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Sun, April 21

Father's look stays strong in memory

"How many do you have?"

"That depends on how many I can find."

The topic was white rats. While cleaning their cage, I answered the doorbell and let Jimmy in. Before I could run back to the dining room, the rats had scattered.

I was nine or 10, and cleaning the cage was a twice-a-week chore, which meant transferring the rats to another box while I scoured the screened-in cage.

Anyhow, my mom was out shopping that afternoon, so I took the chance that I could watch them while I cleaned the cage and put in fresh water and shredded paper. Naturally, I blamed Jimmy for the escape and quickly enlisted him in the search.

"We've got to find them before she gets back!" I exclaimed. I didn't have to explain why. Jimmy's mother liked rats even less than mine. I was on thin ice if they weren't back in the cage when mom returned.

"I found one," I yelled. Snow White was under the living room coffee table. I caught hold of her tail and put her back in the cage. Quickly I found two others. Then Jimmy called out that he saw something move under the china cabinet. When he stuck his hand into the darkness, he let out a loud shriek.

"There's a snake under there," he screamed.

"I'll bet that's Benjamin," I responded coolly. "He escaped yesterday. Thanks for finding him." I don't think Jimmy heard that last comment; the front door slammed just as I said it.

I got Benjamin back into his cage just as mom walked in the back door with an armful of groceries. "Everything okay here?" she asked.

"Just fine," I replied.

Actually, I told a small fib. Whitey was still missing, as well as my other snake, Herbert. I kept my eyes peeled as I helped mom fix dinner. No luck.

Fortunately, during meals mom sat with her back to the living room. I had a clear view and dad could scope the area if he turned his head just a little. So I was the one who saw Whitey stick his small head around the corner. I stayed calm. Neither parent caught my sudden head movement.

That is, until Herbert slithered around the same corner. I must have flinched because dad looked at me, then glanced at the now crowded corner. Sipping her coffee, mom missed the smile dad sent me. They were headed Mom's way when dad asked me to check the front door. "It may have been blown open by the breeze."

So, I "checked" the door, picking up the rat and snake on the way and dropping them off in their cages. Dad didn't say a word about the collusion, but I never forgot his help.

On this Father's Day, it's appropriate to recall some of those moments when a dad came to our rescue or did us a quiet, special favor.

The precious words, "Thanks, Dad," in my case, would have the enthusiastic endorsement of Whitey and Herbert.

(Ron Barnes is a longtime Prescott resident and a semi-retired educator and businessman.)

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