When the grass turns green and leaves appear on the trees, it is baby animal time. Lambs, bunnies, chicks and ducklings are the quintessential babies associated with spring.
When I was ten one of our ewes died giving birth to an especially large lamb. We made a quick run to the IFA in Delta where we bought powdered milk and some dark pink rubber nipples. I remember the smell of that chalky powder we mixed with warm water. We funneled the milk into glass pop bottles, snapped on those nipples, and took on the role of surrogate mother sheep.
We named our little orphan Cecil. He had snowy white wool, spindly legs, and the sweetest face I had ever seen. At first we thought it was adorable that he followed us everywhere butting us demanding more food, but as the months passed it wasn't cute anymore. When Cecil's horns started to develop, we became increasingly alarmed at the demonstrative ways he insisted on being fed. My brother, Jim, and I devised a scheme of offering him hay through the rails of the fence. When he stuck his head through to eat, we used bailing wire to secure him to the fence so we could go in and feed and water the other animals without being mowed over by Cecil the Diesel, as he came to be known.
We raised rabbits for several years. It all started with two rabbits my Arizona grandparents gave Jim and me for Easter 1969. They looked just like the ones a magician would pull from a top hat, with white fur, pink eyes, and enormous back feet. The phrase, 'multiplying like rabbits' is very accurate and it wasn't long before we had a small city of rabbit hutches stacked behind the redwood fence at the back of our house.
Baby bunnies are probably one of the cutest animals known to man. At about two weeks old, their eyes open and their fur is silky soft. My mom would dab a little vanilla extract on the mommas' noses and Jim and I would sit in the grass holding those darling little creatures admiring their tiny ears and delightful dispositions.
Unfortunately, bunnies grow into rabbits. Trying to cuddle a rabbit can result in long, deep scratches and even an occasional nip with razor-sharp teeth. Cleaning out rabbit hutches became the most despised chore. The smell can burn holes in nasal tissues, eye membranes, and clothing.
Ducklings and chicks are additional examples of beautiful babies who grown into demented, bad-tempered, and work-intensive adult animals. As they develop, their lovely yellow fluff dissolves into raggedy, moth-eaten feathers; their odor is atrocious; and I have many stories of being mistreated by adult bills and beaks.
I remind myself and all parents of these events because spring time brings the sweet baby animals, who by autumn, have changed into something else completely. When we stop by the IFA store to get our yard and garden supplies this week, I want to be prepared to see the crates of bunnies, chicks, and ducklings, allow my children to oooh and aaah for a minute, and then depart without making any baby animal purchases.
Pass along your remembrances (about animals or anything else) to Georgia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-645-4238.