WHY ARE THERE no camels in North America, outside of zoos, of course?* Why are there no monkeys? There are monkeys in South America, Central America; surely we have the climate somewhere—Florida, of course, comes to mind.
The older I get the more things I stumble upon for which I have no answers. Worse. I never thought of them as questions.
This happens when my reading becomes more far-flung, location-wise, most recently a mystery set in South Africa. Now there’s an unpleasant-sounding place, no offense to South Africans. Some say it’s quite lovely there. I’m not going to share the title because the book was terribly long and irritating. However, there are all sorts of creatures roaming about Africa that we don’t see here on a day-to-day basis, which got me to wondering.
Generally I stick to Scotland, largely because of Alexander McCall Smith, who makes me very happy. Or I wander about in England, same there. Have you read Angela Thirkell? She was the Seinfeld of her day, you might say, writing excruciatingly witty novels about nothing much happening in the English countryside between 1929 and the early 1950s.
I don’t notice much beyond dogs in my (rather limited) reading about Scotland. That there might not be much other animal life is understandable, given the climate. I remember my one and only visit to Edinburgh, in 1969, in which I spent several damp and frozen spring days in a Salvation Army hostel tucked under a thin blanket and feeding coins into a space heater while my friend and traveling companion Maureen traipsed off to see the whatnot.
To return to my theme. I read somewhere that there were no squirrels in Washington at some point, or maybe it was just black squirrels, I forget. Now they’re everywhere. My friend Kristen has one in her attic. She’d like to get rid of it.
So, squirrels can live here quite happily, eating apricots when one has an apricot tree, which one did and thankfully no longer does. If you don’t have an orchard and serfs to do the plucking, beware of fruit trees, that’s what I always say (or have been saying, at least, since 1989).
We have plenty of feral mosquitoes around, also cats. More cats than I need, that’s for sure, and certainly for My Prince, since he’s allergic and breaks out in sneezes when near one. I don’t think I’d want one even if I were old, really old, not the old I am now, but decrepitly old with bazooms hanging to my knees . . . no offense to cat lovers.
My sister Jean tells the story of being in a cabana dressing room in Long Beach, New York, with Aunt Ruthie when she was changing out of her bathing suit. She front-snapped her bra around her waist, rotated it about and then folded her breasts, as if she were making puff pastry (I haven’t made any puff pastry yet, but might, and have read that this is what you do) and stuffed them into the cups.
This is neither here nor there, but interesting, don’t you agree?
Anyway, there is no age that I can reach where cats would be particularly welcome.
Dogs are another story. I am a dog person. I am, particularly, a Lula person, my grand-dog who also is not fond of cats. She can carry three balls in her mouth and sometimes gets the vapors when it’s too hot. Someday she’ll make a nice area rug.
That I am a bird person is a more recent discovery. Not the sort to tramp about with binoculars and a notebook (and a pith helmet—I think one needs to wear one) marking down new species and shouting “By Jove!” But the sort who has parakeets, who lead far more interesting lives than you might suspect.
Someday I’d like to have a parrot or a cockatoo, perhaps. A gorgeously colored bird that I could wear on my shoulder, as I like feathered accessories, and train to talk. Perhaps I’ll start wearing kimonos and smoking cigars.
My father’s family had a parrot named Polly, which may have sounded more original in 1915. She was an intensely jealous bird, who thought herself the most beautiful of the females in the household, of which there were five, plus Grandma. When gentlemen callers arrived she would ruffle her feathers and mutter, “Polly prettier,” as one or another sister would descend the staircase to meet her date.
She also hated cats, but that’s another story.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” sometimes writes about animals when there is little going on in her back forty.
* LittleBird Nancy points out that we did indeed have camel-like critters in these here United States—back in the last Ice Age. In fact, they originated in North America, but before even we Baby Boomers made it onto the scene. The remains of several Camelops hesternus have been found trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Including a young one named Clyde—they’re still searching for more pieces of him.