WEST FORK KICKAPOO - No sooner did the door open than shy Maurice came prancing in, bearing in his mouth a handful of leaves and a flying squirrel.
My brain was still fighting sleep fog as Maurice looked at me with his green saucer eyes, then dropped the squirrel and went to get a drink. With no intention of sticking around, the squirrel darted into my living room, over the fireplace mantel, and under the chair.
The other two cats, Salvador and Monkey, were eager to see our visitor. But with the help of a broom, I whisked them outside, then took up the chase. Game on!
As I gently prodded with the broom, the little nipper dashed into the kitchen and up onto the counter, where he tap-danced over the freshly cleaned dishes until I lunged for the takedown. I missed by a long shot and he landed in the cat litter box.
With a swoop, Mr. Squirrel attached himself to my pajama bottoms, where I tried to snap a picture of him for Finn’s newest book. Alas, I was nervous, the camera upside-down, and before I knew it he was climbing up the island counter like Batman on the side of a skyscraper.
Once the bugger got between the wall and my counter, where I store old newspapers, things started getting surreal. One by one, I pulled out the newspapers until we were eye to eye. As I reached in with my gloved hand he shot up my arm, knocked over a water bottle, jumped onto the old canning cupboard, and escaped into the mudroom.
Perfect! I opened the door, swept him outside, wished him luck on his journey, and started a pot of tea.
Dane plodded down the stairs an hour later and, when he saw my blurry pictures, moaned, “I miss all the fun.”
Which reminded me of the evening Dane slept through the great raccoon chase. Around my basement I stomped, whacking two pool noodles at Mr. Coon while he knocked everything onto the concrete floor with one loud crash after another. Game on!
When I finally made it back upstairs, sweat dripping down my face, hair and clothes disheveled, I woke Dane and asked him why he hadn’t helped. He rolled over, pulling the covers over his head, and mumbled, “It sounded like you had it under control.”
Now, I’m remembering the summer morning I plodded down the stairs singing, “I have indoor plumbing” (a brand-new feature for me), only to flick on the bathroom light and gasp at the large coiled milk snake on the cool tiled floor.
Game on! Mr. Snake wasn’t too difficult to get outside, once I ran around to the basement and brought up a flat-head shovel. I held the shovel down like a red carpet and he crawled aboard. Unfortunately, in my haste, I hadn’t thought to leave the front door open. The minute I set the shovel down to side-step Mr. Snake and reach for the knob, he started abandoning ship.
At this point in my retelling, a friend once said, “They aren’t poisonous, Jane,” to which I replied, “Great, next time he comes to visit I’ll bring him over to your place.”
I re-shoveled Mr. Snake and carefully deposited him outside, where I have no issues with snakes. Outdoors, I’m one of their fans.
I also recall the first time I came home at night to my primitive rental cabin on Pa’s Road. I lit a few candles and the kerosene lamp, and was startled to see bats flying around. I’m not an animal-in-the-house screamer, but only because I’ve always lived alone—who would hear me? Game on!
If the neighbors had watched through the large picture window they would have thought I’d invented a new dance: waving my hands above my head while bobbing and ducking the bats, who only wanted to escape from the crazy lady.
By far the worst visitor to that cabin was the Asian beetle that made its way into my ear canal. It was nighttime and the echoing of its every movement in my brain jolted me from a sound sleep, causing me to smack my head on the low loft ceiling with a thud and a yelp.
I bolted down the stairs and started hopping on one leg, bending my neck one way and then the other while the beetle used its massive pincers to bite my tender eardrum. The movement had worked when I’d had water in my ear, but not for the hardy hanging-on-for-dear-life beetle.
With no electricity or phone, I couldn’t call for help or even Google what to do. I held a candle close to my ear and tipped my head, hoping it would crawl toward the light. When that didn’t work, I tipped my head in the other direction, thinking it might crawl through my skull and come out the other side!
Finally, in desperation, I decided I’d drive to the ER at Vernon Memorial Hospital. But thankfully, the minuscule culprit exited my ear before I got to the car, saving me the embarrassment and cost of a hospital visit.Rural life sure isn’t dull, but who’d want it to be? Come on, who’s next? Game on!