Those Were The Days: Charlie


Charlie… I’ve always liked that name…Charlie! We all had a favorite name we wished our parents had named us instead of the one we got stuck with. So, naturally, mine was Charlie.

While our two sons were growing up, my wife, Jon, and I, or the grandparents, would take them to Palo Dura Canyon every summer for a weekend camp-out. Our youngest son, Bob, would catch himself a collared lizard to take back home to Bryan/College Station in central Texas as a pet. He had them tamed by the time we were halfway home, a nine-hour car ride. Wellsir, somehow those lizards got named… Charlie. When finally the first one died, there was then Charlie II, Charlie III, and on and on, until there were six generations of Charlie. I often sat at the dinner table with a 10” beautiful green lizard with a black ring (collar) around its neck, sitting on top of Bob’s head or shoulder while we enjoyed Jon’s excellent cooking. And many a day, Jon and I have crawled around the backyard looking for grasshoppers to feed Charlie when Bob has gone some place for the weekend.

Our family is one of those who enjoy pets of various breeds and sizes, and over the 56 years of marriage, we’ve had a duck, various snakes, a pet coon, and five lap dogs. But Jon would never agree to name a dog Charlie!

The next time I had me a Charlie was when we bought a home at the edge of College Station, Texas, and raccoons started invading our backyard looking for food. Over the course of three years, we were feeding dried cat food to our 32 coons every night! One rather large, fat, and docile ‘coon I named Charlie. He had a beautiful coat of fur and was very well-mannered. I have photos of him beside Jon, who would sit on a bench on our deck with a cup of milk and animal crackers. She would dip the cracker in the milk while he waited patiently, and then he would take the cracker in both paws before eating it. If Jon had any jewelry on her hands and wrists, Charlie would feel it and rub his paws over it while Jon was preparing the next “milk ‘n crackers.”

We fed these ‘coons for three years, and they never did any damage to our home, our yard, or to us. And they all had beautiful fur coats; cat food agreed with them. I’ve often wondered whatever happened to Charlie the coon when we moved from there.

At 70, Jon and I decided to downsize from a 3400 sq. ft. home to a 2100 sq. ft. patio house on a golf course in Bryan, Texas. So now I don’t have to do any more yard work! I do, however, keep 30 potted plants of various kinds. You would agree that our Lord must have had a blast creating flowers, plants, and trees! What would the world be like without them?

Right after we moved in, I noticed a chameleon fully grown was checking out our deck and all the flowers and greenery. Without thinking, I walked over to this beautiful six-inch lizard and said, “Howdy, Charlie, welcome to my new home!” Before long, Jon and I noticed two chameleons, and they always appeared to be looking for bugs to eat. I have watched Charlie run full speed, launch off the deck bench, sail through the air at least six feet, and hit the ground running to catch a moth! After eight years of living here, we must have at least ten “Charlies.” It’s incredible to see them turn from brilliant green to brown, to gray, to black…all depending on what’s in their background.

Our dog pays no attention to them. Only once did she see a Charlie sailing through the air, and she jumped up and went over to see what was going on… “Oh, it’s only Charlie,” and sniffing him, she went back and lay down!

My cardiologist told me to get at least 30 minutes of walking daily, so walking the dog gives me my exercise and Maggie lots of time to look for her “playmates.” My lap dog, a little 14-pound Lhasa Apso, becomes “The Hunter.” She can spot the golf course squirrels 50 yards away, and immediately, without saying a bark, she’s off to the races! I have watched some of the most unbelievable movements ever seen by human eyes. Now and then, she will catch the squirrel’s tail-end and that little critter will jump straight up in the air about two feet and hit the ground running again. Maggie is left standing there with some squirrel tail hairs in her mouth, watching this aerobatic move in awe. Then, as the squirrel hits the ground running, it’s off to the races again. I probably enjoy our hunting trip each day as much as Maggie. “The spotter” is what I call myself because I’m looking for these little creatures as diligently as Maggie. When I spot the hunted, I whisper “Maggie,” and then I point in the direction of our prey; and again whisper but with urgency, “SQUIRREL-MAGGIE- SQUIRREL!” And she is gone like a bullet shot from a gun barrel. We make a great team!

Now, this brings me to a tall tale about one of the most unusual squirrels I have ever encountered. I call him “Charlie, the Kamikaze Squirrel!” For those of you not of the World War II Generation, Japan had pilots whose job was to fly directly into the ship, etc., to do as much destruction as possible. It was a suicide mission. We called them Kamikaze pilots.

You could call him “Super Squirrel” because he’s “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings”…

This critter showed up on my street about two years ago. One morning on my way to the office, just having left the driveway by maybe 100 yards, I’m driving about 25 mph, and suddenly here comes this squirrel into the street. When he gets right in front of me, he stops, stands up, and just looks! By this time, I’ve stopped the car, and we are in this “stare down,” so I honk my horn, and he drops, and in less than a blink of your eye, he’s standing on the same curb he had just left. So, I relax and start down the street again and, oh-my-gosh, here he comes again! I don’t have time to hit my horn, but I do get my foot off the gas. He has disappeared from my view due to my car hood. But I slam on my brake, and this “blur” comes out from under my car and continues across the street with the last ten feet in midair as he jumps and sails onto a tree trunk.

As I start up again, he switches his tail, and I get the feeling he’s laughing at me, saying… “You missed me, nah-nah-naw, you missed me!” This little rascal loves to wait ‘til the last second and then scampers into the middle of the street, stops and waits for my honk, then he looks one way, then the other, and off he goes to “fly through the air” to his tree; and salutes me with the swish of his tail!

Wellsir, that was two years ago, and “old Charlie,” as I call him, still waits for me to continue our sport every day. Other squirrels have tried this kamikaze act, and they end up in the middle of the street on their backs with their little arms and legs sticking straight up in the air. I don’t know if someone has scared them to death or if they met their maker under the wheel of a car.

I look forward to our little contest and hope I never look in my rearview mirror and see my favorite critter stretched out in the middle of the street! I hope you have some “Charlies” in your life. They have certainly added spice to Jon and my lives.

May the Lord bless you… and your critters.