Saturday, February 23, 2008


Although my short term memory is somewhat akin to that of a goldfish, I still have rather vivid recollections of growing up in Batesville in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. It was a fun time, and nostalgia from fun times just seems to burn deeper into whatever part of the brain that stores those things, I guess. Biology wasn’t that much fun for me, so maybe that’s why I can’t remember those brain parts.

After all these years, I’m quite sure I could recognize the faces of most everybody from the BHS classes of 1971 through ‘74. That might not be all that unusual, given that it wasn’t an exceptionally large school, but, oddly enough, I can still remember a lot of their pets as well. To wit:

When we first moved to Batesville, and were temporarily staying at The American Motor Inn, I had a Piranha named Freddy that I brought with me from Blytheville. One night we had returned from dinner at Kelly’s, and found that Freddy had jumped from his coffee can into the dry sink, committing fishicide. I guess the move was just too much for him. No police report was ever filed.

Desha Byrd had a cat that was reincarnated from Satan. I don’t remember his name, but I do know that years later he was re-reincarnated into a big white monster named B.C, who lived with my brother-in-law, Larry Price. He remembered all the harassment I dished out to him in the previous life, and every time I’d walk within twenty feet of him, he’d latch onto my leg, digging teeth and claws in as deep as he could.

Mae & Sylvia Strickland had a cat that, although they might not have known, drank like a sailor. And Randy Tovey had a Spider Monkey, said to have been snatched from the jungles of Viet Nam.

Karla Reynolds had horses, on a lot right beside her house there in town. They were large, frightening animals that I never got to know very well, but one of them once woke me up chewing on my foot as I slept in my car one night in that field. Don’t ask me what I was doing there. Like I said, I have a terrible memory.

Over on west side, Mike Roper had a little short-legged canine named Otto, and on Main Street, Curtis Wainwright had Blue, one of those cattle herding dogs.

On the east side, we had two “neighborhood dogs”. Sid was a rowdy, snarling Boston Terrier who was supposed to belong to Ginger St. John’s family, but he spent all his time running around from place to place, keeping in touch with his buddies. One of his favorite things to do was chase the swings on the schoolyards, and actually jump up and catch them with his mouth. At some point, I lost contact with Sid. Over the years, I have wondered how many teeth he had left when he went on to the big doggy swing set in the sky.

Diane May’s German Shepherd, Socks, had a compulsion for chasing vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles – anything that moved. Sitting around at Tommy’s Kingburger or the bowling alley with not much else to do, ultimately, somebody would say “Hey! Let’s go let Socks chase us!” Then, one at a time, we’d zip our motorcycles down the street in front of Dr. May’s house, just to see who would come out alive. Most of us made it, but one day forensic investigators will discover several bikes and Volkswagens buried in that back yard, and CNN will have a field day speculating on what happened. Nancy Grace will, no doubt, blame it on some man who had it out for his ex-wife, and Paula Zahn will try her best to make it a racial thing. In reality, it was just a big, big, dog, who didn’t like things moving up and down his street.

Although he was really only a fictional character, designed to get us out of typing class to go feed him, Larry Guenzel’s pet buffalo, Sid (perhaps named after the Boston Terrier), once got him into serious trouble with Mrs. Moore at school.

One day, Eddie Runyun turned up with a pet dinosaur – a huge Iguana named Boris, as I recall. Thinking that was about the coolest thing ever saw, I had to get one for myself. Strangely, I can’t remember his name, but he as a good boy. When he was still relatively small, I’d let him hang onto the inside of my army jacket and take him to school with me. Then, when he got a little too big to do that, I put him on a leash in my back yard during the day. Somehow, during warm weather, while I was away, my mom “accidentally” dropped a log on his head out there in the back yard. I really don’t recall us having a fireplace in that house on Boswell Street. But my mom is still sticking to that story.

Years passed, and my affection for reptiles remained. I had a troublesome turtle named W.T., who became the title character in my first book. When my son was a young teen, I had to get him a couple of Iguanas of his own. Cheech & Chong were with us for a number of years. Then, one cold winter night, the ground-fault tripped in the garage and they became lizardsickles. We tried really hard to thaw them out by the fireplace when we found them, but it was to no avail.

Thinking back on it, most of my reptilian pets have met with untimely endings. Perhaps it wasn’t meant for man and lizard to coexist, peacefully (as the President would say).
My wife will be glad I’ve come to this realization.