Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Try not to feed the animals

Talking to a colleague/one of a couple of bosses I have at MatadorNetwork last night as he was in Santiago, getting ready with his family to set up shop someplace entirely different, I was reminded of a million and one stories that I hope I never run out of time to tell. In the interest of time, I've clumped three together in a collection I like to call: Animals will take your food, and you will let them, unless you are an idiot.

I can recall three times in my life that animals have seized my food, either while I was eating it, or before I could get to it. This if we're not including the occasional mouse that may have inhabited my old house in DC or the legions of ants that attacked the trail mix in Cuba (how did they get in through the plastic bag?) I'm also exempting the weird grain moths (or weevils, like I liked to call them) that took up residence in the pantry one year, living on the bulgur, quinoa, brown rice and any other carbs they could get their six legs on, taunting me with their beating little wings until I smashed them with a swiffer (with which I always used reusable covers, because hey, I'm green when I want to be), moth massacre aside.

Three times, food has been swiped from me. We were careful in Yosemite, leaving food wrapped, in a cooler, in the car. Didn't want any bears paying us a surprise hello. But how can you be careful of stray dogs, seagulls, and those giant-four legged scavengers, the wild ponies of Assateague?

The dog story is good one. I like to call it "insult to injury." A college friend of mine and I were in a bus station in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, waiting for an ill-thought-out overnight bus to Oaxaca. Somewhere along the way, her small on-the-bus bag got stolen, this after she'd pulled out a loaf of bread and her journal so she could write down what she was feeling. Which afterwards was probably long columns of stars and arrobas (at signs) and exclamation points because damn, her stuff got stolen. Later on that evening, as we were making phone calls (or trying to) to cancel credit cards and decide what else to do, we had our stuff resting on the ground by the broken payphone (which, by the way, did not respond to kicking). And up came a mongrel cur, opened his maw, swiped the bread and scooted down the street. Not willing to be victimized once again, I started running after the dog, as though I was going to take the bread back from him if I managed to catch him. I eventually realized my folly and went to lick my wounds with the aforementioned friend. Later we got to give a police report to a shirtless police officer who was haciendose cariƱo (petting himself) with the side of his sidearm. Spiffy! Also hairless, if you were wondering.

The second food-theft story involves sitting on the beach in North Carolina with some of my ex's friends. I was vegan at that time, an animal lover in the extreme (later mothkilling be darned), and as everyone else nibbled daintily on their cheese sandwiches, I had a hummus sandwich in hand. I remember I was sitting on the beach, knees bent, with the sandwich in my left hand, elbow flexed, resting upon my knee, the universal sign (apparently) for "I am no longer eating this sandwich, please come and thieve it from me). I remember the feeling of my sandwich suddently becoming bouyant, floaty, upward-pulling even. And I did battle with the seagull there for just a minute before I realized that much like the bread I'd have wrested from the dog's jaws, there was no way I was going to eat this hummus sandwich after it had been in a seagull's beak.

Which brings us to the third, and most mane-flowingly tender story. I was sitting outside at a campsite in Assateague, Maryland (close to neighboring Chincoteague, Virginia where the locals hold an annual pony swim to raise money, and yes there are ponies on Assateague as well, because sometimes the ponies swim just on their own, apparently), when I heard a kid at a nearby campsite say to his mother, "Mom, there's a horse. There's a horse, right here." The wild ponies stand in the surf, walk around on the roads, and pretty much do whatever they like in this area, looking much like the Icelandic horses/ponies (difference? I'm a wordsmith, not an equestrian expert) with their broad hooves and thick manes. The wild ponies at the beach are an attraction on both Assateague and Chincoteague, sometimes causing traffic backups and being generally darn cute. They also have long flexible pink tongues which they will daintily use to slurp up your cereal and soymilk out of your dented tin bowl while you step back to feel around for your camera to get a picture of the horses that are "right there."

Up until now, I have not had any more animal food thievery, or at least none that I know of. I used to have a cat who really liked watermelon and honeydew, and would stand on his hind legs like a cat posessed, for a piece of potato, which has nothing to do with anything, but man was that ever cute.

Foodtheft? Just me? Not you? Oh come on, tell the story of when an animal took something from you. Hopefully not a chunk of your shoe like a stray dog tried to from me in Santiago not too long ago. Glasses? Camera? Icecream? oh come on, I can't be the only one!

14 comments:

Sue said...

In Gibraltar, at the top of the rock, they have all these wild monkeys. We were warned not to bring plastic bags or food because they would try to steal it. I had a sandwich in a plastic bag, so I put it into another (non-plastic) bag for safe-keeping. At some point during the visit Kenneth decided we should feed the monkeys so he took out the plastic bag. I don't remember exactly how it went down (maybe I'm repressing the trama!) but a monkey heard the plastic and tried to take it from Kenneth, who screamed like a girl and involuntarily threw the bag down into a crevasse where nobody could get it. Good times.

On the same trip, we overheard a little Swedish girl say "Han vill ata upp mig!", which means "He wants to eat me up!" about a monkey. She was very traumatized by this but we were just amused. Callous? Maybe.

Nimble said...

I was hiking near Truchas peak in northern New Mexico with two friends. We found a laid back herd of mountain goats on the path. They were inquisitive, not shy at all and my friend fed them the carrots he had. They also wanted to lick our palms (for the salt I assume). It was exciting (wild animals!) cute (we can pet them!) and then claustrophobic (get all these goats away from me!).

Nimble said...

I was hiking near Truchas peak in New Mexico with two friends. We came upon a herd of mountain goats (long white wool) on the path. They were inquisitive, not a bit shy, and my friend fed them the carrots he had. They also wanted to lick our palms for the salt. It was exciting (wild animals!) cute (we can pet them!) and then claustrophobic (get these goats away from me!). I was glad to have met them and glad to say goodbye.

Abby said...

There is a technical difference between a horse and a pony, but my 4-H knowledge is failing me at the moment. I think it has to do with body proportions. That´s why miniature horses are miniature horses, not ponies.

I don't think I've ever had food stolen from me by an animal (except maybe my dogs when I was too young to realize). Ahh but there was a cow on the farm that liked to eat strange things like bananas and Snickers bars. Her name was Vienna and my cousin did a science report to see what things she would eat. She wouldn´t eat oranges, if I remember correctly.

Matt said...

When I was about 5, we went to a safari park (where you drive your car through the wildlife) and a giraffe put its head through the window I had foolishly just opened and then stole and ate my favourite Mr Man book.

Bastard.

(the book was Mr Grumpy).

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I'll have to think of some of my own, but I remember one (non-food related!) involving your overalls, a parrot, and a button. I think you know the picture...

Remember feeding grapes to the chimpanzees (baboons?) at Great Adventure out the window of the giant green station wagon? WHAT was our dad thinking? It was fun, though!

planetnomad said...

I think it's just you :)

Sara said...

I've had seagulls steal whole sandwiches from me on the beach by lake Superior. Cunning little buggers.

And I'm jealous that you've been to Chincoteague. I've been wanting to go there since I was a little girl and I read Misty for the first time.

Annje said...

A banana by a fox at Frei Jorge national park in Chile (very cool park if you have never been there)

The fox didn't steal it per se, but was llicking his chops and looking at my husband like" either give me whatever you got or I am making a lunge for your tasty-looking calves" All we had was a banana.

I am also jealous you have been to Assateague and Chincoteague just because they are such cool names--though in my ignorance I had never heard of them and thought Assateague just might be a lovely little town in France (knowing your penchant for travel)... can you tell I am not from the Northeast and that I didn't read Misty?

oh, and ants can break through anything--they can pretty much do whatever they want.

Fly Girl said...

I wouldn't mind having food snatched by a cute wild pony! The only animal snatching I can think of was when I was 7, at a petting zoo and a goat decided to munch on my skirt as I was bending down to feed the other goats.

Margaret said...

No animal food snatching incidents for me, I'm afraid, although there was that time when I wished the damned pigeon flying overhead had actually stolen the slice of pizza I was about to eat instead of pooping on it just as I was aiming for my mouth... GROSS!

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Nerd's Eye View said...

Chipmunks. Outside of Bend, Oregon. Those little bastards are so fearless they will crawl up your arm, jump from your shoulder to your head, and reach right in front of your mouth to grab your sandwich.

Abby said...

Ohh. Matt's giraffe story reminded me of a time we were at Park Safari in Canada and we bought a box of grain to feed the animals. My little bro held out the box for the giraffe, the giraffe grabbed the box, the bottom broke, the grain fell out, but the giraffe couldn't have cared less. He ate the box.