Let’s put endangered species in kids’ hands

Our family always has made pets out of all kinds of living things. We had a dogie goat named Penco, which isn’t terribly original since Penco means dogie in Spanish. Penco learned that when the back door slammed either food or fun were on the way, and he always came running.

Our pet squirrel named Chester had the run of the house — literally. He had his bluff in on the old tomcat, so Tom hid out on the back porch much of the time. We had a catfish named Whiskers (what else?). Mom vetoed the bathtub, so we let him live in the stock tank in the corrals. He’d come to us for food, and we learned he’d eat almost anything that didn’t eat him first.

We chased grasshoppers and dug worms for a little chicken named Peep — another original name. We even provided little pieces of gravel so her craw would work right.

We broke a big hog to ride. We had to rig a hackamore instead of a bridle with a bit, but she neck-reined (actually shoulder-reined) pretty darn good. We had a great time riding her among the junipers.

All the animals we adopted grew up strong and healthy.

With that in mind I’ve been thinking (which is dangerous, I admit, but I recklessly indulge now and then) about — drum roll please and deep voiced intonation — endangered species.

Of course, many of us suspect the “endangered species” hullabaloo is really about confiscating the land and turning it over to the government, which would then let the city folks “administer” it — much like the Soviet Union used to do.

But if, in fact, they truly want to save these specimens (notice most of them are exceptionally photogenic?) here is my plan:

Capture examples of each “endangered specie” and turn them over to the ranch and farm kids. Before long, we’d have spotted owls perching on kids’ shoulders while the chores got done, and the kids would soon have enough of them to rent out to city dwellers to keep the mouse population under control. ‘Course then they’d probably put mice on the “endangered” list.

Best of all would be the movie stars. No more Lassies. The wolves could howl besides rescuing fair maidens and performing daredevil tricks. And their special talent would be evident at international border crossings. Imagine a drug smuggler’s reaction when he comes face-to-fang with Carny (short for carnivore) the Sniffer.

Herds of desert tortoises would stop traffic (for long periods of time) as the cowhands (turtle hands?) moved them to winter pasture.

The little fish that animal rightists are so worried about would propagate in ranch stock tanks so fast we’d probably have to start letting fishermen help thin them out. The moms would, as country women always do, concoct recipes for chubs and silvery minnows so fishermen could discover a new taste sensation.

You laugh, but remember the controversy over our national bird — turkey or golden eagle. The one we can eat is the one not in trouble.