Aboard my ark

Some people are born with the gift of coping - for example, with a very old, big, sprawling house wherein dogs, cats, mice, pack rats, wander (no matter how hard you try to fight them off and out) - though some of us have to acquire the gift through a difficult struggle. Mine is like that.

After a house has stood for nearly 100 years it acquires plenty of dirt no matter how you try to fight it. Here are a parlor, living room, four bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen, one screen porch and one front porch. There are bugs of all varieties. I don't mind at all when snakes come in, as I hope they will frighten out the mice. The pack rat prefers the oven which can't be used, as years ago the mice tore out the insulation and, if it is replaced, they would remove it again.

The big pack rat is not like an old building rat. A handsome creature - a female - she made a soft nest in the broiler. She has big brown eyes and her tail is handsome and she is nearly golden in color. She takes my silver tableware and stores it under the oven. I retrieve my belongings; she takes them again. She does not like my looks and vanishes at the sight of me. I cannot induce her into a Have-A-Heart trap so that I can take her to be released far from here.

My least troublesome guests lasted only a short time, some years ago. They were small spotted skunks. They were well mannered - never one skunky smell in my house. I caught them one by one in a skunk- size Have-A-Heart, covered the trap with a blanket and took them far from home. They did not return. But when the skunks left, the mice returned. They are so bold they will walk over the top of a sleeping dog or cat. The only difficulty I had was with the skunk who preferred to live in the stovepipe. When he finally emerged he was removed to a nice meadow far away.

Sometimes my pig, Little Brother, is in the house. Some wonderful pictures were taken of us having breakfast together in the kitchen.

But my best boarder was an orphan calf. He sat on my lap every evening and watched television. In time he outgrew me and was allowed to wander the house. Finally he outgrew the house and was allowed out the back door. Three times a day he banged on the door because he still wanted his nursing bottle. He must have been a year old before I refused to bottle-feed him.

He is now a huge beast whom I call Calfalier. He likes to sprawl flat in the sun when a calf isn't around. The January calf is full of mischief, and when Calfalier wants to doze in the sun the calf keeps dancing up to him and poking him awake.

Besides these assorted forms of life, there has been many a baby pig, goat, lamb - goodness knows what all - under this old roof.

Conditions at the barn aren't much better. Calfalier is white, and that does beautiful things to his eyes. He has long, even horns which go straight up in the air, and when there is a light behind him his horns are lined with gold.

I have no idea who or what will be my next house guest. But it's guaranteed I'll have an interesting time and my house will stay dirty in spite of the fact that I'd love it to be neat and shiny.

''Friends'' (I guess) tell me that I won't live much longer in my sprawling old house, that one day it will sprawl completely - on top of us all. That could be exciting, too.!

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