveyard, a pig always plays a seemingly innocent game of peekaboo behind headstones (which is why modern graveyards use flush grave markers—to limit defensive cover for escaped livestock). Eventually, after many rounds of chasing a pig around a headstone, a pursuing farmer will grow impatient and attempt to hurdle a headstone, which leaves the farmer writhing on the ground clutching a body part. Depending on the severity of the injury, some farmers may request burial on the spot.

Needless to say, I won’t bore you with the details of that pig’s recapture–it certainly didn’t involve a very long chase through a graveyard. To be honest, the account of the pig’s recapture is mostly quite boring and hardly worth telling. In fact, it just nonchalantly wandered back into my fence and surrendered itself after several days of terrorizing the countryside. 

But I digress. The point of this post is to detail my experiences hitherto with Capra hircus, that is, the domesticated goat. I’ve learned that goats say “maah” instead of “baah”–who knew? Also, their poop looks a lot like chocolate candy to a toddler, which I suppose, in hindsight, is why most other parents don’t feed their toddlers Milk Duds. That’s about all I’ve learned about goats so far in one week of ownership, but, rest assured, I’ll keep you posted if I make anymore astute observations. 

The War of the Remote

“They’re just cute little movies,” my wife said, uttering a sentence that ushered in a new era. Soon ESPN would be dethroned, and princess programing would rule the domain inside our television screen.

Movie Review: The Princess Switch – Patriot Press

The first cute little movie was The Princess Switch. One actress plays two princesses who look alike. Both princesses find their prince charmings and live happily ever after—meaning they live happily ever after until The Princess Switch: Switched Again, the sequel in which the same actress plays all the important characters, more or less, and everybody lives happily ever after again. 

That is, until the tragic events of The Princess Switch 3. Aliens abduct the princess, clone her, and then invade earth with a force of identical princess warriors, all of whom are played by the same actress and live happily ever after (to be honest, I slept through The Princess Switch 3 and just guessed at the plot.) But whatever the plot, my wife thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was left craving more princess programming. 

“Can’t we just buy a second TV?” I asked. “That way you can watch your princess shows, and I can watch football.”

“No, we’re already over budget on Christmas this year,” she replied, “and TVs are sky high because of inflation.” 

Ugh, inflation. Because of rising costs of socks and underwear, I had to watch four seasons of The Crown, which is chock full of the story of Princess Diana. By the fourth season Agent Scully from the X-files shows up. I got excited because I thought there might actually be an alien subplot, but alas Agent Scully was just playing Margaret Thatcher. Meanwhile, Princess Diana does not live happily ever after as it turns out. Of course, I could have told my wife that much, but she insisted on watching it anyway.

Then my wife went medieval and started watching The Spanish Princess. It’s about Catherine of Aragon and based on real life events in Europe in the Middle Ages. Best I can tell, people didn’t do much back then, other than stand around a castle and scheme. Every fifteen minutes they interrupt the scheming for some regularly scheduled lovemaking. Likely that was the best way to stay warm in those drafty castles.

All this princess programming is taking its toll. Last night I found my wife asleep on the couch as the Spanish Princess streamed onward. Being a kind and loving husband, I let her slumber peacefully and gently caressed her hand.

Success! She released the remote. Then I paused Catherine of Aragon, lowered the volume, and reinstalled the masters of the gridiron to their rightful place atop the TV cabinet—even if only for a temporary reign.

The Old Pocket Knife

Ah, the old pocket knife–the Sodbuster, the Peanut, the Buck, the Trapper, the Swiss Army. It used to be a comfort to carry a small blade. Now it’s a burden. I had to trek all the way back to my truck to deposit my pocket knife. Moments earlier, with a little Case Peanut in my possession, I had been denied entry into my local county agricultural fair. Imagine that: agriculture without pocket knives. Alas, we live in such a time.

I’m not sure how much damage someone could do with a Case Peanut. As its name implies, it’s a small implement with two tiny blades. I wouldn’t call it a weapon of mass destruction per se unless it’s the hands of a very well-trained criminal. Most well-trained criminals usually overlook it for weapons that pack more punch. Still, the security guard wanding people was just doing his job and banning entry to all weapons, tiny pocketknives included. 

The Case Peanut

I could be wrong, but I believe it was once possible to win pocket knives at the fair. Cheap flashy folding blades were prizes used to lure boys into spending all their money. In hindsight, a knife as a prize may seem like a bad idea, but the games were rigged. No one ever won one, so the knives posed little safety hazard. 

The main reason I carry a knife is because I never know when a woman will ask, “Does anybody have a pocket knife on them?” I’m a happily married man, but thought of being caught empty-pocketed when a distressed lady needs a blade is too much to bear. Since my wife carries her own pocket knife in her purse, I rarely get to indulge that little pleasure of rescuing a damsel from an unraveling thread or over-taped box. The only time my wife has requested my pocketknife lately was when she ordered me to slash tires on a gas-powered moped with no muffler that rides by our old farmhouse at 3 AM every night. 

I got my first pocketknife when I was eight, and it was promptly taken away. As I remember it, the knife was a little red beauty, and so was the wound. As my mom prepped for a trip to the emergency room on a Christmas morning, I could barely hold in my tears of pain I was so elated. The thought of a legitimate scar was exciting enough. Showing off stitches would have made me the most popular boy in second grade. “What did you get for Christmas?” I imagined my friends asking. I would hold out my hand stoically, three stitches in my forefinger. My friends would clamor in envy. Unfortunately, my dad was able to stop the bleeding with old fishing rags and super-glue, so I couldn’t brag about a trip to the ER.

But, like I said, little pocket knives are only dangerous in the hands of well-trained criminals and eight-year-old boys.