Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Dead Squirrels Helped Me Secure An Associates Degree

This entry is for the sake of posterity, in case I don't live to see my son reach adulthood.  There are certain things that I would like him to know about me.  I guess his father could just tell him. . . but he might forget something.  And what if I've decided to haunt his father, and he happens to be mad at me that day?  (Many people can grow resentful of being haunted.  Even if it IS done out of love.  Which mine WOULD be.)  He *might* not be inclined to paint me in the most flattering light.  So I am recording the bigger tidbits here.

Some things are major, and really important.  Like the fact that I might be one of the best Non-Competitive Interpretive Dancers in the state.  (I maintain my amateur status.  Just to keep my options open.  It's a surprisingly brutal profession.)  It's hard to describe my "style" in concrete terms. . . I just know that when I feel the music take me, my body simply reacts.  And what follows is nothing short of Art.  As I do not currently possess any footage of said art, here is a scene from Moonrise Kingdom.  My husband and I both agree that the young gentleman on the right has completely captured the spirit, and grace, with which I interpret the rhythm:

As I said:  "Art."

There are far too many personality quirks and eccentricities to even begin to name here. . .   And, I think, a strong sense of the absurd, and a fairly healthy portion of pure madness.  =)  Plus, when it comes to the more glaring and obnoxious quirks. . . I'm probably not even aware of most of them.  (Go ask your Dad about this one.  He could probably write you a book.)  But I can name at least a few:  I'm an unrepentant caffeine junkie.  I over-think EVERYTHING.  I always sing in the bathtub.  I have this awful habit of trying to "straighten up clutter", and when I do. . . I end up shoving very useful and important household items behind picture frames, in junk drawers, and God only KNOWS wherever else.  (It really sucks.  I've always done this. . . it's like I go into a fugue state or something.  Then 30 minutes later I'm walking around all:  Where is the damn camera??!)

And, while I was never "Goth" (membership dues were insane, and I've never been one for uniforms), I HAVE had a lifelong fascination with all things spookish:  I LOVE the cartoons and artwork of Charles Addams, I would rather have a skull on my t-shirt than just about anything else, and I was inspired by, and in LOVE with TVs The Addams Family as a child (I wanted to LIVE with them---they were WONDERFUL!!  Also--they had LOTS of books).   I habitually stock up on witchy plastic cups and bat and spider socks, etc. at Halloween time every year (my FAVORITE holiday!!), and the first time I saw a Tim Burton movie. . .  Well.  It just felt like home.

Also, I secured my Associates Degree with the help of several garbage bags full of dead squirrels.

. . .This one MIGHT be something that the family could eventually bring up, but I'm really afraid that intention could get muddled in the telling.  So what happened is this:

It was that beautiful time known as The 90's.  Cell phones were objects that came in a bag the size of a Trapper Keeper.  The internet was still a hazy concept.  The Smashing Pumpkins were very much a part of my daily life, and I was finishing up my stint at the community college where I was lucky enough to have received a scholarship.  Only one thing stood in my way:  Zoology.

I sucked at it.

Big time.

I actually wanted to BE a marine biologist. . . until I took Zoology.  It was wonderful, and fascinating, and JUST so damn cool!  And I was utter crap at it.  So I got my head around the idea that Me and Marine Biologist was just one dream that was not meant to be. 

Because I had already flunked the course once.

So I took other courses, hoping that something else would be offered next semester that would help me fill that last science requirement.

Nothing was.

So I had no choice.  I HAD to take zoology again.  (You'd think it would be easier the second time, right?  But no.)

I was terrified.  And seriously convinced that THIS was the course that was going to keep me from getting my diploma.

Anyway, I studied.  I never missed a class.  I did all the reading.

And still---it just wasn't sticking.

Then the professor gave us the opportunity to earn bonus points. . .
All you had to do was bring in a dead animal.  It could be ANY dead animal, as long as it was a good specimen.  (He was trying to build up his collection for the Biology department.  Creepy, I know.  . . .GOD!  I REALLY liked him.  Plus, he looked a LOT like Dean Koontz. . . back when Dean Koontz didn't have hair.)  And then you just had to attach a 3 x 5" card stating the genus, species, where it was found, and all the other relevant information. 

And I had just gotten my Get Out of College Free card.

Not that *I* was good at locating dead animals, oh no.  I actually tried really hard to find some.  And even though we lived *literally* in the woods, on the banks of the Warrior River . . . they were nowhere to be found.  Which I remember seemed really suspicious to me at the time. . .  We lived in the woods.  And there were no dead animals ANYWHERE.  Were they. . . were they burying their dead??  I have long suspected that animals are a lot sneakier than we give them credit for being. . .

But that's a different rant for a different day.

The point is:  I couldn't find a dead animal to save my college education.  Not even so much as an expired roly poly.

But my Uncle. . .  =)

He lived next door to us.  And he had just gotten this awesome new gun of some sort for Christmas.  (He was partial to weaponry.)

And did I mention that he had a personal vendetta against the squirrels that lived in the woods around our houses?

They were notorious for finding ways into his attic.  Where they would then burrow, reproduce, and just generally make a mess.  Also. . . they liked to chew through the wires in his house, usually resulting in some sort of havoc like making the alarm go off in the middle of the day.

It was just bad blood all around.

So I went straight home that day and asked my Uncle if I could have all the squirrels he killed.  (The presentable ones, anyway.)  And he was more than happy to oblige.

The next week I presented my professor with five dead squirrels, all with neatly printed index cards describing their family background and personal situation.  (I made up fantastic and honorable back-stories for each one.  Probably should've been my sign right then to ditch the scientist dreams and take a creative writing class.) 

The funny thing is. . . my professor never asked how I acquired the squirrels.  And I never volunteered the information.

(This makes me happy.  It's as it should be.  =)

So we went on that way for many weeks:  My Uncle sitting on his roof with his rifle, killing woodland creatures.  Me transporting bags of dead squirrels to school.  My professor beginning to sneak strange looks at me as I continued to unflinchingly bring in bag after bag.

When the results from the final were posted, I wouldn't even look at mine.  I was THAT convinced that I had failed.  I was SO done with school.  I'd just dust off my Uncle Mort's apron and wait tables for the rest of my life. . .

Then a few weeks later. . . no one was more shocked than me when my diploma showed up in the mail.

So I guess I passed the course after all.  =)


I just wanted you to know the REAL story behind the Dead Education Squirrels that died for a noble cause.  Because these kinds of things tend to get distorted over time.  I don't want the tale made out to be weird, or "dark" or anything.

It was a very simple case of a homeowner with an assault rifle and a score to settle, and a young woman trying to find an acceptable manner to boost her grade.  So she transported, tagged, and hauled around several dead animals per week. 

Let's not make more of it than we should.

. . .Actually. . .

Now that I really think about it. . . maybe I was closer to this than I ever knew. . .

1 comment:

  1. Sniff... What a lovely, heartfelt story. You know, we could be twins, separated at birth. But you got all the looks in the family. I wanted more than anything, as a child, to live with the Addams Family. You watch Morticia and Gomez, and you know they really love each other. Wednesday and Pugsly had great toys to play with, and who wouldn't want an uncle who could make a light bulb glow just by putting it in his mouth?

    Don't even get me started on Tim Burton...