Once when we were really small, we were walking around in a park with my aunt. As we strolled along the lakeside, my mother and aunt were chatting a few steps ahead of us. My sister started to veer closer to the lake because something caught her eye. You're thinking, small girl, in a park, by the lake, the thing that caught her eye must have been the sparkly water, or a beautiful goldfish, perhaps a cute dog. No, it was a bat, but not just any bat, an unconscious bat. What happened to the bat, we still don't know, but as my sister picked it up (yes, she did), one of it's fangs just happened to sink into her flesh. At this point most people would be terrified that they just contracted rabies. Not her. She decided not to tell my mother because, "she would just freak out."
Then there was the time that she was scratched by a very wild, very vicious cat at my grandmother's house. My mother did find out and did worry that she would get an infection.
Then there was the time when we were teenagers and on a family trip to the beach. My sister walked out of the water and up to me with this beautiful sea creature in her hand. That wasn't unusual. She was always catching animals. Once she caught a duck and begged to bring it home. Another time, when my mother was working outside, my sister went to the pond, caught several fish, and snuck them into the house. When my mother came in from working outside she went into her room to clean up. She found the fish. . . in her bathtub! In water, of course. Oh, and I can't leave out the time that my sister brought home a snake. She put it in an ice cream bucket with small slits in the top for air. The next morning, my mother saw the top off the bucket and asked my sister about it. My sister explained that she didn't think the snake was getting enough air. We never found the snake.
So I didn't think anything of her walking up with another animal in her hand. It was really pretty. It was dark fuschia on top and electric blue on the bottom. It was a jellyfish. She said, "Marcia, can you get this off. It's stuck." It had wedged it's microscopic, stinger tentacles from each one of it's many legs right into her hand. As I was removing it, she said "my hand is really tingling and it's getting worse." Thank goodness we weren't in Australia.
But, the biting incident that tops all other biting incidents has to be this:
One summer we were preparing for my grandparents' 50th anniversary party. That means that all of my gigantic, crazy family would be in town. And that town I'm talking about is my very small hometown (population less than 1,000). The week before, my sister had been at a basketball camp. As we pulled into the driveway after picking her up, my mother popped the trunk and told my sister to get her suitcase. The next morning, I went to the lake with friends and my mother mowed the yard. Around lunch time, one of my friends dropped me off at my house. As I walked up the steps to the front porch, I noticed something strange. There was what looked like blood spatters on the railing. I had a terrible thought that my mother somehow injured herself while mowing. Or perhaps my grandfather had come over to do something with his farm machinery or chainsaw and was injured. No one had called me though, so I wasn't really sure it was even blood. So I opened the front door and said, "it looks like there is blood all over the railing." My mother walked around the corner from the kitchen and said, "dang, I didn't get it all." At this point I'm looking at my mother standing there and my sister sitting across the room on the couch watching TV. Everything looked pretty normal and no one was sobbing about a maimed relative so I really wondered what had happened. Did they murder someone and are now trying to cover up the evidence? Did someone in the family decide to slaughter an entire pig to roast for the party? If so, why didn't anyone tell them that the front porch is not the best place to do it?
Earlier in the day, when my mother walked outside, she noticed the trunk was still open because my sister never got her bag out. She closed it and stuck her head back inside to tell my sister, again, to get her bag. As midday rolled around, my sister finally took a notion to get that suitcase. She walked out to the car, opened the trunk, leaned in to pick up the suitcase, and . . . a squirrel jumped on her head. We grew up in the country, so she didn't freak out. She thought, there's a squirrel on my head, it will be afraid of me and jump off. Her head must be comfortable because it didn't budge. After a minute, it moved a little and it's claw scratched the side of her head. That is when she got a little worried. They have really sharp claws and she didn't want to be blinded so she jerked her hands up to cover her face. That is when the squirrel went crazy. It was scratching and biting like a wild, rabid squirrel. Still, it never jumped from her head. She screamed for my mother to come out and help her, but my mother was in the back of the house and didn't hear. So my sister had to go all the way to the front door, open it, and scream inside, all with the squirrel still trying to make mince meat of her head. My mother rushed outside and had to grab the squirrel and throw it down on the porch. By this point, the squirrel had scratched my sister many times on the head, arms, and face, and had bitten her in several places, including through the upper part of her ear and to the bone on one finger. That finger wound shot blood out every time her heart would beat (think CSI where they determine that the splatters of blood ALL OVER THE PLACE are arterial spatter). They got inside and my sister got cleaned up. My mother cleaned up the murder-scene-looking front porch. While she was cleaning, the squirrel was in the yard watching her and chattering. Right after this was when I got home.
I have to pause here to say that when they finished the story, I laughed so hard I thought I would pee in my pants. My mother thought I was so mean for laughing like that. Come on, it's FUNNY! Only, the funny was just getting started.
My mother called the doctor's office to get her and my sister rabies shots (she had been scratched when she extricated the squirrel from her daughter's head). The doctor said he didn't think it was necessary. The next doctor she called said the same thing. Are you kidding me? The squirrel has to be suffering from something, it's crazy! We decided we needed to trap it and have it tested for rabies. My mother called the police station to see if they would come try to shoot the squirrel. When they showed up, it was nowhere in sight. Sneaky little bugger. In a few minutes, someone called to ask if everything was ok. My mother wondered why he was asking. He said he heard on the scanner that the police needed to go to her house. My mother was so embarrassed. The dispatcher didn't say anything about why, she just said they needed to go. Oh, and yes people in small towns in the South have scanners. Many stereotypes about the South are not true but that one is. I'm glad it is because without them, life would be a little less entertaining!
Since the shooting thing didn't work, my grandfather and my uncle set some traps in the yard. Later that afternoon, I needed to take some things to my grandparents house. As I opened the door, my hands full, the squirrel, who was sitting at the bottom of the steps, charged the door while chattering loudly. I slammed the door just in time to keep it out of the house, but I could still hear it chattering and scratching at the door. This time, I wasn't laughing. We were being held hostage by something that weighed less than 2 pounds. I formulated a plan. We needed weapons. We gathered up all the brooms, baseball bats, and tennis racquets we had. We propped them by the front door. No one could leave without one of them in hand. I grabbed a tennis racket and went out swinging. I made it to my grandparents house. When I got back, I was almost to the door when I heard the chattering. Crap, I left the tennis racquet in the car. Gripped with fear, I bolted to the front door and made it just in time. I walked in and announced that I was moving to my grandparents house until the little devil was captured and moved.
The next day we still hadn't captured the squirrel. He was probably sitting in a tree and laughing at our futile efforts. We also still had not found someone to give my sister and my mother rabies shots. Rabies shots are time sensitive. If you don't get them within a certain time, it's too late so my mother was starting to get a little frantic. My sister came to my temporary home to visit with all the family that afternoon. While we were gone, a couple of our friends from school were at their church which is very near our house. Since they were so close, they decided to drop by and say hello. As they were getting out of the car, they noticed my mother hunched over, stalking around the yard, holding a broom by the handle with the brush end raised above her head. They called her name and told her they just came by to say hello to my sister and me. She said, "I'm hunting a squirrel." That, and that we were up at our grandparents' house, was all she said to them. I'm not sure they ever came back.
By late that afternoon, we had called several more doctors who would not give rabies shots or didn't have them to give. My mother was now imagining her baby foaming at the mouth and dying a horrible death while tethered to a hospital bed in isolation. At my grandparents' house, with everyone there, she called yet another doctor. We didn't really listen to her telephone conversation until it was clear that this one said no also. That's when, in a slightly raised voice that caught our attention, my mother said, "all right, I'm making a list of people to bite when we get rabies and you're at the top." Then she slammed the phone down. Once again, I laughed really hard. My mother was not amused.
Finally, we found a doctor 45 minutes away with the same philosophy we had - "better safe than sorry." One day after starting the rabies shots, we caught the squirrel. We still weren't sure if it had rabies or not but since they had started the shots, we didn't have to rush it off to be tested. We kept it and observed it for a few days. Because we live in a small town, by this time everyone knew what was going on. A friend of ours, upon hearing the story, said, "that's Buster." Turns out this squirrel was abandoned as a baby, raised by this family, and successfully released into the wild. She said he had always been a little testy. After the observation period, all was clear - no rabies. We had one problem though, he could not stay. A woman in the next town over asked to move him to her yard.
Things I learned:
1. Squirrels can be very vicious, especially if they think you are withholding food. This is what we suspect happened to my sister. Since this squirrel had been hand fed before, we think he assumed she had food, and when she just stood there, he thought that she was keeping it from him. Or maybe he is just a crazy squirrel, who knows.
2. Mothers get kind of crazy when they think their youngest child has rabies.
3. You no longer have to get a bajillion shots in the stomach for rabies. It's still quite a few shots, but you can get them in the arm or hip.
4. Don't offer to adopt an attack squirrel. It will attack you too.