Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bats In My Belfry - Part Deux

or, Bow Down To Chester The Ninja Cat

There seems to be a connection between my fear of bats and the houses I've lived in. No matter what house I've ever lived in, there's been an invasion of at least one bat in each. So I shouldn't have been surprised  of yet another invasion of bats in the house I moved into in 2010.  Yes, bats, as in more than one.  Four to be exact.

The first two were in the spare bedroom, my girlfriend and her son caught the first one while I hid in the kitchen and almost wet myself.  We hired the local bat guy to catch the second one. The modern era of specialization has caught up to the exterminating business, as bats are a protected animal in Illinois, so no regular exterminator will deal with them. So we had to hire a wild animal specialist to remove the bat, and it cost $57. He took the bat out into the country and released it.  I didn't have to deal with it so it was money well spent.

The third bat escapade happened one night at about eleven o'clock as we watched an old rerun of the sitcom Frasier.  No lights were on, and we saw the bat flitting in the light of the television.  The light was immediately turned on, my girlfriend got off the love seat and grabbed a broom. I sat petrified on the love seat. But the fear quickly turned into anger. I mean, come on. Three bats within a year or so? What the hell was going on? We couldn't see the bat, so my girlfriend went upstairs to see if she could find it.  I proceeded to go outside and get another broom. Enough was enough, my anger outweighed my fear and I was determined to catch the little bastard!

When the bat came back into the living room, I began to take swats it it with the broom. The broom broke, I took the one my girlfriend had and found out real quick that when a bat is flying right at you, there's not much of a chance to swat and hit him because of his sonar. But it doesn't work nearly as well for the bat if you get behind it, and with more of a push than a swat, I knocked his furry butt out of the air and onto the floor. I put the broom on it, got him scooped up with a butterfly net and took it outside. My first bat catch! I was shaking like I was standing in a tub of ice water. Who would have ever thought I'd be able to conquer my fear enough to capture one of the devils?

Now it was time to investigate further, to try and figure out where in the hell the critters were coming in at.  After a search of the possibilities in the basement, we found the entrance! We had a new furnace installed when we bought the house, the guy that installed it neglected to cap off a damper in the chimney. I hadn't noticed the damper right off, for it appeared as if it was a solid piece of metal inside. But just the slightest touch of my finger opened the damper (as would the force of the exhaust from the old furnace). So the resourceful bats were coming down the chimney (which has no screen or cap on it) , tipping the damper open and letting themselves in.  A quick wrapping of the damper opening with screen and a temporary wrapping of duct tape would keep the damper closed and the bats out until a more permanent fix could be done. Phew! Problem solved, breathe easy, sleep peacefully again!  Unfortunately, humans can sometimes be forgetful. As I've professed to be nothing more or less than human, I acted the part.  The permanent fix was not forthcoming, and the temporary fix of the entrance to the bat no-tell-hotel came back to haunt me.

The fourth Close Encounter Of The Flying Rodent Kind came at about 4:00 in the morning. The teenage boy that lives in the same house as me was awakened by the sound of caterwauling mixed with chirps coming from his doorway. When he rolled over and looked, he saw Chester (one of the three cats that allow the rest of us to live in the house) with a bat on the floor in front of him! Chester had crippled the bat so that it could no longer fly and after some finagling (with Chester helping out immensely) we got the bat in a box and took it outside. I turned the bat over to animal control to have it checked for rabies. We hadn't found any bites on Chester, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Turns out the bat squeezed open the damper just enough to get through, then wiggled the screen open enough to get out. Chester caught it when it was wiggling through the screen or some other means. He even could have caught the critter like this cat did:

Chester has a sweet disposition until something enters his territory. Then he can turn bad ass in a hurry, as the bat found out.  The bat turned out not to be rabid, so Chester was fine. He's my hero, that's for sure, and gets his share of kitty treats to prove it.

I have since put a metal cap over the damper hole in the chimney, will have a screen installed over the opening outside this fall, and I've got some mortar mix to put over the cap just to make sure.  And I sure hope the bat situation has been eliminated. But Chester remains on guard, no matter what. He's here, he's there, he's everywhere, Chester The Ninja Cat...

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Dirty War Against Bugs

Not just any bugs mind you, but the dreaded scourge of Popillia japonica, more familiarly known as Japanese Beetles. The nasty things are not native to the United States or North America. They are believed to have entered the United States in the early 1900's from a Japanese ship that harbored in New Jersey.  The illegal immigrant pests jumped ship and were found in a nursery near Riverton, New Jersey in 1916.  The hungry beasts eat over three hundred known kinds of plants including shrubs, vegetables and fruits and the grubs eat the roots of grasses. The estimated damage done by the grubs and adults is over $450 million to the sod and ornamental industries.

I have had previous experience with them, about ten years ago when they invaded my garden at a house I no longer live in.  I had no clue on what to do about them, but I had to try something. They had eaten most of my plants in my back flower beds and vegetable bed and were chomping their way to the ornamental bed at the front of my house.  The first line of attack was of course pesticides. Some are known to work well against the adults, such as Sevin®, but I dislike using pesticides, at least until I've tried other remedies. Some websites gave lists of resistant plants, which is great when you're choosing what plants to plant but when the Nipponese Nibblers infest a long- established plant it doesn't do much good. There's also the manual removal method. With a pencil, prod the devils off the plant and into a bucket of soapy water, the brochure told me. This method does work, but who wants to tickle beetles off of a plant in the middle of summer, especially when there can be hundreds of the devils on just one plant?  So I resorted to the 'Bag-A-Bug' traps sold at the local Wally World and other such stores.

The Bag-A-Bug traps work on two principles:
Principle #1 -  Anyone that's dealt with Japanese Beetles can tell you that seldom are they seen solo as the picture above. They are more often seen in pairs of disgusting bugs doing the 'nasty' as demonstrated by the wanton pair of sinful bugs pictured above. They live to eat to excess and to mate (also to excess), sometimes in massive piles of disgusting bug orgies all over the hollyhocks and roses.  The hedonistic example these fornicating insects set for the youth of this country is heinous enough to warrant their eradication even without the destruction in plant life they cause. The Bag-A-Bug system taps into their natural strong urges to procreate by offering up a sexual pheromone that turns bugs that are already pretty horny into even more intense sex-starved, immoral bugs.
Principle #2 -  As these bugs aren't really all that intelligent and also somewhat clumsy, the Bag-A-Bug system uses these bug traits to full advantage to trap them.

A close up of the Bag-A-Bug system:

As with most things, experience proved to be the best teacher with these traps.  For example, the sexual pheromone 'bug porn' that turns them into sex bandits ravenous for a roll in the hay is enclosed in plastic that has to have a peel-off paper removed. Be advised, do not, I repeat, DO NOT  put this peel off paper in your shirt pocket! There is enough of the pheromone left on the paper to make the bugs think you're not a bad looking bug yourself.  Take it from somebody who found out the hard way,  to be covered by a swarm of humping Japanese Beetles is not a pleasant experience.

There are some pitfalls to these traps. As the pheromone is very potent and the beasties can detect it from way far away, the traps do attract a lot of bugs.  Let me emphasize that - these traps attract A LOT OF BUGS! If you are repulsed by the sight of swarming bugs with but one thing on their mind, perhaps these traps aren't for you. Personally, I take heart in the fact that while I may be leading bugs to their doom, I am ensuring them they will die sexually satiated. Not a bad way to go, especially for a bug.  Also, change the bag after two days or so even if it isn't full. The stench of dead bugs in the bag can be smelled by live bugs and will counteract the pheromone, not to mention turn the stomach of the strongest intrepid bug hunter.

There are detractorsthat say these traps attract far more bugs than they capture. That may be so, for I don't keep a running count of visitors to the trap and those who actually end their days in the bottom of the bag.  Suffice to say that the one other time I used the traps at my other house, I caught twenty bags of bugs over a 4-week period, and it made a big enough dent in the bug population that they were not a problem at that house for the rest of the ten years I lived there.  The objective is to not only kill the adults that are feeding on your plants, but to prevent them from laying eggs in the ground that create next years' problem.

That's why despite the caveats regarding the traps, I'm using them once more at the new place. In the first two days I trapped four bags full of them. As the bags fill up,  I'll continue to put empty bags in place of the full until the bugs are gone.  The bugs die, which makes my roses happy, which makes me happy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Off-The-Wall Books That I've Read

I've been blessed (or cursed) with a restless curiosity ever since I can remember. This curiosity isn't confined to one, two or a half-dozen subjects.  I am curious about everything in general, with streaks of being curious about something in particular.  One of the most enjoyable ways I've found to satisfy this rambling curiosity is by reading. Books, magazines,  the back of cereal boxes,  advertisements on the freeway,  whatever I can get my hands on.  Of course, over the years I've developed some major areas that have lasted, and I've also skimmed the surface of some fairly strange books. Here's a partial list of them, and I assure you they are all genuine. I tend to keep copies of the strangest ones, and all of these that I write about are in my library.


A word of caution for the sensitive; some of these books will require me to use profanity and some of the subjects can be a little disgusting. If that warning hasn't scared you off, you're my kind of reader!

1 . Le Petomane, Jean Nohain & F. Caradee
For the uninitiated, Le Petomane was the stage name of the Frenchman Joseph Pujols (1857-1945), and this is his biography translated from the French.  A rough translation of Le Petomane to English gives us The Fart Maniac.  He was a star of the Moulin Rouge in Paris and if you haven't guessed by now, his act consisted of passing gas. I should say artfully passing gas, for he could blow out a candle from a foot away,  do 'impression farts' and make it sound like a machine gun and other things,  put a cigarette in his butt and remove it to blow out smoke.  Evidently young Joseph discovered his skilled anus one day while he was sitting in the bath tub as a child and discovered he could suck up the water with his butt-hole and squirt it back out like a fountain. With a lot of practice he trained his nether regions to do all kinds of tricks and the audiences loved him.  He took his act seriously and ate a special diet so he would not 'offend' his audience with nasty smelling emanations from his anal orifice.  Sadly, like many a great artist, his employers began to take advantage of him by demanding more outlandish and crude stunts, and when he tried to open his own theater so he could keep his act 'pure' he was promptly sued by the owners of the Moulin Rouge.

2. The F Word edited by Jesse Sheidlower
Pretty much every possible variation on the infamous word and phrases it is used in, from absofuckinglutely to titfuck and everything in between. Plus it has the history of the word and some of the phrases it is used in and a brief section about the word in other languages. It is arranged in alphabetical order making it easy to look up just the right variant for those special people or occasions. Has many acronyms also, with their histories (when known). For example, we've all heard the word snafu, but did you know that it is an acronym for situation normal all fucked up? Well, maybe you did, but there's still plenty of stuff in this book that you don't know, smart fucker!

3. A**hole No More - by X. Crement
This book is subtitled - A Self Help Guide For Recovering A**holes and Their Victims.  After reading the book, I must ask what's the big deal with the 'stars' instead of just spelling out ASSHOLE on the cover? On the inside the book doesn't pussy-foot around. It tells it like it is and is everything you ever wanted to know about assholism (Dr. X. Crement thinks it is a disease like alcoholism I guess).  Seems kind of silly to write a book about assholes and assholism and not just spell it out on the front cover.  But that's just me. I thought this book was written with tongue in cheek, but I'm not so sure anymore. Oh, and be forewarned. I've got the first edition printed in 1990. There has been a revision since then (2010), and now there are three volumes of asshole books.  Really? Is there that much more to say about the subject that it warrants two more volumes?  I think not. I think the author is trying to cash in on the subject, and of course you know what that makes him...

4. The Unflushables : Outhouses - History and Humor (featuring two, three and five story outhouses)
You read it right.  It is possible (the book has pictures to prove it) to have a multi-floored outhouse. Granted, the placement and engineering of a multi-level outhouse is crucial.  This book has many pictures, including the outhouses of famous people like Abraham Lincoln and Johann Sebastian Bach. Yes, even the rich and famous need to heed the call of nature as the pictures readily show. As well as the stench of an outhouse, the size and variety of them can take your breath away. There are one-holers, two-holers, multi-holers. Big ones, small ones, fancy ones, plain ones. But it doesn't matter how fancy or plain, they all serve the same purpose.  This book gave me pause to  reflect on the vanishing outhouse, but not for very long.

5. How To Shit In The Woods - Kathleen Meyer
The subtitle of this book is : An environmentally sound approach to a lost art. From the very beginning, the author shows she's serious about her subject. Consider the very first chapter:
 Chapter 1: Anatomy Of A Crap - Techniques, Styles, Getting Comfortable
And a special chapter for the ladies:
Chapter 5: For Women Only : How Not To Pee In Your Boots 
This book is a treasure trove of practical information about doing your business in the bushes. I especially like the section in the back of the book that deals with the definition of the word SHIT.

So there you have it.  After reading these books I am convinced that no matter what the subject, there is someone out there who will write a book about it, if someone hasn't already.  And I'm proof that there will be at least one demented reader that will read it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Rock

This isn't a blog entry about an old, out of service prison on an island.  Or about an All-Star Wrestler either. This is about the latest addition to our garden decor, as pictured to the right.  It's been sand-blasted, and painted with a butterfly.  We got it the past weekend at an annual festival held in the small town of Oregon, IL which is about 30 miles from us.

The festival is called Autumn On Parade.  It's one time when the small town of Oregon comes alive for three days with arts and crafts vendors from around the country. And when the day is a bright autumn day (as it was this year) it makes for a good trip.  This year Deb bought two decorative chain pulls for ceiling fans, and a really pretty Provencal Garlic grater. It's made of porcelain, grates garlic, carrots, cheese, ginger,  and won't cut your fingers. I've already tried the thing, and it actually does work and isn't too hard to clean.  But without a doubt, the prize of this year was the Butterfly Rock.

The guy that was selling it has a business doing headstones and other stuff out of rock. After telling us way more than we wanted to know about the rock cutting and carving business, Deb asked him how much the butterfly rock was. He said $90. I said we'd think about it. Deb wanted to know how heavy it was, he said about 40-50 pounds and that he'd carry it to our car. I asked him where his shop was so we could come back and look at some more things.  Deb asked him are you sure it's 40-50 pounds? The guy went over to the rock, picked it up. "More like 80-90 pounds!"he said as his face got red.

By now, I knew the rock was going to go home with us, one way or the other. So I looked at other stuff while Deb continued to ask questions.  Before long, she got out her checkbook and wrote him out a check.  We had to wait until the big parade was all over with so we could drive the van to where the rock was. It was way too heavy to bring to the van.  We finally got there, and while Deb got out to direct the guy with the rock (it was on a two-wheeled cart) to where the van was, Deb's teenage son asked me how much the rock was. He couldn't believe that his Mom paid that much for a stupid rock, plus he knew he was the one that would have to unload it.

So now the rock is in the yard, right in front of the big oak tree and will be the focal point of a flower bed we're putting around the tree next year. Mind you, I did have a thought about raising a stink about buying such a stupid thing as a rock, and paying $90 for it. But then my mind flashed to Herbie.  That's him, in the picture to the right, Herbie the Gargoyle. Herbie's just as heavy (if not heavier) than the butterfly rock, a damned sight uglier, and probably was more expensive. When Deb expressed worry that someone might steal the butterfly rock, I told her that if someone really wants the thing, hernia and all, they can have it. Just like Herbie. I've had him for 25 years and while I've had plenty of comments, no one has ever tried to steal him. Well, they may have tried but their back didn't hold out. Granted, the butterfly rock is prettier, but I'll take my chances. I'm sure not going to bring the rock (or Herbie) in every night.

So now the butterfly rock is the envy of the neighborhood and sits in front of the oak tree.   Herbie still stands guard on one side of the front door, and he gets a little uglier every year.  And there's the big ol' welcoming bear carved out of wood that sits on the other side of the front door, a perfect foil for Herbie.  We have to keep them separated. I don't think Herbie likes the bear.

So the butterfly rock is helping to wind up another season for the garden. What in the world will next year bring? I'm already hearing that maybe, perhaps, we should get another rock to put in front of the pine tree on the other side of the yard...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


In Northwest Illinois at this time of year the turning of the leaves and the dropping of the temperature signals the autumn season. It also flips the switches inside the pea-brains of the common squirrel and puts them in act-squirrelier-than-usual mode.

As if they aren't a pest enough throughout the summer with their cavorting around on telephone wires, barking at me when I'm sitting in the yard swing, and teasing the neighbor's dogs.

Our neighbor on one side of us has three dogs that go ballistic at the sight of a squirrel, so naturally the squirrels make their presence known. They take turns waiting until the dogs are laying down and quiet, then they make a mad dash for the tree, scamper up it in a flash, then park their squirrely butts on a branch just out of reach of the dogs and bark at them the equivalent of a squirrel "neener, neener, neener!" which makes the dogs slobber, bark, run around the tree, trying to climb the tree, etc. This can and has gone on for hours.  Just as the dogs finally settle down, the furry neighborhood terrorists climb down and scamper to another tree, and the cycle begins again. 

Our neighborhood is full of the chattering things, not least of all because the neighbor on the other side of us feeds them. All year 'round.  Last winter I looked out and saw an even dozen squirrels in a back yard in various positions of eating field corn off the cob and stealing food from bird feeders. A dozen fat, furry squirrels. As the neighbor said, it was a good crop last winter.

And talk about a sense of entitlement!  I'm really grateful the squirrels let the rest of us live in THEIR neighborhood!  I planted sunflowers, and the seed heads were stripped before they even got ripe, and the squirrels did it. I saw them. They hang upside down from the top of the big seed heads, and shovel in the seeds like there's no tomorrow.

I really think they are all in cahoots. They do surveillance, post their lookouts, then ransack the garden.  And not only sunflower heads. They also are partial to tomatoes, but only the ones that are red, ripe and juicy.  I didn't dare leave any tomatoes on the plants to ripen. As soon as they showed any color I picked them before the squirrels took a bite out of them. And that's exactly what they do, take one bite out of a ripe tomato and head for the next one.

And that bring me back to this time of year. The squirrels are running amok, digging up the yard, crapping all over and burying things for the winter that they'll forget all about. I had a lot of corn sprout last summer, and I didn't plant any of it. The worst is walnut seeds if they sprout.  It's got such a long tap root you almost have to dig them out.

They can be irritating, especially when you've got one eating on your house. But aside from that, they are just doing what they do best. So watch out for the critters this autumn season. You know they're not right in the head at this time of year especially. So when they dart out in front of your car, give them a break and brake. When they clean out your bird feeder, just fill it again. It's no use trying to stop them. They may have pea-brains, but they are persistent. One way or another, they'll figure it out.

They can be fun to watch,  even when they bark at you when your sitting in a screened in porch. And when the cats are sitting in the window the squirrels give them something to watch.  Like I said, they're just doing what they do best...acting squirrely.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where's The Elk?

A few years ago, my wife at the time (may she rest in peace) and I took an Amtrak trip to Flagstaff, Arizona to see my Big Brother. He moved out there after he retired from the local steel mill. It was a good trip, and we were in no hurry. Good thing, as it took 26 hours to get there from where we lived.  It was my first time on a long train trip, and I had enough strange stuff happen on the train that I could write a story about it. But that's for another time.

Big Brother was a great host, took us all over the area including the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  He's also a gourmet cook, so we ate really well too. One day while he was driving us around Flagstaff I said to him, "I keep seeing all these BEWARE OF ELK SIGNS all over the place. We've been here three days and I haven't seen hide nor hair of no damn elk."

"What do you think, those signs are there for the hell of it?" he said. "There's more elk around here than you can shake a stick at."

"The proof is in the seein' and I ain't seen no damn elk!" I said as we passed yet another elk sign.

"All right, smart guy," said Big Brother. "You wanna see elk, I know a place where I guarantee you'll see elk.  Every evening the elk come to feed just outside of town. I'll take you there tonight, just as it starts to get dark."

"Yeah. Sure!" I said.

"Just you wait. You'll see!" he said as he wagged a finger at me.

Segue to after supper when dusk was slowly starting to fall. "Get your ass in the van and take your camera!" he said, "And you'll see an elk!"

My wife and I got into the van. She sat in front and I rode in the back. We drove for a spell and came to a turnoff onto a dirt road. We went down it, and as we made the bend in the road Big Brother gently brought the van to a halt at the side of the road.

"Okay smart guy, where's the elk?" I said.

"SHHHHH! you'll scare him off!" he said in a whisper. "Their hearing is really good! Keep your mouth shut and look over there," he said as he pointed out the window.  My eyes strained in the coming darkness, and then I saw it. "There it is! I see it!" I whispered. An elk as big as you please!
"Told you," said Big Brother. "If you move real slow and don't make any noise you might be able to get out of the van and take a picture of it."

I opened the door of the van and slowly slid out of the seat. I walked on the dirt and rocks of the road like it was egg shells so as not to make any noise. I circled around the back of the van and leaned up against the back of the van to steady my hand to take a picture. It was then I noticed the van was moving so slightly. I looked through the back window and saw Big Brother bouncing up and down in the seat. I crept up to his side window and looked in and saw that he was pointing at the elk and laughing. And so was my wife. I looked at the elk again, and it was standing as still as a statue. It took me a minute to soak it all in before I noticed something:

I've seen elk before, but doggone if this wasn't the first one I'd ever seen that had a SEAM going around the middle of it!  Big Brother rolled down his window and couldn't control himself. "You dummy! BAW HAW HAW! You fell for it! I don't believe you really FELL FOR IT! You took the hook, line, sinker, pole, boat, anchor and half the lake! BAW HAW HAW!!!"  I looked over at my wife. Her face was red and tears rolled down her cheeks as she tried to catch her breath between the giggles.

There was nothing left to do but get back in the van. Big Brother said, "Did you see the bear, wild boar, turkey and deer too?  They're practice targets for bow hunters, bone-head!" Sure enough, I looked out the window and saw the other fake critters.  They both finally quit laughing after what seemed to be a long time, and we went back to Big Brother's house.

That all happened a long time ago. I don't get a chance to see Big Bro much anymore, but I'll be darned if every time that I do, I get reminded of all the elk that are in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I'd like to say that I'll never trust Big Brudder again, but after all these years of being duped I can't honestly say he won't 'get' me again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Shocking Childhood

There's one thing about growing up in a family of seven kids. There was always something going on.  That's not to say that was always a good thing, but it was seldom boring.

I was the next to the youngest, with my younger brother being sick a lot and everyone else quite a bit older than me except for the next oldest brother to me. He's five years older than me. Yes, the same one that's  in the Bats In My Belfry story.  And it's strange how things worked themselves out when we got older. We're pretty close now, probably because we finally quit messing with each other long enough to realize we've got a lot in common.  But it sure wasn't that way when we were younger.  He used to pick on me something fierce. He would hop out of the top bunk in the middle of the night and scare the bejeezus out of me. Throw me in the pitch-dark closet and lock the door and not let me out for awhile. I was afraid of the dark until I was in my twenties because of that.  But I'd get even.  I'd do things that I knew he'd get blamed for because Mom and Dad would NEVER suspect ME. So I'd take sweet revenge watching as Dad would holler and sometimes take off his belt and whack him on the ass with it.  But in the long run, I'd pay for whatever revenge I got. Big Brother was pretty creative and definitely conniving, and with five years on me, I didn't have a chance.

On one particular Saturday afternoon, all of my siblings were outside or gone except for Big Brother. He was sitting in the living room on the floor with a contraption in front of him on the coffee table that looked something like the thing in the picture above. But instead of the light bulb, there were two long wires attached to it.

I was probably around eight or nine, and I had no idea what it was. "What's that thing?" I asked.
 Big Brother stared at the thing and said, "It's a worm shocker."
"A what?"
" A worm shocker, stupid. Don't you know what a worm shocker is?"
"No. What is it?"
He rolled his eyes, put his hands out towards me with impatience and said, "You know, worms? What we go fishin' with? I'm making a machine that will make them wiggle out of the ground so we don't have to dig them anymore. Give 'em a shock of electricity and they'll wiggle out of the ground and jump right into our bait box."
"Naw. You're lyin'," I said. It wouldn't have been the first time he had told me a whopper, that's for sure.
"Ain't lyin', and I'll prove it." He grabbed one of the long wires in each hand and said, "Here. Grab this bare part of the wire in each hand, hold your arms as far apart as you can,  and I'll show you!"

I should have known better, even if I was only eight or nine. As soon as I grabbed the wires and held my arms apart, he started cranking furiously. I felt the jolt of electricity run through each hand and arm and it met in the middle. It was the first time I had ever gotten any kind of electrical shock, and I thought I was going to die.

I fell to the floor, crying and screaming. I tried to let go of the wires, but I couldn't. I was writhing on the floor and through my teary eyes I saw Mom run into the living room. She had a broom in her hand and she yelled at Big Brother, "Stop it! You're killing him!"

But Big Brother cranked like a madman, his tongue sticking out in grim determination. Mom started beating him with the broom and continued to yell at him. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally quit cranking the hand generator, I finally could let go of the wires. My face was red, wet with tears and snot, and it was all I could do to crawl up on the couch. My body felt like all my bones had turned to mashed potatoes.  Mom kept hollering at him, and I heard, "Wait until your Father gets home!" But I don't remember much else that happened after that. But I do know I never saw the hand generator again.  Either Big Brother or one of the others finally did build a worm shocker out of a steel rod, lamp cord and electrical tape but Dad found it and threw it away which was just as well.

I've told this story to many people, and some that know me have had a look of  discovery on their faces after the telling.  No doubt they thought I got the way I am because I was dropped on my head once too often but no, it was something even more shocking than that...

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