Favorite Childhood Pets

Growing up, my parents had a lot of animals.  My favorite pets were between a dog that was a golden retriever/Irish setter mix that my father had named after my cousin’s mom and a cat.

Dog

We had a LOT of dogs.  The mix that was my favorite was around for many years.  She was mine.  For my brother we had an English Setter named Waldo that was the result of a trip to Kentucky when I was in second grade.  I remember that one a little more than when we got my dog because of the tobacco that we were given to bring back for show and tell.  It was a family road trip to pick up the dog – which was rare for our family.  Road trips included my dad singing Purple People Eater – and amusing us for hours with us questioning him about the blue light that kept going off (bright lights that used to be controlled by the foot switch).  We also had a little black and white dog called Scudder, he was another favorite was part of the three amigos with my brother’s dog and mine.  Scudder was what looked like a terrier mix.

Besides having a few other dogs, including one that had to have a CSection at one point while having puppies and a few that came and went so fast they didn’t get names – our final favorite dog was Butter.  Butter was a Dashund (weiner dog) that came in a pair with Peanut. At the time I really didn’t get the name. It wasn’t until years later when my husband pointed it out that I finally got it.  Peanut had an issue with his ear shortly after showing up and it swelled up.  My father’s solution was to pop it and get the puss out.  Of course the dog bit him….  My dad’s big rule was that none of the dog’s could bite us, so he had to find a new home.  I’m fairly certain that is what really what happened… Butter on the other hand stayed to keep us company.  The only thing she ever bit was Robby’s dog Waldo.  Waldo, even though he was a big dog, was afraid of her for the rest of time.  I remember wanting Butter to sleep with me and my mother’s rule was that I couldn’t lift her.  So I would pat the bed and call and do everything I could until she would find a way up into the bed (I had a high bed).  Somehow that dog would do it.  So she would sleep with me.  After my Grandmother lost her second husband, she was lonely though…. So Butter went to stay with her.  Butter would chew up anything not in the laundry basket and had a few quirky tendencies, but she was a fun dog!   I’ll never forget when she would go to the pond and swim how her tail was spin like a propeller…

Cat

Starting at about 2, my parents realized I was really allergic to a lot of things.  They had left me with my cousin Joellyn to babysit and I had decided to play with the cats.  My allergic reaction was so bad my parents rushed me to the doctor.  Years later I begged for a cat though.  Our cats were outdoor cats because of my allergies, but I loved having a cat. I named one Triple Trouble and called it TT..  The rest have names that have slipped my mind over the years.  I do remember a big yellow cat that must have been named something like Garfield that climbed my face one day when I insisted on carrying it out to show friends who had brought a dog over.

TT was a gray cat and for some reason I think that cat might have stayed in the house at least part of the time.  More recently we allowed our middle son to get a cat that he named Spy.  I tend to call it Evil as a nickname, but it stayed here until my little one was born.   Spy was the same gray as TT.  Spy is name living on the farm – really living on the farm in Illinois.  I take a picture every time I visit.  That cat has gotten old and seems to be king of the porch at my parents.  Spy was the oddest cat when living here.  He would play fetch with whiffle balls,  turn off and on lights, chase lasers, and only drink running water.  What got him sent to live at the farm was his desire to hunt and attack people by surprise.  With the new little one we had decided that he had to find a new home at the farm.

Horse

Sometime before second grade my dad agreed to get me a horse.  He really didn’t like horses (AT ALL), but he got one for me.  It was beautiful.  I’ve loved horses ever since, though it was the only horse I’ve ever owned.  I named it Puff… yes another thing that I didn’t really get where I got the name until recently when my husband reminded me of the song Puff the Magic Dragon.  Also didn’t get what that song was about.  For the first few years of my life we lived in a trailer by my Aunt Margaret’s.  The back part was a barn yard, so the horse stayed there.  The only day I have a vague memory of was my parents putting my brother and I on the horse and leading it around the barnyard.  Something, probably a dog, walked in front of the horse causing it to panic.  My dad grabbed the horse, my mom grabbed my brother…. I fell.

After we moved to the Illk house that my parent’s got from Ralph Goodrich it was a little while before the horse moved to follow us.  But after a while my dad did build a pin for the horse.  Puff had been broken to ride by my dad’s friend Rick Lane, but would try to rub me off whenever we were near anything.  Most of my time riding was instead at my friend Vicky’s house, whose dad had his own rodeo arena in their yard.

I remember coming home from my grandmother’s one day to just find Puff (and my brother’s horse Daisy) gone. My dad ha. d decided to load them up and send them away.  I do hope sometime I’ll be able to get a horse again.  Maybe one that’s a little better trained for riding, but I’d love to have a horse when we get back to the farm….

Lamb

While living in the trailer, for a short time, my mother was given a lamb.  My mom raised it with a bottle, let it sleep at the end of my bed, and treated it like a dog.  My dad docked it’s tail and it roamed the yard like a dog for a while after it became an adult.  Somewhere there is a picture of my brother with mud on his face where the lamb had decided his hair looked like hay.  My mom has a story of a sales person being confused by the ‘dog’ that had joined the group of dogs to be petted at the door while he was trying to sell her something.  Back then people came to the door with everything from vacuum cleaners (Kirby) to encyclopedias… and yes my parents bought them sometimes – my parents even bought a TV once off the back of a truck that came to our door!

and more oh my!

Besides all the others, we also had everything from Buffalo, Fallow Deer, Ferrets, and lots more.  The bigger animals like the Buffalo and Deer were fun, but more the type of pets like you see in a zoo.  Some of the smaller ones like the ferrets were only at our house for a short visit. – I think the ferret was ours for a weekend.  We also would get everything from chickens to calves that we call pets, but would later become dinner.  One pair even became named lunch and dinner.

Deer – Venison – Hunting?

Deer – Venison – Hunting?

Visiting home it’s not unusual to see deer. – Growing up we actually had deer as pets!  The deer I see on visits now are wdeer by Oakwood Illinoishite tail deer, indigenous to the state of Illinois.  (Growing up our deer were Fallow Deer) They are kind of like large rodents as far as farmers are concerned, but are also great for a beef replacement and a lot cheaper.  Deer come into fields and eat the corn when they have a chance.  Farmers can get nuisance permits to hunt in the off season on their own property to deal with deer coming to literally eat their livelihood.  That being said, deer are cute!  Speaking as someone that has several as pets, they are a little like cute farm animals that will eat from your hand when they are comfortable with you.

From past experience though deer can also be dangerous…. I’ve seen deer throw a tire in the air with their antlers and also hit the sides of their cage and knock the person standing next to it down on the ground. Deer can jump high into the air, so we kept ours with a cage made of old corn cob sides that were raised in the air enough to keep them in. The buck was dangerous with antlers, but I was always convinced he was trying to play with us like he would with other bucks in the herd.   Now though, our deer watching amounts to watching White Tail Deer from a distance.  They come into the fields todeer by Oakwood Illinois snack on corn and bean plants at the early hours of the day and just as the sun starts to set.

Pictures

I like to take pictures of the deer – I actually caught a video of a deer the other day that walked beside our car, turned to look at me as if staring me down and then just started peeing. So far the only shooting I’ve done of deer are pictures……

The deer are everywhere.  We see them crossing roads, in the fields, and even every night at the Oakwood rest stop on our last visit. Some of my pictures are quick pull out the camera there they are again, and others are thought out, they aren’t moving pictures.  When we are home for good, it will be fun to try to catch deer in all their different stages.  I’d love to catch some fawns with their spots!

Hunting

I can’t bring myself to actually hunt deer.  The last hunting I did was raccoons I think with my father.  We also hunted frogs for the legs and deer by Oakwood Illinoiscaught fish.  I’ll remember the traipsing across the field, shotgun, dogs included, and off to look for raccoons.  I also remember the sound of the raccoons squealing after they fell from the tree. The frogs I could take or leave and they went with the turtles that for us kids really just meant we got to play with heads…  Fish were something my father kept stocked in the pond.  I was horned by a catfish at a pond at the farm we called the Ranch and refused to fish anything but Sunfish and Bass after that.  Totally another story….

Now even with spiders I have a hard time killing them off myself.  I once put a spider in a container and told it, if it could get out it was free to go….  I couldn’t bring myself to kill it, but I also couldn’t LIVE with it in my house…. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t have any problem with others hunting as long as they use what they kill and don’t just shoot it and leave it.  Shooting for sport is wrong.

I remember as friends of my parents coming over to hunt over the years.  Sometimes the hunt was bow, and sometimes there was drinking.  I don’t remember seeing my dad drink much, so for me it was always a little funny to see the drunks come over and stumble around with plans to go out and hunt with fatal weapons.  I’ve seen them make plans to walk down each side of the field pointed at each other with shotguns, looking for deer to hunt.  Heading out with coolers of beer….  The time I remember most though was the friend of a my parent’s friend that came over drunk with a bow and needed string it.  He tried with an arrow in the bow!  I don’t think my parents let me see the gash, but someone had to rush him to the emergency room after that.

My dad would go out each year though and get how ever many deer he had permits for and hang them up, then my parents would spend the next few days packaging all the meat.  The kitchen table would be covered with a meat grinder, freezer paper, and parts of meat. My dad would run out to the barn and cut chunks off as they were ready for more and he would cut them up inside with big knives.  The deer were always hung up out in the machine shed.

A couple times my mother decided she wanted to cure the hides and dad took the hides off also. My brother and I had some play space set up in the basement…. Basement for us meant old concrete floor unfinished over 100 year old house where the coal furnace had been that was open to the dirt in some spots.  My mother took one room of the basement, read some books on tanning hides (the internet didn’t exist yet), and gave it a try!  I think the first step was to dry the hide out with salt, so the hides were in the basement covered in salt for months.   I don’t remember them passing that stage, or even what happened to them, but I’m sure they aren’t still in the basement of the old house with my brother living there now!

Venison

I do like venison, though the thing I like most about it is that it’s free.  To me it seems I’d be hypocritical to not be a vegetarian and say I won’t eat venison.  I’ve never really been able to tell the difference in taste.  If someone showed me two cuts of meat, I am fairly certain I could tell you which is which – deer is a lot leaner meat….  But my taste buds just aren’t that refined.   There is a difference in where the deer came from.  I know some deer come from areas that make them taste gamey.  Our area makes the deer taste the same as cows in my view. When I see deer running around in the field, my first thought isn’t that they are dinner – though I do have to admit it is in the top 10.  I’d say though I have the same thoughts about a cow.

Growing up dinner almost always amounted to my mother sending us to the freezer to pull out a type of meat.  We had huge deep freezes in the garage to store all the venison and by type of meat I don’t mean cow or venison.  Type of meat was written on each white wrapped package in black permanent marker!  There were tenderloin, beef chunks, hamburger, little steaks, deer roast, and more.  All labeled in my mother’s writing and all packed into the freezer in the white paper.  – Now my mother goes to a processing plant and gets the meat in a professional looking package.  She takes in any deer they have gotten and the butcher lets her know when it has been turned into what she has listed.  We just tried some new types of deer sticks this last visit!

Retirement

I have no idea what will happen when we retire and move home.  Will my husband decide to give hunting a try?  I can’t see my children deciding to shoot deer with anything but a camera…

deer by Oakwood Illinois
deer by Oakwood Illinois

Dog Escapee?

Dog Escapee?

Dogs visiting our house in Kentucky are pretty rare, but my mother brings hers off and on.  My son, who doesn’t normally watch dogs stayed with the dogs for the day while we went out for a while.  The beagle (who is huge) decided to try to escape!  He normally digs looking for rabbits all over our backyard, but this was a new one.   Growing up, our dogs were generally let to run around the yard and not kept in cages. When they were put in cages – the cages were made of wire from corn cribs. Apparently the wood just doesn’t stand up to a beagle.

So the question is, do we need a stronger fence or a dog sitter that knows more about dogs?  And how do I keep the dogs in?  I’ve been placing chairs over every hole in the yard to stop the dogs from escaping.

Morels

Morels

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I LOVE morels!  With the odd weather this year, I expect morels to pop up early this year.  We have a pear tree flowering in our backyard so I wouldn’t be surprised if the morels are up very soon. I think they actually pop up after the group reaches a certain temperature for a certain amount of time in the spring…. but as a kid I thought they came up under may apples.  I would look under all the may apple plants searching every time we went out.

Searching for morels was a spring activity for everyone in our family every year!  All of my aunts for sure had their secret spots (they still do), and we all would track where the mushrooms were found last year to know where to search next year.  Every possible story was followed, including making sure to pinch the mushrooms off so that the stems were left in case that would cause more to grow.  We would find them growing in our large yard also and my mother would insist no one mow during the whole mushroom season.  My parents would push sticks into the ground near each mushroom to see if they would grow larger.  As the season went on, sticks would mark spots in our yard and we would have daily trips out walking through the wood to find morels. Dinner every night included mushrooms, and there was always a bowl of salt water in the fridge with mushrooms to get the bugs out before washing and cutting up the mushrooms.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in the non rural areas would all come visit and we would visit the not so secret spots.  The mushrooms marked in the yard were saved for little kids to have some mushrooms that were easy to find –  Almost like mushroom hunting training!  Some of the spots were easier to walk through and access, some tougher, and some led to discussions with trespassers who were found sneaking onto our property.

One year while taking my middle son who was probably about five, my mother had told him that the land would one day be his.  Shortly after they ran into people that had trespassed to come hunt on our land….  My middle son proceeded to confront them…..  luckily it turned out OK, but that usually doesn’t go well.   My father has confronted people in the past that have told him they had the owners permission to be there.  I always have to wonder if they are that bold or just that confused about whose property they are on.

People go through extreme measures to keep their spots hidden.  Long before I got my drivers license, my aunt would give me her car to drive and have me drop her at her mushroom spot with instructions when to come back and get her.  She would hike in to her mushroom spot, but didn’t want anyone to know where the entry spot was.  Luckily living on a farm I learned to drive really early!

To cook the mushrooms, we usually just roll them in flower and fry them in butter a little salt and pepper.  My mother would first dip them in egg if she wanted to stretch the amount of mushrooms.  I’ve tried to reproduce them, but mine never come out the same as my mothers.  – Of course I’m sure I’m using a little healthier oil and probably less salt for sure…..  My family still eats them.  Every year we start with just a few for the first meal, and then eat more the next meal…..  According to family stories anyone can be fine one year and allergic the next, so start small.  There are also some people that are allergic their first try, so anyone having them the first time, we just let have a few…. Also from the same family stories.  My mother tells about being pregnant with me, and my grandfather Richter refusing to let her eat morels, just in case.

Personally I love them though!  My husband doesn’t seem to like them, which for me just means MORE for me!  Two years ago during a mushroom hunt our family got our first pet tree frog.  We now have our toad, but mushrooms are completely to blame for the fire bellied toad in our house.

Bugs

In high school for Biology class part of the class required us to catch bugs.  Somehow I still have my bug collection.  – It was in somethings from my mother’s house and my husband was enthralled by it when I tried to throw it out.

Collecting bugs during the 80s included a jar filled with poison and a net.  We would catch the bug and then put them in the poison jar until they died.  The bugs then having suffocated would not be damaged.  My bugs were then attached in the case with thin bug pins and assigned their latin family and classes.  – I’m not even sure that’s still taught in Biology anymore, but when I was in school it was as semester.

We also spent a semester dissecting a cat.  Each muscle had to be separated out! I’m fairly certain I’ll never forget the smell of the formaldehyde.

High school was tough for me, I was in a high school that focused on sports and had no social skills… but I did enjoy science. (Not the teachers who seemed to cater to the kids that fit in better, but definitely to the classes)   I spent high school overloading my schedule with math and science.  All that being said, I became a first generation college student.  I actually think in another time, my father would have enjoyed college.  I’ll never forget when he came to my college graduation and my grandmother declared that h**l must have frozen over!  Even without him ever having said it, I’m fairly certain that he was proud that I finished.

My generation was the generation that made it through college on the Richter side.  In reality it was mostly the women that graduated college… (my brother also finished!)  I have first cousins (women) that became teachers, nurses, sales, and I’m sure more.  The men mostly went on to become farmers like their fathers, a couple became sales managers, plumbers, some went into the service for a little bit.  – I say that but my amazing Aunt Linda (dad’s sister) went to EIU and became a teacher.  She was the youngest and taught until retirement.

Family Holiday Photos

Family Holiday Photos

Looking through my own family photos I find that many of my family photos were Christmas pictures!  Everyone dressed up – and apparently I liked to put the bow on myself sometime during the evening while at my Aunt’s house too!  I definitely remember those hot wheels, and riding them around and around the house. That’s house one corner of the fireplace bricks got broken off!  I’ve forgotten that red cowgirl outfit, but seeing it makes me want to make myself a new one to wear again!

Christmas and Thanksgiving were the times of year everyone got together in my Aunt’s basement.  There was no invitation that I ever remember seeing, we just all knew to go.  Coats were piled in one of the bedrooms down the hall, and I’ll never forget my father’s reminding us as we left each year to leave with a better coat than we came with.

Kids would get passed around and the teens would hang out by the pool table at the back around the corner in the basement.  The brothers and sisters mostly all sat at the one table at the end, though my aunt Linda, if memory serves was usually around the couch or moving around.  Most of the cousins as we got older would hang out by the fireplace. I have no idea if there was ever a fire in it, but I remember sitting on the floor near it and talking to everyone.

The kitchen was always full of potluck from everyone, and by kitchen I mean the second kitchen down in the basement. – Though when I think of it, I can’t remember what was there other than lots and lots of food.  My favorite was always my Aunt Tootie’s noodles!  I would look for them every year.

I know other parties happened at my Aunt’s, just not that many pictures were taken.  Parties also occurred other times of the year, but Christmas was the biggest treasure trove.  I especially remember cookouts with Lemon Chicken (turns out the main ingredient was beer). where everyone stayed gathered in the back yard and barnyard.

We also gathered many times at my grandfathers years earlier, and get together at the pond where my aunt Linda now lives. There were also summers at my Uncle Franks – that included all sorts of things like snapping turtle… and of course 4th of July at my cousin Buddy’s!

 


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