As a child I convinced myself life on the Kansas prairie could never provide the titillating life of excitement for which I yearned. As a young woman, I realized the power of acceptance and came to enjoy my little house on the prairie.
My moment of enlightenment smacked me in the head during a wild gaggle of events known to my family as normality. The apex of my illumination took place on a mundane trip to the local watering hole. While driving down our country road cushioned by fields in every direction, my father stomped on the brakes of our faithful rust bucket and launched into the prairie night. At this moment, my sister and I noticed a small animal scurrying away from my father. Naturally, we innocently assumed this critter to be a precious, misplaced kitten; unfortunately, my devious father knew better. After many moments of bated breath, he cornered the animal in the field, scooped up his prize, and proudly toted it back to the car. As we realized the captured creature was none other than an ugly, wrinkled gopher, our bubble of excitement burst releasing an emotion similar to that of a princess upon the realization that prince charming is actually a warty toad.
To this day, I do not know what possessed my father to catch a gopher in the middle of a field at eight o’clock in the evening. Regardless of his intentions, we were now stuck with a vicious hitchhiker inhabiting a car full of frantic women. Feeding off our squeals with a vampiric satisfaction, my father began to examine the animal while holding it by the scruff of its neck. The helpless creature writhed in anger in an attempt to escape my ferocious father’s impromptu science experiment. To our amazement, the gopher slipped from my father’s grasp and elegantly turned to devour his captor’s finger with the power of a man-eating mandible. Acting on pure instinct, my father grabbed the gopher and tossed it across the car directly into my mother’s lap. Already a bundle of nerves, my mother began to fling her arms and produce a deep guttural growl generally associated with wounded animals. At this point, my sister and I are deep within a glee-induced state of euphoria produced only by the pure and awesome act of stupidity to which we bore witness. After realizing what he had done, my father began to chuckle and search for the loose gopher. Managing to escape the confines of the car as the rescue mission commenced, my mother jogged down the dirt road in an effort to flee the familiar madness. Eventually the rodent was freed from the hellish chamber and scampered into the night to continue its epic journey across the field, but the ecstasy of the event has yet to leave the family car.
Living in a life of madness has solidified my belief in the healing power of belly laughs – the unintended moments of extreme hilarity which bridge the abyss of life’s ordinary events. The laughs certainly have not ended with the gopher’s escape. I keep a gem of a tale involving a beaver stored away in my back pocket, and if asked nicely, I’ll even tell my favorite – dead opossum on the door step.
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