AS A WEE lassie of perhaps 5 or 6, our daughter, Wendy, seemed to claim ownership to just about every living creature that fluttered their eyelashes her way. She was especially fond of butterflies.

AS A WEE lassie of perhaps 5 or 6, our daughter, Wendy, seemed to claim ownership to just about every living creature that fluttered their eyelashes her way. She was especially fond of butterflies. Nevertheless, lightning bugs, lady bugs, caterpillars, squirrels, bunnies, chipmunks and nearly any other insect or small animal found a place into this child's heart. For this reason, I was so thankful we didn't live near a farm or I would have had to turn the garage into a pony barn.

Jimmy had a Cocker Spaniel he named Susie and when we first moved to the lakes Susie came with us. Shortly after settling here, he managed to talk us into keeping a black kitten with four white feet named "Mittens."

As Wendy grew up, after getting through her "Terrible Twos," she wanted her own pet, regardless of what kind. She'd try every trick in the book to convince us into owning one. One day, she conned us into adopting "Snowball," a live bunny. When I insisted she couldn't have it in the house or sleep with it, she talked me into building a fenced-in hutch and each day she'd pet it, visit with it and feed it.

One morning it was gone and the tears flowed freely. After we found it, we buried it under some trees up on the hill. I also had to erect a painted, wooden, "headstone" for snowball.

When I'd tell her she couldn't have a certain animal because there was no room, she'd look at me with sad, misty eyes and say, "Oh Daddy, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just have a stuffed one. We'd never have to walk it, feed it or let it out to take care of itself."

She was good, real good. She'd plan her work and then work her plan. Peggy said since she knew I couldn't stand to see her cry, she had the upper hand. But I disagree. I was just trying to maintain family harmony.

One year at a fair, after announcing to nearly everyone within hearing distance that her Daddy could do anything, I spent almost $50 dollars trying to win a giant pink, purple and white stuffed unicorn for her by tossing li'l rings onto the neck of coke bottles. This animal was at least as big as she was and probably bigger than her bed. Finally, trying not to disappoint her, when she wasn't looking I simply asked the midway barker in a low whisper how much he wanted for the unicorn and just bought it.

We also managed to become the proud owners of a life size gorilla, chimpanzee, monkey or whatever. Its manufacturer called it "Curious George" and every time we'd go boating that huge stuffed animal had to go, too. When she first got it, Curious George was bigger than she was. And so each time in the boat she'd demand that it wears a life jacket just like hers.

And there we were, riding through the Portage Lakes in an open boat with this stuffed primate donning a life vest for all to see. Boaters would stare and we'd give them a quick semi-smile in an attempt to save face, and all this time passing our boat, they'd look at us as if we were a few bread slices shy of a loaf. Of course Peggy always claimed they were just jealous.

I'm sure our daughter comes by her love for animals honestly since both Peggy and I have always favored pets and, for the longest time, have had a habit of nearly humanizing them. Just as we passed these traits down to her and Jimmy, both of those kids have passed those same traits down to their offspring. Our grandson, Li'l Wahoo, has his own dog, "Buddy," and our granddaughter, Mo, has one called "Lily." This alone should prove than the genes of parents are definitely inherited by their kids.

The latest incident happened just last week. Arriving in the kitchen for breakfast, Peggy informed me that she received a phone call from Wendy and Bobby's daughter, 5-year-old Li'l AnnaMay.

"Grandma, My worm died," she informed Peggy between a few sniffs and some serious sobs.

Now, folks, I've never been much of a morning person. It takes me quite a while to get my thoughts together, get myself into the right gear and think about things I should be thinking about which is why I never proof read any of my columns before noon. Usually, after a few cups of stay awake juice (read that as Arabica coffee), I'm good to go. But this time I wasn't quite sure the wife said what I thought she might have said.

"Just a second, Honey," I told her, "let me get some fresh batteries." I hurried to the bedroom in a quest to get two new power cells for my hearing aids.

"Now then, why did Aunt Pat want to tell you about what she learned on the side?" I asked, signaling to her that I was now wired for sound.

"Not Aunt Pat," she swiftly corrected, "You misheard me. It was AnnaMay, our granddaughter."

"Well, okay, Li'l AnnaMay," I said. "What about her?"

"Her worm died?!?"

“Now wait just a minute honey,” I stopped her from continuing. “I thought the two batteries I just put in were fresh. Did you just say 'her worm died?'"

"Your batteries are fresh, Frank," Peggy said. "Leave them alone and listen. AnnaMay adopted a worm as her new pet and it died." My wife emphasized hoping that I'd now understand what she said.

But folks, this was starting to border on more than I could comprehend. You don't know how much I wanted to go back to sleep.

"They already have Tamarijn, a Maine Coon cat," I mumbled, still half asleep. "That feline must be close to 20 years old and still has eight of its nine lives remaining. Why would she want a worm for a pet?"

"It came with the apple," Peggy said as if it was an everyday occurrence for 5-year-old girls and me to understand. "She was eating this apple and there was a worm in it so your granddaughter decided to adopt it as her new pet. Now, she' all beside herself because it died and she had to tell someone beside Wendy and Bobby, so she called me."

"I need a cup of coffee, first," I informed her.

As I sipped my java, I reviewed what I had just heard and then seriously wondered what I may have gotten myself into 41 years ago when I said, “I do!”

After emailing Wendy our condolences on the "passing of Squirmy the Worm," I asked her to share our sympathy with Li'l AnnaMay and the rest of the bereaved family.

“Dad,” she wrote back, “AnnaMay thanks you for your timely words. We just had the burial ceremony, complete with flowers and prayers. I'm not kidding, Dad (sigh). … and now I appreciate even more than ever all the animals of mine you buried up on the hill."

Actually, folks, her words of appreciation, even though they came 30 years later, did make me feel somewhat better. Thinking back, I got so good at it, I seriously thought about opening a pet burying service.

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