Sometimes I feel guilty. I post and write more often about adventures I have shared with Stephanie Parker McKean than I do of those with my sister Vicky, and brothers Jeff, Jerry and Chris Potter. (I lost the brother nearest me in age, Greg, years ago. He shared many of our adventures, and if I write about the amusement park next, will have a starring role.) I love them all dearly—but Stephanie is just a couple of years older, and has largely stayed west of the Mississippi, so we spent a lot more time together, in spite of our own lengthy separations.
We’ve shared a lot of stories, over the years—all true, if memory serves—but not all our adventures ended well, even when we started with the best of intentions. We do admit to killing a huge bullfrog when we lived in Splendora—we’re animal people—and the frog had injured himself. Our neighbors went gigging and caught bullfrogs to sell for their legs, which are supposed to taste like chicken. (I managed to avoid getting caught disposing of my food when they invited us to a cookout.)
Steve and I sympathized with the amphibian—and we undoubtedly named him, although I don’t remember what—and she decided that with an eye hanging loose off the side of his head, he’d be in danger of being captured again, but would be unable to escape.
So, she sterilized a long sewing needle with alcohol we sneaked out of the cabin (we lived in a log cabin with half a roof), and carefully sewed the frog’s eye back on his head. Frogs are squirmy, and she’d never operated on a frog, so just getting the eye in the general vicinity of the socket seemed good enough. My job was to hold the squirmy slimy guy and cry. Stephanie might remember better—I don’t think the bullfrog survived our kind intentions. But if he died there in our yard, at least the neighbors couldn’t gig him again. Right?
During our stay in Splendora, we also tried to keep a stray black cat from getting shot. Feral cats ate chicks, and much of our food at the time came from a small flock of chickens. After a few chicks disappeared, the cat became my father’s number one enemy.
Steve and I didn’t want the poor cat to be shot—such a painful way to die. (And the cat never bothered her hen Blinky, so she couldn’t see getting rid of the cat by shooting it) Once again, she stepped in to perform medical magic—we would put the cat to sleep. Everyone knows that putting an animal to sleep is the humane way to end its life. We sterilized water by boiling it in a rusty old can, sneaked a full bottle of aspirin out of the house to add to the mixture, threw in some leaves—and I think we added a few drops of motor oil, commonly used in the south to treat mange on animals. I’m not sure where we heard oil would make animals sleep. We force fed the cat the “medicine” out of a doll’s baby bottle and watched with worry. The cat went about its cat business, and we were afraid when dad came home from work, he would shoot it. The cat disappeared, eventually, and we looked around for the lifeless body—the cat was lying on the far side of the corral. We discussed burial plans and whether we could sneak a shovel out of the cabin without being caught.
Stephanie went to get the shovel, because I always messed up secret plans. She raced back, red-faced and gasping for air—but no one had seen her. We chose a spot, began digging—then turned to see the cat sitting by the fence watching us. We had failed again to help an animal in need, although we were both secretly relieved that the cat woke up. I think we knew in our heads if not our hearts that dead is dead.
The attempt encouraged the cat to move on to less sympathetic chicken owners, and the last we knew, it was alive and well in Splendora.
Thankfully, we moved soon after, and never subjected another animal to our cures.
We left Texas, and headed east–to Marietta, Georgia, Then we opened a pet shop.
Talk about fun…