We have always been a family of animal and nature lovers, especially dogs. Our first family pet was a cocker spaniel and we called her Judy, she really was my brother Johns dog, but we shared her. I was about twelve years old when Judy joined our family. My brother and sister Elizabeth had just recovered from a very bad attack of whooping cough.
It was their first outing, after being confined for weeks, firstly indoors and then as they recovered, isolated in the garden. I was taking them for a walk with our mum, when a black cocker spaniel, with about six puppies, came tumbling out of a garden. One of them made a beeline for John and he scooped her up, and that was it, Judy became a much, loved member of our family for the next fifteen years.
John, Elizabeth and Judy
Not all our pets were as orthodox as Judy, with thanks to John, any bird with a broken wing, was brought to our house, he once brought a seagull, which had been shot, the poor thing was in a bad way. John walked to the RSPA in Barnsley, carrying the seagull in a cardboard box, so that it could have some medical attention. One animal, which our mum, absolutely refused to let him have, was a pet mouse, she was terrified of them. On my eighteenth birthday, I was standing at our garden gate, when I saw this scruffy looking urchin coming up the road, wearing shorts (no shirt), as he drew closer, I realised it was John, carrying a paper bag in his hand. His chest was scratched as were his hands, he thrust the paper bag at me, saying that here was my birthday present.
(pretend this is black)
Inside the bag was a black mouse. Luckily I have never been scared of mice. The crafty little tyke had bought for me, something he had wanted, explaining that he hadnt got me a white mouse because they cost 1/3d
(seven and a half pence), and he only had a shilling, which was the price of the black mouse. He had walked it home from town again because he hadnt got the money for his bus fare. I had the job of telling our mum, what my surprise birthday present was, she nearly fainted, but true to form, we were allowed to keep it. Stan had a box made for him, and we called him John Dillinger, whenever we played with him, mum would make herself scarce.
In those days, I had to work Saturday mornings, one Saturday, I was just about to leave home, when I heard this screaming coming from upstairs. I dashed to the bottom of the stairs and there was my poor mum, still in her nightgown, which was clutched around her legs, yelling her head off. John Dillinger had escaped. I probably hadnt closed his box, properly, when I had fed him earlier.
Much to my mums horror and distress, he had got into bed with her, and she had felt him run down her leg, she threw the blankets over to one side, just in time to see him scurrying down to the bottom of the bed.
Dad was at work, so I dragged John out of bed, and he rescued JD, and put him back in his box, this incident, caused our mum to feel quite ill all day, but bless her, she never said that the mouse had to go. I think she was very relieved when the mouse eventually died of old age.
The next pet to come Johns way, was a polecat of all things, he had been asked by the local shopkeeper to search his garage, he knew that there was an animal of some kind lurking in there and he was nervous.
Sure enough, John coaxed it out, and there was this beautiful polecat, nobody knew where it had come from or who owned it. Notices were put up in the local shops, and post office, and as no one came forward to claim it, it took up residence at our house. This time, mum did put her foot down, and would not allow it inside the house. John could do anything with that polecat, teaching it to jump through hoops, climb up sticks and other tricks. There was one thing, which only happened once, when we practically threw John out of the house, he came indoors after playing with his pet and stood in front of the fire. I had never smelled anything as vile in my life, as that aroma, which filled the room. It was absolutely putrid, there was a chorus of Get outside, from all of us and he never did that again. Not long afterwards the polecat was sold to a man who wanted it for ferreting, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.
PETS (part 2)
When my brother was seventeen years old, he decided that he would like to keep pigs, he found an old barn, built a sty, which was near to where we lived, and for a nominal rent, he was allowed to use it.
After much saving of his money, he eventually bought two sows, one of which was with children, I think the correct name is in farrow. By coincidence, these piglets were due to be born at the same time as our first baby. My brother, bless him, was taking bets as to who would drop first. This was his uncouth expression, and my sister Elizabeth was disgusted that I was being compared with a pig, although on reflection I do understand why, I was so huge, I too could have been having a litter.
The pig beat me by one week and there was great rejoicing in our family that nine piglets had been born, this was the good news, the bad news was that the mother, laid on all but two and killed them. This was a dilemma and also very sad, the day after, my mum was in the kitchen and little brother ( who by now was a big brother), came in with two wriggly bundles fastened under his duffel coat. He had been so scared that these two would perish he brought them home, some mothers would have had hysterics, but not ours, she was a diamond on such occasions.
She despatched John to the chemist, for two babies feeding bottles and a selection of teats, red faced brother, rushed off, quite embarrassed at his shopping list, but after all, his pigs were in dire straits.
It did not take the pigs long to get the idea, of feeding from a babys bottle, in fact my mum looked after them so well, whilst John was at work, that I think she thought that they were babies. An old fire guard was produced from the garden shed, and a make shift pen was erected in the kitchen. We have often marvelled that our mum did this, she was so spotlessly clean, but having said that so were the pigs. They soon recognised the sound of her voice and at feeding time, they would squeal and become quite excited. This was all very well, whilst they were smallish, but as they started to grow, it became hard work trying to contain them in this makeshift pen. Pigs arent daft, and they soon found an escape route, it was absolute bedlam at times, especially on washday.
The little tykes would be running round the kitchen (although they were house trained), pull at the electricity lead to the washer, and out it would come. The number of times, my mum had to plug in the washer must have been in the hundreds.
The time was quickly coming when the pigs would have to be re-habilitated, luckily the sty in the barn was still being rented by John, so the pigs werent homeless. One day my mum was going to the shops and she was stopped by a neighbour, whose garden adjoined mum & dads at the back. Mrs Feeley, said the neighbour, I think that I am going mad, at least my husband says that I am, what do you think, I could have sworn I heard the squealing of pigs coming from your house last night. I had to go to bed early with a couple of aspirin. That did it! My mum apologised profusely, feeling very embarrassed herself and explained, Mrs. X had heard pigs.
That very evening the two little pigs, who by now, were growing into large little pigs, were transferred back to their natural home.
I dont know of anyone else who had, firstly a polecat as a pet, and two little pigs, shortly afterwards.
Stan and I were married on the tenth September, 1960, my sister, was just ten years old, and my brother was thirteen years old. Elizabeth like all little girls was thrilled to bits to be a bridesmaid, and a very pretty one she made too. Brother John, was less than impressed, to be given the distinction of being one of the ushers, after all, it meant wearing a suit and a tie.
The wedding car had left taking my mum and the bridesmaids to church, whilst I was at home, with dad and John, waiting to make my grand exit, in those days, the neighbours would stand outside to see the bride. When the car arrived to take me and Dad to church, John was missing, he was digging for worms in the back garden, HE was going fishing, as soon as all this wedding nonsense was over.
Over the years, as I have described as a family we had a variety of pets, and it is worth repeating that in this respect, my mum was a star.
Sometimes there may have been some grumbling, but when it came to animals or birds, she could never say no.
I have already written about the rag and bone man and the cups and saucers, he would exchange for rags, or sometimes we would get a balloon. I think the most unusual exchange for a bundle of rags, was a tiny black chicken, dad had been to see his brother Bill and family, he arrived home carrying a cardboard box. Naturally we were all agog as to what was inside the box, when it was opened, out popped a little black chicken. Apparently the rag and bone man had given one of my cousins this chicken in exchange for some rags, and my aunt had put her foot down, saying that it had to go. Dad being the softie that he was, said he would bring it home for us, I dont think that mum was too happy about it, but as soon as John saw it, then that was it.
I have often read about people keeping chickens in their homes, and I must say that as odd as it seems to me, that is exactly what we did. The chicken was promptly christened Dickie, and out came a birdcage, which had been in the loft for years.
From time to time, Dickie was allowed the run of the house for exercise, and we were forever disinfecting the floors, as he grew he would settle on the top of dads feet as dad snoozed in the rocking chair. I must admit that mum got fed up as time went on, but still Dickie continued to rule the roost, so to speak.
To side track, John would be about two years old and I was nine, I was susceptible to tonsillitis and used to run very high temperatures, which scared my mum and dad half to death. Around the time that Dickie joined our household a new wonder drug became available, I would imagine that this was the first anti-biotic, this drug was called M & B.
I never did discover what the initials stood for, we had had Dickie for a few weeks and he was starting to grow, I fell ill with yet another bout of tonsillitis and Doctor Crowther prescribed a course of these tablets for me. There was no mother more particular or careful than ours was, she would put anything dangerous way out of arms reach, such as boxes of matches and any medicines; the favourite place was on top of the kitchen cabinet, which was too tall for either of us to reach. What she didnt bargain for was that John could climb like a little monkey, and if there was any way at all that he could reach things, then he would do just that.
I was about halfway through my course of M & B tablets, and I had been allowed to get up and lie on the settee, I was drifting into a pleasant doze, when I heard my mum give one almighty yell, I nearly jumped three foot into the air.
My sweet little brother was feeding Dickie one of the tablets, at the age of two he had the sense to break them into little pieces, and Dickie being a daft chicken anyway was quite happily accepting them. Much to my mums horror, John had opened the drawers in the kitchen cabinet, and made a ladder of them, thus he had managed to reach the tablets. (That was the end of the unreachable place in our house), fortunately he had only taken one out of the box, and mum tormented herself for ages, imagining the possible consequences, if John had eaten them. However, Dickie was the victim, within ten minutes, he fell off his perch and landed on the floor of the birdcage with his legs in the air. Tears all round, that was the end of Dickie so we all thought, nobody could bear to pick him up, so it was decided that he be left there until dad came home from work. After which a burial service would take place, when dad did lift him out from the cage, the strangest thing happened, there was a muffled croak. Once again, we all jumped, by this time, I had decided that I wasnt going to miss out on paying my last respects to Dickie, so I abandoned my sick bed. A couple of minutes elapsed and there it was again, another croak, we thought that a miracle had occurred and that Dickie had been raised from the dead.
For three days the poor thing was in a coma, then gradually he began to come round, until he could be placed back on his perch, I must admit that he fell off a few more times, but at least he survived. Eventually, the time came when he had to be put outside in the shed, with a length of the garden covered in wire netting, so that he could run up and down.
He didnt take too kindly to this at first, but Dickie had the last laugh, he laid an egg.!!!!!!!!
music ~ "Crazy"