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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Feeding the Wildlife

By Peggy Race of Day to Day Life of a Very Lazy Gardener

Visiting my grandparents in Northern Wisconsin was always an adventure when we were small. It was like a holiday camp. My dad and his brothers and sister would try to show up at Grandma and Grandpa's house the same week in July. It was a huge house. The adults and any babies got to stay in the bedrooms upstairs and we and the cousins would have places in sleeping bags on the porch or in the dining room.

We went picking wild strawberries then made homemade ice cream and put those teeny strawberries in. I remember all of us squabbling over whose turn it was to turn the crank on the ice cream freezer. I bet that my dad or one of my uncles had to get Grandpa's old pharmaceutical scales out when dishing out the ice cream to make sure that NO cousin or sibling got a gram more or less ice cream than anyone else.

We'd get taken fishing. We kids usually fished at the lake shore for little sunfish. When we got bored of that, we started catching crawdads (crayfish). We discovered that if you dropped your hooked worm between the rocks on the shore, a crawdad would come up and pinch it with its claws. Then if you were very careful not to jiggle the line and pulled up very carefully, you could pull the crawdad out of the water. Then once you had the crawdad suspended over a bucket and gave the line a little jiggle, the crawdad would release its claw and fall into the bucket.

The worm could be reused all afternoon to harvest crawdads. It was much more rewarding than fishing which was very hit and miss at our skill level. We had to put a board and a rock on the top of the bucket to prevent the little crustaceans from crawling out. What was done with that huge, white, plastic, pickle bucket full of live crawdads, I don't remember. Perhaps one of the adults drove it back to the lake and released them. It’s a shame we didn't eat them. I think the aunts got a bit squeamish.

My Grandpa Carew died when I was still very small so the memories I have of him are few. They are really good memories though!

My Grandpa was a pharmacist in that small town. He had a wonderful drugstore. It was one of those old fashioned drug stores that had a soda fountain. I have a photograph of my Uncle Paul behind the counter at the soda fountain. Uncle Paul had a "flat top" haircut. It made the place look like a 1950's movie set.
Pharmacies have a very specific smell to them. I don't know if it is the medicines or the capsules or a combination of all the things in those back rooms, but they DO have a specific smell to them. It has given me a positive association with pharmacies that has lasted my whole life. I can't go into a pharmacy without thinking of Grandpa's place.

Peggyracevisitinggrandparents Grandpa used to open the pharmacy for a short while on Sunday so that if anybody really needed to, they could get their prescriptions filled. According to my mother, when we were visiting and went into the drugstore after Mass on Sunday to see Grandpa, he would give out free chocolate sodas to his pretty little granddaughters. We would still be in our nice clothes from church with the little white gloves and Mom was less than pleased to know that we were going to get everything covered in chocolate AND spoil our dinner. Who wouldn't love a grandfather like that?

When Grandma and Grandpa had lots of visitors, the rubbish in their trash cans got full way before the town's garbage truck was due to empty them. Grandpa would then have to take their rubbish to the dump which was way out of town in an old pot belly sink hole that is common for that part of the country.

Grandpa would make the "trip to the dump" in his old WWII Army surplus Willis jeep. That jeep had the best horn! It went "AaaROOgaaa" and when riding, we pestered Grandpa to hit the horn as much as possible. If Grandpa knew we were coming for a visit, he'd hold off on his trip to the dump and wait until we got there.

I'm sure that old jeep was a death trap. They were known for their instability and they tipped over all the time so you had to take corners carefully. As a kid, you don't know about these things and you always feel safe when you're with your Grandpa. He sat my sister Sally and me in to our seats - no seat belts and told us to sit still. He then loaded up the rubbish into the back of the jeep.

It was after dinner when we went to the dump and it was starting to get dark. Grandpa had to turn on the headlights. What a jolly trip that was. Smelly old garbage in the back, squealing little girls in the seats in the middle encouraging the driver to sound the horn again and again, and a happy Grandpa driving.

When we got to the dump, there were BEARS down in the pit! That was the reason we had come after dinner. Grandpa wanted us to see the bears. Bears are omnivorous and will take advantage of any easy food. These North American Black Bears were quite docile but we were not allowed out of the jeep. Grandpa moved the jeep so that the light from the headlights shone down onto the bears.

I remember seeing one bear with an old jar of mayonnaise. I was fearful that the glass would break and cut the bear. Grandpa threw our garbage down into the pit and returned to the jeep. We watched for a little while longer and then turned around and went back along the road to the house. Naturally, we wanted to go every night after that, but we were told there wasn't enough garbage to justify a trip to the dump.

With modern garbage collection, I am sure that this new crop of children in Wisconsin are being denied a rare treat.

[The vault of new stories is running low again. If you are interested in contributing, the guidelines are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love your story, Peggy, and it brings back memories of my childhood. Times and pleasures were so much simpler then.

I smiled when you wrote the sound of the jeep's horn because that is the way we always made the sound of the horn when we were playing at driving.

Oh, what a magic memory. Thank you.

Just goes to show how fickle one's memory can be. I've been told that it wasn't the jeep's horn that went like that, it was Grandpa's Model A Ford truck.

I'm glad you like the story! :-)

Nothing can beat wonderful grandparent memories and you shared these beautifully! Oh how I loved this story and there were so many things that were stirred from my childhood like the sleeping arrangements and the old drugstore and the jeep........ Thank you.

I remember horns like that, but I never got to go to the dump and I would have loved that!

it was a fabulous place. when you all got older, we'd pitch tents in the side yard so you could sleep out there. the neighbors called it julia's tent city. xo, ma

I enjoyed your story very much. It made me feel nostalgic for a gentler time. You might consider sending it
in to the "Good Old Days" magazine, as they purchase and print stories like yours. My sister got a story published in it last year.

So different from the life I lived. That's the value I've found here. It's like looing into life magazine or viewing a Norman Rockwell painting. You took me somewhere to enjoy something otherwise America wouldn't have let me see. I had no grandfathers to enjoy or see myself in.

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