Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Good Old Days, Episode V

If you’re a long-time reader, some of these stories might be familiar. I decided I wanted them all in one series so I chose some that I had previously blogged back in 2007-2008, well before I started these Good Old Days posts.

How my dad’s black lab puppy Cricket terrorized us endlessly. She was the most ferocious puppy I’ve ever known. We weren’t little kids, either, we were aged 12-16, and that puppy chasing us across the lawn was absolutely terrifying. My grandpa came to visit and left with scabs all over his arms and hands. She jumped up into my dad’s face and knocked out his front tooth. Even when she wasn’t in one of her particularly vicious moods, she was still bitey; one time she was gnawing on my dad so he took her mouth and redirected it onto Corinne’s leg.

That time my dad caught me “storking around” in the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando. The water was about 18 inches deep where I was and it was easier to lift my feet completely out of the water than walk normally. I was 14, my body was 80% legs, I weighed 90 pounds, and I was 8 inches taller than my oldest sister. I didn’t think anyone was watching me. I was wrong.

That time we drove the Al-Can Highway on our move from Anchorage, Alaska to Stafford, Virginia. My dad led our procession in his old red Dodge Ram with a canoe on top, pulling our pop-up tent trailer. My mom followed close behind him with all the kids packed into the Suburban towing the horse trailer. We communicated by CB radio and made our home in a different fairground each night so that our horse, Fancy, could stretch her legs in an arena. We’d all pitch in to set up camp, eat some form of hot dog creation for dinner, then we’d settle in to our beds for the evening. And each night without fail, when the lights were out and my mom would try to discreetly remove her bra from underneath her T-shirt, my dad would draw attention to the fact by announcing to everyone, “It’s the grrrrraaaand finaaaaaaleeee!”

How my dad ruined me for life when it comes to eating fish. He was convinced that choking on fish bones was a leading cause of death in children, so we were always carefully monitored to make sure we were eating small enough bites, and by “small enough bites” I mean flaking off just enough meat to stab with one or two tines of our forks. To this day, I can’t eat fish normally.

My ice cream truck obsession. I could detect the dulcet tones of “Turkey in the Straw” from a mile away and it would send me into a frenzy – violently shaking piggybanks, overturning couch cushions, loudly and tearfully petitioning my mom for quarters, sprinting through the neighborhood. Once in my desperation to reach the truck in time I fell and skinned my knees and he gave me ice cream FOR FREE! Worth it.

That time 10 year old Annie outfished my dad and brother on a camping trip. I asked my dad for details on this one and he told it better than I could: “Jake and I wanted to go to Sheep Creek (1 1/2 hours north of Anchorage) to fish. Annie loved to fish so when she found out we were going camping (in the back of the pickup, under the shell), and fishing, she expressed a strong desire to be included. It was in September of 1993 so she must have been about 9 years old. It was a typical Alaska night and day--cold, overcast, and misting. We all crawled under the shell in our sleeping bags and listened to the light rain on the roof, the distant trains passing, and a pack of wolves which didn't seem TOO distant howling. In the morning, it was still cool and misting. We walked down to Sheep Creek--Jake and I in waders with fishing poles. It was then we realized Annie didn't have boots which would allow her to wade thru the shallow areas of the stream to get to the deeper areas where the salmon were. To appease her, I sat her on the dry bank and cast her line into an area that was too shallow for salmon; but she didn't know that. Jake and I then proceeded to cross to the deep part of the creek, working our way upstream. Jake and I cast for 30-40 minutes, without luck, when I heard Annie calling. I figured she had lost patience and tangled her line up, or was cold and lonely. I walked back to check on her and upon finding her, she had hooked a 10-12 pound silver salmon, reeled it in, landed it, and bonked it on the head with a stick to kill it. All she wanted was for me to get the hook out so she could re-load and catch another one. Jake and I were very surprised as we were luckless to this point. I helped her bait her hook and cast it out again, then went back upstream to fish. Again, in about 20 minutes, I heard Annie calling me. Jake and I decided it would be impossible that she caught another one--but that is exactly what happened! Another really nice, big silver. I took it off the hook (she had already bashed it), re-baited, and cast out again. I then went upstream to try again. Jake and I managed to catch a salmon or two when we again heard Annie. Sure enough, she had her third silver (a legal limit) reeled in, bashed, and secured well up the bank. Jake and I fished (we didn't want to be totally outdone by Annie) a couple more hours but without luck. The day belonged to little Annie. All in about 6 inches of water!”

That time we went ice fishing on Otter Lake in Anchorage. A dog peed on my dad’s leg. We saw a bear cub in a tree. My line snapped when I was reeling in a monster trout, so my dad immediately plunged his entire arm up to his clavicle into the hole and scooped it out.

That time my uncle caught a salmon that was spawning. Annie and I squeezed its belly and eggs came pouring out. It was so cool/gross.

How I kept a pair of socks in my un-airconditioned car and would drive around town with sock-hands so the steering wheel couldn’t burn my fingers.

That time I had a bum leg. I flinched during my Kindergarten thigh shot and the needle stuck me twice. As a result, I had to drag my leg around for a week. I also once had a weird reaction to Novocain that left my mouth numb and drooling for five or six days, and I’ve had a severe aversion to any feeling of numbness ever since that I’m sure stems from those two experiences.

That time Kyle gifted me a burned CD which he’d somehow accidentally labeled “Prince of Message” instead of “Prince of Egypt.”

That game Corinne invented. Annie drove her BigWheel in circles around Corinne, passing through a hula hoop, and each time she went through the hula hoop she had to give Corinne one of her toys. Took her a few passes before she realized it wasn’t a very fun game.

That other game Corinne invented. I was supposed to run the entire length of a large culvert and then back again, and she and Annie would race me from the outside. Each and every time I emerged red-faced and panting, they were both lazily stretched out on the grass, yawning and glancing at their wrists, “We’ve been waiting for hours.” I quit playing after the fifth or sixth go, and it took me another, oh, year or so to realize HEY! I BET THEY WEREN’T RUNNING AT ALL! THEY TRICKED ME!!!

That time Annie was delighted to discover the family cat dead in the basement. According to Corinne, Kizzie died of kidney stones. “If mom had taken her to the vet that morning, she would have been fine. But she didn’t, so she died.” My mom had hidden her body in the basement so that my dad could bury her later. She pulled him aside when he got home from work to let him know that Kizzie was dead, and that he needed to sneak her out of the basement, but be very careful because little impressionable 3-year-old Annie was watching TV in the next room, and mom didn’t want her to be upset if she saw. So my dad wandered downstairs and was sneaking nonchalantly behind Annie when she turned and exclaimed, “Hey, dad! Guess what!! Kizzie died!” According to him, she then grabbed his hand, beside herself with excitement, and dragged him into the next room, where she apparently had made the deliciously grisly discovery hours earlier. Granted, this story came from The General, who is notorious for exaggerating things, but he has been known to quote little Annie as saying, “Look! Look at that cat, she’s flat as a pancake!” whilst poking the corpse exuberantly.

How Boo transformed from a sweet, beloved pet into a hellcat the day she was spayed. The vet tech carefully handed me a yowling bundle and cautioned, “Boo woke up a little angry after surgery…” I barely managed to keep her in that wadded-up towel for the drive home, and she was wild from then on until she met her awful, untimely end. I don’t want to get into details, because it’s gross, so let’s just say it involved a garage door sensor malfunction and a cat that truly did become as “flat as a pancake.”

That time I got diarrhea’d on by a pony. It’s a very short story. I was cleaning out her left-rear hoof when my sisters started screaming frantic, incoherent instructions at me. By the time I’d realized what they were trying to say, I was covered in the stuff, hair to jodhpurs.

How my dad’s favorite word is “derbis.” He had a foreign captain early on in his Army career who kept yelling at everyone that they’d better get their derbis together, they were full of derbis, derbis derbis, derbis. When my dad finally asked him, “What, exactly, is derbis?” the captain beckoned him closer, crouched down, picked up a handful of dirt, and said (with finality), “Derbis.” The General has used it daily ever since.

How confusing the word “derbis” can be to others. Once, we were vacationing in North Carolina and, to cut down on screaming, my mom let me bring a friend along. The first morning, my dad announced for everyone to collect their derbis because it was time to leave for the beach. Poor Christine pulled me aside in a panic to confess that she didn’t have any derbis! She must have left it at home!! What would she do without her derbis???

That time we got stuck in the sand during the aforementioned vacation. We thought it would be fun to drive on the beach. It wasn’t. During the four hours we were stuck, a bunch of other vehicles got themselves stuck, too, so it was a beached-dolphin-type situation.

That time one of our cats very nearly averted his own death. My sisters like to claim that I brain damaged him. His behavior became increasingly erratic until eventually he became so vicious my mom made an executive decision, packed the cat, Annie, and me in the truck, and off we went to “put Mac to sleep," which sounded like a nice thing to do. My mom parked in front of the vet’s office and left us with the crazy cat while she filled out some papers before bringing in the patient. But when she came back out to the truck, the dumb thing was nowhere to be found. After searching the cab for several minutes, she must have just given up and decided that despite her best efforts, she had raised a couple of lying brats (“We PROMISE we didn’t let him out!”). Now, I was about four at the time, so I don’t know the best way to describe what happened next, but halfway down the road, Mac appeared. He crawled out of the engine. There was a small hole near our feet, under the dash, and first his head popped out, then he twisted his body and his shoulders popped out, then he squeezed the rest of his hind-end through and plopped down on the floor of the truck, mewing. Reborn. I’d like to say that that little stunt saved him – that my mom had a change of heart and decided he was meant to be with us forever – but it didn’t. She turned that truck right back around, this time instructing Annie to hold on to him tight, just to make sure.

That time were were staying at a campground and there was a paper mache roadkill bunny. It had baked in the sun for so long and had been run over so many times that it was completely flush against the asphalt. One day I absentmindedly kicked at it and the whole thing came off in one piece, like a grotesque bunny paint chip. My dad picked it up with two fingers and flung it at us girls Frisbee-style, and great was the freak-out thereof.

See also:
Episode I
Episode II
Episode III
Episode IV