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Animal Crackers

They help us connect--with ourselves.

Did you like Animal Crackers when you were a kid?

I was more of a Cracker Jack girl. But the box Animal Crackers came in was cool (do they still?). That little white cloth strap. So cute. But the box was stable. Set it down, and it stayed put. Not like Cracker Jack. Had to eat the whole box in one sitting. If you set it down, it toppled. After that, you knew it was all over. Caramel popcorn and peanuts everywhere. Even the 5-second rule wouldn’t save you. No matter how fast you were, the dog always beat you to it.

I love all animals, though I admit there are some I appreciate more than others. Insects. I appreciate them because they have a place in the ecological system, but that doesn’t mean I want them around me. Like wasps. They’re assholes. Hornets? Fucking serial killers. And spiders (yes, they’re arachnids). I know they’re inside my house, living out their spidery lives. As long as I don’t see them, we’re cool.

Animal Crackers in my soup.

My favorite wild animal in the whole wide world is the polar bear. They’re so beautiful, so made for their environment. I just want to hug them. Yeah, I know. Really, really bad idea. Not fond of Coke, though. Not that kind, anyway.

Since I can’t hug a polar bear or an emperor penguin (my second favorite) because both are too far away and it’s too damn cold where they live, I have to make do with domesticated animals. Just kidding. Some aren’t all that domesticated, anyway. Cats are the first to come to mind. Pigs, too. Not talking about those cute little pot-bellied ones. Those giant mofos. Killed someone and need to get rid of the body? Give ’em to the pigs. There’ll be nothing left. Just don’t fall into the sty yourself. There’ll be nothing left of you, either.

Being around animals soothes a troubled soul. How many stories have you read about troubled kids being tasked to care for animals, and make an amazing turnaround? One the most fascinating was a riding group who introduced their horses to the neighborhood kids by riding along the streets. After gaining their trust (and the parents, too), the group took the kids out to the stables and taught them about the horses, how to care for them, and how to ride. The kids were transformed. Stopped cutting up at home and at school. They’d learned how to care, not just for horses but for people, too.

Hanging around animals is good for the soul.

Adults. I knew a woman who was paranoid schizophrenic, and who eventually could no longer live on her own. She was pretty much out of control. At one place her family found for her, she managed to lock all the staff and other residents in a closet (it was more like a group home), grabbed the keys and then took off in the car. Well, that was that. Her family finally found a small, homey place out in the country, and they had animals. She took it upon herself to care for the pony. And it worked for her. I read a lovely story about prison inmates who help out shelters by caring for homeless animals. Gave them a real attitude adjustment.

Animals can connect people with their roots. Canada’s Indian Relay. Incredible. Watched a video, and those racers are…wow. It’s a horse race, but the only equipment used are reins. No saddle. Bareback. One rider, three thoroughbreds. Run a lap around the track, jump from one horse to the next, and off you go. And I mean jump. Not dismount and then re-mount. JUMP. Watching them jump from one horse to the next is wild. The relay goes a long way back in First Nations’ tradition, but it’s now being rediscovered. I think it’s wonderful. Magical.

Horses are the best. Great Danes run a very close second.

The riders say there’s nothing like being on the horse’s back, wind in your face as you barrel around the track. They’re right. There was a place where I used to ride, seems like a lifetime ago. Now that I think about it, it was. I had my favorite horse, Big Dan. He was huge, the biggest horse in the stable. The first time I rode, he tried to run me into the tree trunks, but he didn’t know me so it was okay. Then we got to be friends. Flying along the trail at a full gallop, jumping over logs and whatever else was in the way. Tore up a corner of some poor farmer’s cornfield. And I hardly ever used the reins. Just let him have his head. Good, good times.

Horses can be feisty, though. A sibling lives on a farm with her horses and the rest of her critters. One night she called from work and asked me to feed them because she was going to be later than she’d expected. Lawd, why would she ask a city girl to do something like that? Lawd, why did I think it’d be okay if I did it while wearing a housedress and sandals?

Well, you can imagine. The baby goats were all up under my dress, into all the feed buckets, chowing down everybody’s food. The horses in the field were wondering where the hell I was and what the hell was I doing. Finally made it to the stalls. Diamond was standing there waiting, and she looked pissed. And I couldn’t unlock the fucking gate. Some jerry-rigged thing. Meanwhile, Diamond is staring me down. Finally get it open, and walk through. I pass Diamond, and she whaps me upside the head with hers for being late with her dinner.

Never ask a city slicker to “feed up” yer critters.


And after all that trauma, I didn’t close the door to the goat pen properly. You can imagine that, too. Goats everyfuckingwhere. My sibling was not happy. And she’s never asked me to “feed up” again. 

Anyway, people who ride motorcycles say there’s nothing like it, two wheels and the open road. Gotta disagree, hoss. I had a motorcycle, another lifetime ago. It was great, yeah.

But it just doesn’t compare to being on horseback. Not at all.

Hm. Think I’ll build a barn in my backyard.

And buy some Animal Crackers.







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