There is much to report.
My dog, who had chased squirrels for six years without success, finally tracked one down in the front yard of a neighbor.
I became aware of this because I heard the bloodcurdling screams of my neighbor. She was alerting me that: a) my dog was not on a leash; and b) my dog was KILLING A SQUIRREL ON HER FRONT LAWN!!!
From the volume and urgency of the shouting, I thought maybe Boomer was killing a child, not a rodent.
Upon closer inspection, he was not even killing the rodent. He was soft-mouthing it.
Because the neighbor was screaming bloody murder, and because I did feel a trace of compassion for the trapped animal, I made one of the dumber decisions of … the last few months anyway. I reached in and tried to rescue it.
For my trouble, I was rewarded with a quick, vicious bite by the terrified squirrel.
I let fly with a loud F-bomb, and yanked back my hand. This caused my neighbor to re-double her caterwauling.
Instead of ignoring the woman and letting nature take its course, I reached in again, and this time received an even harder bite. As I withdrew my hand, I could see there was both good news and bad news. The dog no longer had the squirrel. But the squirrel was now attached by its teeth to the tip of my bloody finger.
I used my free hand to pry loose the tiny jaws. (A more difficult task than you might imagine.) Then I put the squirrel on the pavement and squished its skull under my heel.
This, too, failed to calm my neighbor.
Nor did it please my dog. Boomer looked baffled, and vaguely embarrassed, by my handling of the situation. And suddenly he was showing no interest in the squirrel, now that it was inert.
When I got home, my wife directed me to drive immediately to the hospital. There the wound was cleaned, and I was given a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics. I don’t want to say I was the laughing stock of the E.R. But let’s put it this way, my tale seemed to put everyone in a good mood.
In other news, speaking of wild animals and tetanus shots, the wife, kids and I are going to Kenya this summer!
My kids, 9 and 11, are SUPER excited about this. They are especially excited that TODAY they’re going to the doctor’s office to get shots for yellow fever, typhoid, and whatever else Africa has waiting for us. My kids love shots!
You may ask, ‘Why Africa?’
You may say, ‘Kit, it sounds like you are getting plenty of wildlife experience right there in your own neighborhood!’
Well, my wife and I decided (okay, she decided) that it would be good for our children to see another part of the world, experience another culture, and, let’s be honest, realize how spoiled they are. (Hard to see why the kids are unenthusiastic about the trip.)
So we will spend one week on safari and one week doing charitable activities, specifically building a school for girls.
I have never built a single thing in my whole life. But now that my hand has healed up, I will forge ahead and see what I can do.
THERE ARE 42 DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS IN KENYA, EACH WITH THEIR OWN LANGUAGE OR DIALECT!
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FATHER WAS KENYAN!
TO SAY ‘HELLO’ IN SWAHILI, YOU SAY, ‘HUJAMBO!’
But as the kids pointed out, the postings were not uniformly cheerful.
THE MASSAI DON’T BURY THEIR DEAD. THEY BELIEVE IT’S BAD FOR THE SOIL. THEY LEAVE THEIR DEAD OUTSIDE TO BE EATEN BY ANIMALS.
HALF OF KENYA’S 43 MILLION RESIDENTS LIVE IN WHAT IS CONSIDERED ABSOLUTE POVERTY.
DURING CONSTRUCTION OF THE TSAVO RIVER RAILWAY BRIDGE IN 1898, AN ESTIMATED 35 TO 100 WORKERS WERE STALKED, KILLED, AND DRAGGED FROM THE WORKSITE BY A PAIR OF MALE LIONS.
In still other news, in Jesse’s fourth-grade class this month students have been asked to prepare a presentation in which they teach classmates how to perform a task.
It can be anything – cooking a meal, making origami animals, whatever.
Jesse is having a hard time thinking of something he knows how to do.
He knows how to build a campfire, shoot a BB gun, and play ice hockey. But I told him none of these activities would work well on school property.
It got me thinking about a book review I read last year in the New Yorker magazine. Here are the opening paragraphs:
In 2004, Carolina Izquierdo, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, spent several months with the Matsigenka, a tribe of about twelve thousand people who live in the Peruvian Amazon. The Matsigenka hunt for monkeys and parrots, grow yucca and bananas, and build houses that they roof with the leaves of a particular kind of palm tree, known as a kapashi. At one point, Izquierdo decided to accompany a local family on a leaf-gathering expedition down the Urubamba River.
A member of another family, Yanira, asked if she could come along. Izquierdo and the others spent five days on the river. Although Yanira had no clear role in the group, she quickly found ways to make herself useful. Twice a day, she swept the sand off the sleeping mats, and she helped stack the kapashi leaves for transport back to the village. In the evening, she fished for crustaceans, which she cleaned, boiled, and served to the others. Calm and self-possessed, Yanira “asked for nothing,” Izquierdo later recalled. The girl’s behavior made a strong impression on the anthropologist because at the time of the trip Yanira was just six years old.
I cannot overstate how often I think about this article.
Whenever I feel like a failure as a parent, which is not infrequently, I always circle back to this annoying little crab-boiler. Damn her. Damn her cheerful, quiet self-reliance. It took me nine years to teach my kids how to tie their shoes.
On the other hand, if we do survive the trip to Kenya, and if there are no further tangles with neighborhood rodents, I believe I’ve found our next destination — the Peruvian Amazon.