Whether we kept these critters hostage for a couple of hours or a couple of days, there was nothing like a summertime pet. We would catch them, call them our own, show them to our mothers, and they would promptly make us get rid of them. Maybe they lived outside or in your closet, a shoebox or a cage. Either way this was no ordinary cat or dog and you probably had no clue how to feed it. The following are just a few examples of the things my brother, sister, and I would have fun putting in captivity although we also did our fair share of catching other things like frogs, crayfish, and rolly-pollies.
A signal of summer for me, their magical flashing brought entertainment to warm nights. If you didn’t have the “traditional” jar, your hands worked just as well for capturing these flying critters. The fun in these guys was the pursuit of the capture. You would see the greenish glow in the distance, run up to where you last saw the flash, then look around for it until you could catch it (another flash usually gave them away). After catching more bugs than everyone else in the unannounced competition of “how many lightning bugs can you capture,” you’d set them free. I don’t think I ever kept them overnight, probably because I didn’t know what else to put in the jar to keep them happy.
This was my sister’s favorite thing to capture because you could make a cool home for them out of sticks, leaves, etc and if you were lucky, they would make a cocoon. Most of the time, the caterpillars emerged to be boring moths even though they looked fuzzy and cool. They were fairly easy to catch because they didn’t move very fast. Also it was pretty easy to know what to feed them. These were probably the pets we kept the longest because they require such little maintenance and could be kept outside in a special bug cage my sister had.
Overall, Anole’s were the most fun not only to keep but to catch as well. It took a fast hand with no fear of being bitten. We had a certain bush in our yard where we would go look for them when we wanted something to do. Most of the time, they were too good at hiding, but every once in awhile we would nab them. A lot of lizards lost their tails thanks to us kids. They were cool to watch their colors change and they seemed like the closest thing to having a real pet. We usually kept them in a shoebox with some grass and branches of leaves. Feeding them was a challenge mostly because it was annoying to have to dig up bugs to feed them. After a couple of days my parents would become annoyed with our new pet and made us put it back into the wild. My dad liked the idea of having it eat the bugs in his yard rather than getting loose inside the house.
Turtles were a bit rarer to come across, but we would find them every once in awhile. Catching them was a piece of cake once you did see one. They were fun to play with in the yard because they weren’t fast enough to get away. We’d set up obstacle courses and make them walk under our legs. It was also a pretty big deal to have one as a pet on our street. Every kid on the block knew when you were keeping a turtle and would come play with it. Once we made a pen for our turtle friend in the yard, other times we kept it in a box. We would usually end up releasing him back into the woods, but I think the one we had in the pen escaped.
How about you? What were your “pets” like?
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