Over the years I have become somewhat of an expert in getting things off. Mostly off of my fingers, and most of the things I have gotten off have teeth. I started at an early age. When I was five years old my parents used to love to take us on nature rides through the mountains and forests. One day we saw an Eastern Box Turtle that was in the middle of the road looking up it instead of across it. We stopped and looked at the turtle to see which side of the road it wanted to be on. Not getting a clear signal from the turtle we decided it wanted to go to the west side of the road towards the forest so Dad picked up the turtle and put him beside the road pointing to the woods. Dad ordered my two brothers and me back in the car, but I hesitated. Even at that young age I had a thing for animals, and I was sure that the turtle was heading for the creek when we met it and not towards the woods. And so, to keep it from being squished as it tried to cross the road again I decided I would move it across the road and make it happy. I reached down and grabbed the turtle securely and started carrying it across the road. That's when a funny thing happened, the turtle got a vice grip on my little five year old fingers and wouldn't let go. I hollered "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off" for the first time in my life. I ran up and down the road, the side the turtle preferred making no difference now. I passed the car several times still screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off" when Dad caught me and pried the turtles shell from my bent little fingers. I blew on them to stop the hurt, I bent them back in the way mother nature had built them in the first place and I went over to the turtle to give it a good punt when Dad told me it was my fault for sticking my fingers in its shell, not the turtles fault. So we left the turtle beside the road, pointing once again back towards the woods, still not sure if that was where he meant to go or if our encounter with him was something he would remember or just as soon try to forget. I can say I have never ever stuck my fingers under a turtles shell again, now I pick them up by the top of their shells when I see one crossing the road, but first I try to see which was it is headed so I don't have to do it twice.
One of the best grabs on a family member I have ever seen was when my brother Andy, who had the same luck with wild animals as I do, took me and his friend Juan crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay. We motored out to a crabby looking spot and threw our chicken necks tied onto a string over the side. Soon we could feel the gentle tug of the crabs as they tried to steal the chicken neck. The trick is to pull the string really slowly so the crab doesn't let loose and swim away. When you get them near the top and they can see the boat you scoop them up with a net, not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have had a few beverages. Things got a little slow so beverages were consumed in mass quantities. Brother Andy decided to take the edge off a slow crabbing day by playing with the crabs. I told him that wasn't such a good idea, if you play with your crabs it knocks off their claws and that's the best part. As Andy was laughing at me the biggest crab we had caught, a granddaddy blue crab, saw its chance for revenge and grabbed Andy's thumb, holding it sideways across the thumbnail. You could see the focus on the crabs beady little stalked eyes, his total mental concentration was to transform that thumb into sushi. Andy jumped up in the boat screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". He had no where to run so he had to stand there trying to shake off the crab. He shook his hand up in the air, he tried to pull the crab off with his other hand, while not letting the crabs other claw get a good grip. This all happened in a matter of seconds but nothing would dissuade the crab from letting go of its captors red throbbing thumb. Andy looked to me for help, screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". I was laughing too hard, after all it wasn't my finger. He looked to Juan and screamed "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". Juan, fearing Andy would capsize our boat with any more dancing and jumping around while trying to get rid of the crab, slipped his knife in the crabs pinchers and pried them loose. Andy held the crab now correctly and started to tell it he was going to have the most fun eating him, that's when the crab reached out with a sharp claw to Andy's nose and Andy jumped back and threw the crab into the Bay. Andy was mad at me for not helping, but if I had helped I probably would have cut his thumb off instead of just the crab. More beverages helped ease the pain and it was a long while before Andy played with our catch again.
I used to have big Oscars as pets in a 55 gallon aquarium. We would often catch crawdads and put them in the tank for the Oscars to eat and to help them keep their bright colors. One day I was mindlessly cleaning their tank, I hadn't put in any crawdads for a couple of days since we hadn't gone fishing. My little pink thumb waving around while I was scrubbing the glass must have been just to irresistible because the male Oscar turned bright orange and yellow and charged over to my side of the tank and bit my finger, the one that was still a little flattened from the turtle years before. It moved so fast that I didn't know what it was doing, but that familiar finger in a vise feeling plus the shear speed of the unwarranted attack made me jump back with an Oscar on my finger, screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". Now I am not saying Oscars have teeth like a piranha, but he had a good grip and a strong hold, he drew blood from the hand that fed him and seemed more than willing and able to do it again if given the chance. Since that day I always made sure to have a few crawdads around to divert their attention from my pinkies while I was cleaning their tank.
When I first moved to my parents horse farm to return to college I liked to play with the horses. I used to play king of the hill with Snickers, a grey speckled yearling. I would wrap my arms around her neck and we would then see who could push the other one down the hill, it was great fun. One day right before classes I went into her paddock and we started to play. I had to cut play time short and go to school, so after I had won I let her go and turned around to leave. That was when this great pain occurred in my right shoulder. At first I though I was having a heart attack or something, it turned out luckily to be something, about 800 pounds of horse. I danced around under her grip screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off", but nobody was around to help me, Snickers grew tired of the biting game and let me go. Snickers had decided she didn't want me to leave and to stop me she took a big bite out of my shoulder. I thought the bite had been malicious, as I turned around to administer the appropriate revenge, which consists of biting her in the ear, don't laugh it works, she stood back ready to play. I could see she just didn't want me to leave and had bit me to get me to continue playing. There was nothing for me to do to lessen the pain other than to give her a hug and retreat, backwards this time out of the gate.
Another time when I was about eight years old and lived in the city we had fruit trees in our yard. The squirrels loved eating the fruit and hung around all the time. I went up to one that was on the tree trunk close to the ground watching me. I reached up to pet it and the dam thing sunk its chisel like teeth into my little fingers. I ran around screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". Squirrels are notorious for not letting go and you have to really shake hard to get them to lessen their grip. After it fell off of my finger I chased it back up its tree where it sat and chided me squirrel fashion. I have hunted and eaten many squirrels now, not out of revenge, but you know that anything that just eats nuts has to taste good.
As a college freshman I worked in a greenhouse. The day after a brutal storm had dumped a couple of feet of snow on the ground it was my responsibility to water the plants in the greenhouse. As I was watering one greenhouse I heard a meow, I checked it out and found a big white cat. Being a cat lover I knew a greenhouse was no place for a cat, to many poisons for bugs plus cats like to use potted plants for a bathroom. I tried to talk the cat down from the rafters but it refused to come down. I gave it a little shot of water from the watering hose and knocked it down from its perch and caught it. In thanks for rescuing it the cat sunk all four of its canines into my finger, all the way through the glove I had put on for the capture and all the way through my finger. I ran around screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off", but again as I was the only one around I had to pry the cats jaws open to free my finger once again. I grabbed the cat by the scruff of its neck and dumped it into a gunny sac and took it home. I couldn't be mad at the cat, he was scared, but I figured a cat with that good a bite had to be a good mouser. That cat eventually moved out with my parents on their farm and lived another 18 years and I was correct, it was one heck of a mouser, I still have the scars to prove it.
You would think you would be safe in your garden. Well I know that is not true. As brother Andy was picking green beans, not because he wanted to but because his girlfriend asked him to, he reached for what he thought was a long green bean but it turned out this green bean had teeth. A little green garden snake sunk its little fangs right into Andy's fingertip. Andy ran around screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off", but since he was a pretty fast guy nobody could catch up to him to help him get it off. Eventually he had to just grab the snake and yank it off his finger. Andy clutched his finger and jumped up and down while cursing a blue streak, this gave the snake a chance to slither away before it got stomped. From then one Andy refused to pick green beans, pretending to prefer baked beans instead.
I had always been taught to lip a fish, especially bass, when catching them in order to remove the hook before releasing them. One night we were fishing for catfish. I hooked a big fellow, it took me 15 minutes to get it in to the bank. We didn't have a net so I reached down and stuck my thumb in its mouth, and that's when he clamped down with all his catfish determination right onto my thumb. I ran screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off", but since it was dark and my friends didn't know what had grabbed my arm they ran away instead of offering any assistance. Eventually my path took me back to the waters edge where the catfish seized his opportunity to let go of my thumb and jump back into the water. Now I am not claiming being bitten by a catfish is like being bitten by a shark since a catfish doesn't rightly have any teeth. But, that old boy put a hurting to my thumb, it was all flat and had a bunch of little tiny holes in it that were leaking blood once again. From then on I risked the spines on a cat to pick it up, at least with a good finning the catfish lets go of you fast instead of remaining clamped onto your finger.
When we were kids Dad rescued an alligator from a lake in the park. Some idiot had evidently released the alligator into the lake when it got too big for their tank. It was fun watching it swim around in our bathtub. We would feed it little globs of hamburger and it took the meat with little hesitation. We often let it run freely around the living room and it soon found a favorite spot under a chair that had a ruffle around the bottom of it. This probably gave the alligator a safe hiding place where the feet of little kids wouldn't flatten it. When it was time to put the baby alligator away one night Dad reached under the chair to grab the alligator, but it had been a hard day for the alligator, someone had stepped on his tail and made him cranky. Cranky alligators bite, or maybe Dads fingers looked like hamburger, but for whatever reason that little alligator fastened his little toothy jaws on Dads fingers. Dad jumped up with alligator attached and ran screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". We were afraid Dad would hurt the alligator but Dad was afraid it would eat his fingers. In the confusion the alligator finally gave up and released Dad from its grip, Dad must not have tasted as good as hamburger. The alligator disappeared the next day, Dad said he found him a good home, we though more likely that good home was back at the lake, where funny enough a few dogs mysteriously disappeared that summer.
My grandparents had a little parakeet for a pet. We would take it out of its cage and let it fly around the house and then gently catch it and return it to its cage. One day the parakeet got loose when I was feeding it and did not want to be recaptured. I chased it all over the house trying to catch it. I finally got hold of the little feathered beast in my little kids hand. It didn't appreciate being returned to its cage so to show me it didn't like my plans for it the parakeet grabbed my little finger with its big sharp beak. Now you have to remember that these are little kid fingers and not adult fingers so in scale a parakeet beak to a little kid is like a Macaws beak to an adult. The little feathered terror wouldn't let go and I ran screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off", shaking the bird up and down, feathers flying everywhere and the parakeet maintaining its firm grip on my little finger. I finally got the idea to clamp its head on the door of the cage to get it off my finger. This worked but the parakeet was a little shaken up and worse for wear than normal. It was a long time before he tried to escape while I was feeding him again, so I guess it just goes to show that you can teach birds after all.
My little brother Brett got to bring home the schools gerbil one year for spring break. He decided that the gerbil needed to be petted since it must have been lonely not having all the usual kids around to play with. We found out later that there were two gerbils, a nice one and a really mean one, Brett had brought home the mean one. When he reached in to pet it the gerbil jumped up and clamped its razor sharp teeth on Bretts finger and wouldn't let go. Brett ran around the whole house screaming "Get It Off, Get It Off, Get It Off". But being another fast kid nobody to catch him to pry the furry little long tailed rat off of his finger. Brett eventually smashed its head in a door to get it to let go, it scurried away unharmed, mean gerbils are a tough customer. The first day back to school the teacher asked Brett why he didn't bring the gerbil back to school. Brett told her that he felt the gerbil would have a better life if it was set free instead of living in a little cage. Actually, Brett knew he would have a better school year if the teacher didn't know the gerbil had a flat head to go with Bretts flattened finger.
So you can see why it is that I seem so careful when I venture in the great outdoors. Its not that I have anything against animals, its that I like my fingers just the way they are. The world is populated with toothy critters, critters with shells and beaks and sharp sharp claws. I have known them all, they have all tasted me in one form or another. All I can say on my behalf is that I just cant wait for squirrel season to start again soon!