Thor was just finishing washing and wiping the breakfast dishes. He didn’t mind doing this chore as he could look out of the kitchen window that was over the sink and survey his backyard….otherwise known as…the jungle.
As he looked out the kitchen window he saw Rex, his trusty dog sniffing along the bottom of the backyard fence. This fence was all that kept the jungle in and troublemakers at bay. Why without the fence Ned the fainting goat would wander off and pass out only heaven knows where; there’s just no telling what kind of trouble Morton the Spitting Squirrel would cause for neighbors; and protecting the jungle from dinosaurs, rooster pirate kings, farting trolls, cat ghosts and mischief makers of all varieties and sizes would present an even greater challenge. Yes, his backyard fence was just as essential as its big door that lets folks go safely in and out.
No sooner did he finish his sublime thoughts about the importance of the jungle’s fence, than heard Rex utter a loud yelp. Quick as a wink the whole dog disappeared under the fence in a “Pop”!
Thor spun on his heels and ran to the calendar…sure enough it was strawberry picking season. That means that Gus the buck-toothed gopher, along with his family and friends, had burrowed under the fence and let Rex loose as part of their plan to decimate the strawberry patch.
Thor knew that of all of the enemies that had caused mischief in the jungle none were harder to beat than Minnesota Gophers. Saving his strawberries from the gophers would be a supreme challenge. Especially, since Rex was now stuck on the other side of the fence, howling his heart out.
First things first, Thor opened up the front door of his house and hollered “Dog Treats.” Rex was there in a flash. With his trusty canine friend by his side Thor quickly began to formulate a “Save The Strawberry” game plan.
Going one to one with a Minnesota gopher is never good strategy. Too exhausting and too easy to trip. No, what was going to be required here was a very offensive team with an even more offensive gopher elimination plan. Thor had no choice, he was going to have to call Grandpa Walter.
Vicki Lawrence as Mama in Carol Burnett Show
Grandma answered Thor’s phone call. Thor got out two words…gophers and strawberries.
The line went dead.
He was on his own.
Bill Murray in the movie Caddy Shack
Thor had watched gopher fighting training movies and had learned that to catch a wily rodent you have to think like a wily rodent.
Morton. Yes, Morton the spitting squirrel, Thor’s arch enemy was an expert at the obnoxious. He would be just the ticket.
Thor grabbed his protective eyeglasses, rain hat and coat, rubber boots and umbrella, opened the mighty gate in his fence and entered the jungle.
The vision that greeted his eyes was disturbing. Gophers gnawing away on fresh strawberry after strawberry. Their buck teeth emitting non-stop chatter like the clicker of the telegraph operator on the Titanic. Strawberries as doomed as the ship.
He had to find Morton!
Thor braced himself to be assailed with spit wads and slimey loogies only to discover that Morton had gone over to the dark side. He was taking a nap on top of the chicken coop. At times, squirrels can be worse than useless.
Rex and Thor raced back into the house to formulate another plan. First, Thor went down into the basement to get a plastic bucket. Then, he went into the kitchen to get a fork, Styrofoam plate, a jar of maraschino cherries, a strong rubber band and a towel. Thor grabbed his favorite cat and headed for the jungle.
By now the chickens were sounding the alarm, which made Rex began to howl again. All of the noise distracted the gophers from their strawberry patch raid long enough for Thor to hook the wire handle of the pail into the fork, and fit the fork to the rubber band like an arrow against a bow string. Thor pulled the rubber band as far as he could and let fly.
The bucket sailed through the air landing right in the middle of the patch. Since, everyone knows that a Minnesota gopher cannot resist getting a bucket, the gophers raced for the bucket excitingly dribbling all over the place. Gus the biggest gopher was the center lead and got to the bucket first. No sooner had he run into the bucket and claimed it as his own than the cat pounced on top of the bucket trapping Gus.
With their leader rendered helpless, the other gophers forgot their game plan. They began running around completely disoriented as their dribbling increased two-fold. It was a foul scene. At that very moment the backyard gate crashed open with a bang as loud as a shot out of a cannon.
There stood Grandma! Wrinkled stockings and knees sagging down to her ankles with a huge kettle in one hand and large metal spoon in the other. She began to bang on the kettle with the spoon with all her might creating sound so loud it would make thunder blush. Of course this woke up Morton the Squirrel who immediately began spitting at grandma.
The situation was quickly getting out of control. Thor took out his rubber band and loaded it with a maraschino cherry. He aimed carefully and just as Morton took another deep breath before he lobbed another spit loogie at grandma, Thor let the cherry fly. Into Morton’s mouth it sailed and he swallowed it with a gulp. The high levels of artificial red dye and sweetener from the Maraschino cherry put Morton into an immediate sugar coma and he fell fast asleep.
Thor threw grandma the clean towel so that she could rid herself of squirrel spit.
Then, he did the most cruel thing he had ever done to an animal in his life, because Thor knew that you cannot show any mercy to Minnesota gophers or they will beat you every time. He pulled out the Styrofoam plate and flashed the gophers with a non-recycleable item. The horror! With the environment of the jungle supremely compromised, the dazed shrieking gophers cried foul for being so severely penalized for merely being off-sides and double dribbling. They quickly bolted for the fence to get out of bounds.
By now grandma had cleaned off all of the squirrel residue along with most of her makeup, and was walking towards the bucket being guarded by the cat. Grandma tipped the bucket up and grabbed Gus. She then benched him by the picnic table.
She eyed him over as she said, “Well, what have we here? Looks to me like we have ourselves a strawberry thief. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
Gus thought about it and then blurted out, “I did not take any strawberries.” “You cannot prove that I did.”
Grandma’s eyes narrowed to a squint as she glared down at him over the rims of her bifocal glasses. “Do I look like I was born yesterday?” You have strawberry juice stains around your mouth, your big buck teeth are as pink as a sunburned pig’s butt and your feet look like you’ve been line-dancing barefoot at a bloody vampire festival! Gus, you make bad choices. Do you know what we do to strawberry thieves in these parts?”
Gus negatively shook his head as his pondered what his gruesome fate would be.
Grandma reached into the pocket of her apron. At that moment, Thor’s heart sank as he realized the fate in store for the gopher. “By golly, young fella, it’s time someone teaches you how to follow the rules.” Then, out they came, a razor sharp pencil, a small notebook of paper, and a sheet of paper with writing on it.
It was a copy of Grandma’s rules for acceptable behavior.
Grandma believed that most things in life improve with practice. That includes rule following and writing. Thor knew all of grandma’s rules by heart. Whenever he was caught in a violation, you can be sure he would be found copying them 100 times.
“Gus in my opinion you could use some work on all of these rules, but numbers five and seven are the ones you really, really need to focus on. Oh, don’t think that you are going to take any short cuts or escape…I plan to sit right here to point out any omissions you make. As for escaping, well, I might be slow, Gus, but the dog, cat and chickens are not.”
Grandma’s Rules of Acceptable Behavior:
1. Treat everyone just like you, yourself would like to be treated.
2. Be respectful of your elders and others. Always say please and thank you.
3. Kindness like cleanliness pays.
4. Be responsible and take responsibility.
5. Always be honest with your words and actions.
6. Don’t use bad words, unless you like the taste of soap.
7. If it isn’t yours, it is not yours.
8. When you want something, work for it.
9. Don’t pick your nose.
10. Be thankful to God and count your blessings.
11. Never, ever, pull Grandpa Walter’s finger in grandma’s presence.
As Gus began his journey of human moral assimilation, Thor picked up the bucket. While, grandma supervised the gopher’s character development, Thor filled the bucket with strawberries, then dumped bucket after bucket of the berries into grandma’s big kettle.
As Thor picked, grandma cleaned the berries. By the time Gus was done learning right from wrong, the strawberry patch was empty.
Grandma carried Gus to the fence and tossed him over the side. Everyone knows that Minnesota gophers know how to bounce. No harm no foul.
No sooner had the rodent disappeared than Thor’s dad came home from work and walked into the jungle alongside Grandpa Walter.
Thor’s dad wondered why on such a bright sunny day and with the garden hose off that his son was wearing rain gear and eye protection. He then noticed that there was a squirrel sleeping on top of the chicken coop, a jar of Maraschino cherries had been left outside, a towel was hanging on the line covered with mascara stains and goo, his mother was there without makeup on, and there were sheets and sheets of paper with her rules for acceptable behavior copied on them floating around the yard like dry leaves in the fall.
Suspicious that his mother had his son spend the afternoon practicing writing skills Thor’s dad asked, “Son, what have you been doing today?” “Nothing much.” Thor responded.
Thor’s dad saw all of the picked cleaned strawberries and said, “Your mom has ice cream in the house for those.”
On the way into the house they all walked past Grandpa Walter. Grandpa Walter stuck out his finger and Thor’s dad pulled it. As Grandpa Walter ripped a leg lifter fart that fluttered the fabric of the seat of his pants and sent Thor running, Grandma handed Thor’s dad her notebook, pencil and her list of “Rules for Acceptable Behavior.”
“Get copying son, and focus your attention specifically on Rule Number 11. It is just luck that a strong breeze prevented Grandpa’s wind from spoiling all of the strawberries and rendering us all blind and unconscious! For Pete’s sake, most of your garden is wilted and uprooted, and the ferocity of the release of all that hot anal air blew half of your fence over! A methane emission of that magnitude could advance climate change by decades! There are reasons for rules!”
In grandma’s world, with the single exception of Grandpa Walter, no matter how old you are acceptable behavior is acceptable behavior whether human or beast.
Thor immensely enjoyed eating fresh strawberries and ice cream while watching his dad improve his penmanship.