General Fiction posted November 1, 2012

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Wymie Ferret

by Bill Schott

It began the same day that Baggy Ponds decided to take a week off and see his folks. He asked the three of us, Abe, Butch, and me, to take care of his ferret. He hadn't known us very long, seeing he was new to the meteorological unit, but we assured him that the little fur-bearin' critter would be in excellent care.

No sooner had his jalopy pickup truck disappeared behind the hill next to our weather station, than work was begun on the launch. Within the hour an MRE case had been transformed into a gondola. We inflated a 100 gram pilot balloon and attached supporting guy lines to the vehicle. Next, we ran out an entire roll of cord (approximately 500 meters) to tether the space craft, so re-entry would be possible. With all systems go the balloon was released and Private Wymie Ferret became the first ferret in space.

Looking over the side of the gondola, paws under his chin as he gazed down at the retreating earth, I can only imagine his terrified rodent thoughts. We allowed more and more cord to unreel until the white balloon was a mere dot in the immense sky. We discussed, as we monitored the controlled launch, whether the ferret would suffer in the cooler atmosphere aloft. This finally turned into sobering concern for the ferret's life. His re-entry was initiated.

As the balloon and vehicle came nearer to the ground, we could see Private Ferret was still very much alive. He must have been overjoyed to see terra firma again, as he attempted to leap from the safety of his elevated box to the ferret-hating gravity that existed outside of it. He had actually leapt three-quarters out of the gondola before his better judgment, which seemed to reside in his left rear foot, caused him to latch onto the hull of his carriage with that appendage. He then dangled, a cartoonish figure hanging from an MRE box, flailing helplessly as his flying apparatus slowly descended to the earth.

He was still too high to safely release his grip from the gondola, but fearlessness or lack of sonar caused him to let go and plummet downward. Abe said he would catch the ferret, but then Butch shouted that he had him. "I got 'im! I got 'im! I - don't got 'im!" he yelled, as the falling ferret whisked past his arms and thudded on the ground.

We gasped, looked at each other, then laughed hysterically at what had just occurred. After a mixture of disbelief in Butch's incredible stupidity, and marvel over our otherwise successful experiment, we scooped up the hapless creature and transported him to our workroom for further analysis.

He was lethargic and quiet for an hour or so, until we placed the makeshift medal around his neck. We could see the sparkle in his bulbous and unbelieving eyes as he, no doubt, reveled in his paper clip and aluminum foil award.

Within a couple of days Wymie was no longer dragging himself around with only his front legs working. He was, as far as we could tell, fully recovered from his ordeal and ready for his next phase of indoctrination. He seemed less than anxious to leap from my arms and into the freezer for cold-weather training. That wasn't the most thrilling experimentation to observe, but it's certain that when Baggy Ponds returned from vacation, he had the most highly trained ferret in the world.

Wymie's training intensified over the next few months. Each time Baggy left him with us, survival training began. He would accompany Abe to scuba school and spend a little time treading water. He also tagged along with Butch to the pistol range where he was saddled with a box of 9 mil rounds to carry from the ammo table to the firing line. Word is he was a trooper and a quick learner.

One day Baggy met Candy (I know, we laughed too). Since they spent a lot of time together, and since Candy had a spread of land, Wymie rarely ended up in our care. Candy wasn't a cerebral giant, as was evidenced when she took Wymie, whom Baggy had bought to eventually breed, into the vet to be neutered. This happened when our team had been sent to run meteorlogical data for the 82nd Airborne.

Shortly after Ponds had acquired Wymie, he built a super deluxe cage for him. It was six feet by four feet, made of two-by-fours and rabbit wire, and weighed a ton (a hyperbole which becomes an irony later). They kept the cage and Wymie at Candy's place. This did eventually lead to what we would later refer to as Wymie's Last Ride.

Baggy was assigned to a six-week duty in Puerto Rico. He had simultaneously broken up with Candy and asked her to deliver Wymie and the cage back to our meteorological station with her pickup truck. She did just that the day after his plane left for the San Juan. The truck arrived with the huge cage in the bed. We jumped up to lift it out and saw that the ferret was not inside. We asked Candy where he was and she claimed that she had tossed him in the back with the cage.

After removing the cage we discovered the lifeless, flattened, carcass of the former Private Wymie Ferret. We ascertained that the bear-rug-looking Wymie had been placed in the truck bed first, then unceremoniously squashed by the super heavy cage which not-so-smart Candy had tossed in afterwards.

Upon Baggy's return we informed him of the events and he took it as well as could be expected. He suggested we launch Wymie's body (which we'd kept wrapped in cellophane in the freezer)with a thousand gram balloon. It would be well over the Atlantic Ocean by the time it eventually popped. We all agreed that it was a brilliant, original, and fitting send off for our fallen ferret friend.

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