God love me, but I married a city boy. (It happens. Really. I think we’re overcome by their innate knowledge of bus schedules and ability to parallel park and how they don’t panic at revolving doors, a thing I had never seen until I left Montana for Chicago.) Our early days of marriage featured this exchange.

“Look over there–a coyote!” said Joel, pointing off to the south.

I glanced over. “Sweetie, that’s a deer.”

“Deer, coyote, ferret, same thing.” he said

And you wonder why I used to panic when my dad asked Joel to come help him at the vet clinic.



He’s getting better, however, as his default identification of any unfamiliar mammal used to be “FERRETS! We’ve got FERRETS!” You can understand why my heart thrilled when two new mammals were added to the mix. True, I think it was the first and only time I’ve ever seen a deer mistaken for a coyote, but that is a minor bump on the path to true love.

The ferret thing came about one morning when Joel and I still lived in Illinois. Like any good suburban couple, we went to work on house beautification, including the addition of exterior siding. As with any construction project, there is some left-over debris, and we had thoughtfully moved that to the garbage. When I went to kiss Joel good-bye as I made my way to work, Joel responded with “Oh yeah–we have ferrets.”

“Excuse me?” I said (again with my wit!)

“Ferrets. We have ferrets in the garbage can.” he said, this time with more force.

“Are you sure that you don’t mean possums or raccoons?” I said, crinkling my nose and giving him shifty eyebrows.

“No, those are ferrets. I know ferrets when I see them.” he said, waving me off to work.

I took the lid off the garbage, peered inside, and didn’t see anything. I didn’t give the ferrets another thought until a week later Joel came to me and said, “I saw those ferrets again.”

Big sigh. Repeated sightings mean that we really do have to do something about the ferret infestation.

That Saturday, we donned the haz-mat suits of Hefty (T) bags and gardening gloves, grabbed the snow shovels, and went out to upturn the garbage cans. The first upheaval revealed nothing but the detritus you would expect of a minor construction, but the second can was more of a surprise. There, nestled inside an empty beer case were three…




One skittled off one way, the second another, and the third made a beeline for our neighbors’ garage.

“Boy, that will make for an interesting topic at tonight’s block party.” Joel said.

While still in that newly sided house in Illinois, we enjoyed this marvelous creation known as a basement (few in Texas have basements because of all the limestone–notoriously difficult to drill through just so we all have a place to have some cool to sleep and store the Christmas decorations and crap we forget that we have.) During installation, a small critter had taken that open-door opportunity to wander in and make itself at home in our basement. We knew something had wandered in because of the odd trills and chirps and the rapt attention our cat, Immelda, was giving to the basement door.

I came home one afternoon to find Joel sweaty and panting in the basement. There are some things I should not reason why, but I asked anyway. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?” I asked.

“I was trying to catch the chipmunk in the bucket.” Joel replied.


Long pause.

“Huh?” I parried back.

Then a somewhat long description of the afternoon’s festivities followed, and althought I still do not fully understand what happened, apparently Joel tried to capture the rogue chipmunk in a bucket for over an hour by running up and down the stairs and trapping said chipmunk in said bucket. After the obvious failure of the master plan, Joel then propped up the sofa cushions as a kind of hazard barrier from the basement door, through the kitchen, and out the side door. Alas, this too looked set for failure as the chipmunk jumped at Joel’s face, so he took a wild swing with the broom and sent the chipmunk sailing over the patio railing. Now for the “whew” factor: he remembered to prop open the kitchen door before swinging away.

And that is how Joel tried to catch a chipmunk in the bucket. It’s a true story, not a euphemism, and no, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.