When my oldest child was about seven, he had the brilliant idea to raise and sell gerbils, those cute little mouse-like rodents with the long legs, big black eyes, and amazing jumping ability.
Like a good mama, I found myself unable to tell him that there was probably little demand for these athletic little critters in the Midwest farm country around Advance, Missouri. My husband simply stayed out of the project altogether, choosing to ignore the little varmints, unless they got loose in the bedroom, at which point he tried to crush one with a book one night, thinking it was a mouse.
"Stop!"I yelled. "That's Herbert!"
"Who the heck is 'Herbert'?" my husband said.
"Herbert is your son's gerbil!" I muttered, as I peered underneath a bookcase, crooning, "Here, Herbert! Here, Herbert." (The key to calling a gerbil is to move slowly and call its name in a very high-pitched, squeaking voice.)
That night, as I remember, there was no slipping up on Herbert and catching him, fat as he was. The little brown and white child's pet would stand up on his hind legs and wiggle his whiskers at me, but, when I made a move to grab him, he would scurry back under the bookcase. I finally had to make a lettuce run down to the kitchen and set up a cage to trap him.
The fact that this incident happened around midnight did not endear me to my husband.
Another time, my husband and my son Todd were downstairs in the living room, building some sort of wooden exercise box for his first gerbil, when the middle child, Matthew, came running down the stairs, carrying the gerbil by its tail.
"Toddie!" he yelled, "I have your widdle wat!!"
Needless to say, Todd did not look kindly on his little brother's help.
If I recall, the DeJournett Gerbil Ranch had as many as 12 gerbils at one point, but the idea never quite got off the ground. I think Todd made up sale bills to take to school, but somehow, his friends' parents never quite saw the beauty of owning their very own gerbils.
When my daughter Kristin came along, I thought hamsters might be an easier choice. I had seen how slowly they moved. Those gerbils are FAST, and they can JUMP! A hamster just waddles along like a miniature panda.
Ha! If hamsters are so much easier, how did my daughter's hamster "Peaches" get out of her cage, come downstairs, and find her way up into the kitchen stove? I came down one morning at 5 a.m., to hear a rattling under the stove top. My husband grabbed the fly swatter (always his weapon of choice) and cautiously raised the stove top, preparing to smash the unwanted intruder.
"Stop! It's Peaches!" I shrieked.
The little long-haired, peach-colored hamster had to have a bath, and we never did figure out how she got into the stove.
It's a pretty safe bet that we did NOT start a hamster ranch....