Last week’s newspaper column included the word ‘anathema’, a new word for me. Well, It’s not new as in having never seen it before, I am pretty worldly, you know, but new in the sense that I have been looking for a way to use it. I consciously try to reinforce this ‘worldly’ impression that my readers have of me by using multi-syllable words such as this. I referenced a ban on female cheerleaders but this was only in the Catholic schools and I included it because I became a cheerleader by default after being dropped from the basketball team – my jump shots refused to fall. Also, there was much more I wanted to do with this story but space limitations forced me to cut it short. I suppose I dould do it up right here; however, I am kicking around the idea of doing another book and including a souped up version of this tale so I wait and do it then. That is, if I ever get around to working on a book.
Fruit trees are the source of both good and bad news. The good news is that there will be fresh fruit in the house when the trees are producing. The bad news is that the critters in our neighborhood feel that they have a God-given right to their share. I am one of those live and let live guys so this fact has not bothered me too much but then, a few weeks ago, we began to notice a god awful mess being created nightly under the plum tree. Half eaten and mashed plums, their skins scattered to the 4 winds, were lying around in the grass, making my morning barefoot walk impossible. Having come from a long line of coonskin hat wearers, I knew what the mess was coming from; a critter.
Luckily, the live trap I borrowed from my brother-in-law a couple of years ago was still in the barn so, being the master trapper that I am, I set the trap, baiting it with some dog food and two lollipops that my granddaughter left at our house.
The next morning, my wife, Susie and I arose early and took our morning coffee out to the porch swing. We had just sat down when Susie said “look what we have”. There, in the grass, was the trap with a big fat raccoon curled up in one end. The raccoon had not gone gently into that good night. The cage had been rocked around in the grass as she had tried to claw her way out, leaving about a two foot square bare spot where the grass had been scratched into oblivion.
“Well,” I said to Susie. “Next time we’ll have to anchor that trap to keep her from jumping around because she sure did a number on that grass.”
“Why are you saying, ’She’? It could just as easily be a ‘he’.”
“A he? Why do you think that?”
“Well, for one thing, look at the mess he made. And then he ate every drop of the bait and it looks like he even licked the bowl clean.” She said smugly.
“Well……” I struggled to find something to say.
“And now look at him, just lying there fat and lazy.” She retorted before my lightning quick mind could think of anything to say. “What else could it be but a man?”
“Why don’t we just turn him – or her – over and see if there’s any clue there.” I said.
“Clue??? What are you talking about?” she said. “Are you talking about his Pe….?”
“Hold it.” I interrupted. She already knows my aversion to conversations such as this so just in case I haven’t already told you, I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. I came from a generation where private body parts and/or sex in any context were not a topic of general conversation. It was a time of mysterious boxes in plain brown wrappers, a time where patent leather shoes were banned from parochial school hallways and female cheerleaders were anathema to school administrators.
My sex education came from Eddie Joe, my friend and neighbor. He was a year ahead of me in school and in addition, his grandpa spent his days in Nip’s pool hall discussing worldly events with the town’s leaders. In my book, those two facts made anything Eddie Joe told me the gospel truth. Were it not for him, I might still be looking in the cabbage patch for babies.
I conceded that the raccoon was a male and dropped the discussion. In truth, I was not really up to another gender discussion because of a life changing event that had occurred a couple of weeks earlier. A friend’s cat had kittens and my daughter had given my granddaughter, Riley Marie, permission to take one of the female kittens home. Susie and I took her to pick out a kitten.
“Is this a girl, Grandpa”? She asked while holding up one of the little furry creatures.
“I don’t know.” I said, preparing to give her my cabbage patch speech.
“Never mind.” She said. “Can I borrow your phone?”
My innocent, 11 year old granddaughter took my smartphone, brought up the search website and typed ‘how do you tell the sex of a kitten?” into the search field. The answer came back and there it was, complete with pictures and all the anatomical terminology you’d ever need. There was stuff in there that even Eddie Joe – and probably his grandpa – didn’t even know about. I was shocked out of my shoes.
“According to this,” she said, “If we look under the tail to see how close to the rect….. “
I tried to remain scientific but it just wasn’t possible. “AAAgh. Stop. I don’t want to hear it.” I said. “Go talk to your grandmother.”
Susie went to a public high school. She can handle it.
In a way, I wish we would have been more open in our day about s*x. For one thing, I could have typed the word SEX without looking over my shoulder to see if the Nuns are watching.
Incidentally, I don’t really take morning walks in my bare feet. I was trying to paint a picture of the country life and the folksiness that goes along with it.