Monday, March 3, 2014

Life as I Knew It

Photo: I'm holding my pet monkey, C.J. Marianne is on one side of me and childhood friend, Sherie Pitman on the other.CJ Caboodle
Once upon a time in the jungles of Africa, a hunter by the name of John did something hunters should never do. He fired his weapon before actually seeing the animal he was firing upon. John saw some trees limbs moving and shot his gun. After all, he was in the depths of the jungle; the movement could not be anything but a ferocious animal, right? Wrong.

After firing the gun, John heard a thud when the animal hit the ground. But as he approached, it became clear that the animal (or at least the animal that was still living) was not ferocious at all. There on the ground before him lay the body of a dead monkey and with her a tiny newborn monkey, clung to his mother for dear life.

John felt terrible! He picked up the baby monkey and brought him home where he cared for him like a baby, feeding him through a bottle until the little guy was strong enough to eat solid food. Then he called his friend, Cecil Roberson.

Cecil was “Uncle Cecil” to me. He was one of my missionary uncles. At the time I knew him and his wife, “Aunt Marie” their children were grown and had moved on. Since my real grandparents were half a world away, Uncle Cecil and Aunt Marie became like adopted grandparents to me.

John asked Cecil if he knew a family that might want a pet monkey. Uncle Cecil thought of my family with our four children. When he called my dad to see if we wanted the monkey, he said he already had a cage too and if we would take the monkey, he could make a trip our way bringing the monkey, and cage – the whole caboodle to us. My dad named our pet Cecil John Caboodle, but we called him CJ.

CJ was different from most pet monkeys. He lived in a cage in our back yard, yes, but unlike other pet monkeys who had to stay in their cage or they would escape; CJ could be let out to play with us. We did this almost daily. In fact, CJ was a bit of an escape artist. He managed to pick lock after lock of his cage. I assume his tiny finger would fit in the key hole and he just manipulated it until it came open. Once, my father even placed a combination lock on the cage. CJ managed to open it as well.

But no worries, CJ never left our yard. We think he was afraid of the bush, after all he had never known anything but humans. He was one of us. And oh the fun we had with him! I remember sitting on a tree limb with CJ on another limb and telling him to jump to me. I learned the hard way that a monkey, even a small monkey, jumps with considerable force. The first time CJ jumped to me, I fell backwards onto the ground and had the wind knocked out of me. After that, I made sure there was also a branch behind my back to stabilize me. There is nothing quite like having a tiny monkey jump into your open arms from ten feet away. He always landed with his little arms open clinging to my shirt.

Sometimes CJ was trouble though. Sometimes he got into our house and raided my mothers costume jewelry. He especially liked her earrings which he put in his mouth. Did you know that monkeys have pouches on either side of their mouths? They put food in these pouches to save and eat later. I guess CJ thought my mom’s earrings were food. We would have to hold him down and pry open his mouth to retrieve the jewelry. And CJ loved to chase the cats. We had two cats who were both afraid of CJ. I have eaten many a dinner to the sound of animals running across the tin roof above me. First would come the sound of a scamper and then another scamper followed by CJ’s paws sort of lopping across. My dad would roll his eyes and say, “CJ got out of his cage again. After dinner one of you kids has to catch him and put him up for the night.”

My childhood was a rare treasure indeed!


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