Kay Eleanor McFarland
Other Life Memories
The chores I was responsible for always centered around our animals or inside the house. When I was young my dad had a fish pond built with a fountain. He was never the type of person to do housework or yardwork (that was for my brother and me), but he built a kidney shaped fishpond and really wanted fancy fish to stock it with. He would go to Cleveland and Boston to look at fish, then he’d order the ones he liked. They arrived at our house in big metal containers with a huge chunk of ice over it that melted and dripped all over. The railroad would call us to let us know they had the fish, but needed to add more ice to keep them alive. My dad had a lot of fish in those days, and he would name them all. He built a 1000-gallon aquarium in the basement and he’d put little plants in the bottom. He would put his hands in this aquarium and every winter he’d put the fish in there and we’d sit in rows watching. One morning my mother came home and heard a loud noise. At first she thought it was the washing machine, so she went downstairs to check it out, believing that somehow it had broken and water was running out of it, but actually it was the aquarium. It had blown up and broken all to pieces. Across the hall was a paneled wall that had chards of glass in it, and the drain was approximately two feet deep full of water. The bodies of fish clogged up the drain and the bottom layer of the fish were no longer alive. My dad rebuilt the aquarium, but we never wanted to sit in front of it again. Of all those fish, only 10 survived. In the summertime we had a great big stock tank and my dad had me help him clean and winterize it. This was the only hobby I remember him having outside of work. My dad was such a perfectionist. The area where he kept his fish had to be absolutely spotless.
We always had a lot of animals on our grounds: horses, dogs, cats, calves, fish. I always loved having dogs around. I remember the first time I realized they don’t know how to naturally swim. It wasn’t too long after we moved to the lake house that I discovered this. I had a dog, who I loved, named Pearl. I read an ad about a farm, somewhere between Abilene and Salina, that was selling Jack Russels. The lady who owned the farm also had horses and she was really nice. After I purchased her I named her Pearl because Robert Parker writes mysteries and had a series with a dog named Peral in it. Soon after I brought Pearl home she fell off the dock and didn’t have any clue how to swim, so I had to go into the water to rescue her.
We had another dog named Birdie which we used to take to dog shows with us. One time we were attending a dog show with Birdie we pulled into in place that had ostriches. One of those birds looked directly at Birdie and went crazy. She was terrified it was going to get into the car and eat her. Birdie kept barking and barking and going nuts. After that we didn’t visit any more ostrich farms.
I used to take our dogs down to our pond all the time. We had several sizes of German Shepard’s, Wolfhounds, Jack Russells and Terriers. The dogs would spread out and try to trap the rabbits. Beagles tend to yelp and normally go back to where they first found their victim (rabbit) after it got away. We had a Border Collie named King. The dog would go to the edge of the pond, near the water, and pick out mallard ducks and go after them. He had a special affinity for one duck. It was always the same one and that duck would fly as far as it could and King would always go after it. We also had a Great Peroneus that we used as a guard dog to watch our sheep at night. These dogs are nocturnal animals and completely disobedient. You could call for the dog and it would never come, but at night it would circle the barn and the pond and lie in the front yard and would go after anything it thought was a threat to your family.
When I was growing up we went to lots of horror movies and I had nightmares about Dracula, Frankenstein and vampires. My mother told my dad we shouldn’t go to these movies anymore, but he thought I should just toughen up. I used to sleep with a glow stick which I thought would keep me safe at night. We used to go to see movies at the Jayhawk, the Grand and then the Dickenson. On Saturday nights they would have a horror trio: one at 7p, another at 9p and a third at 11p.
I remember one particular dream that terrified me so much. I was running in Florida from alligators and one of the alligators grabbed me and they were pulling me apart. I also had a dream about killing a man with an iron. I associate this with being able to read something and immediately visualizing it. This happened in my life with animals and also when I was sitting on the bench. One lawsuit I presided over pertained to a motorcycle accident where the skin of a woman’s leg was ripped off entirely and the thought of it made my stomach turn. It got to the point where I could no longer read the gruesome parts of detective stories as I too easily become disgusted with excessive violence.
My favorite holiday is Christmas. My favorite Christmas was the year we visited Africa. In Egypt, my dad’s room was down the hall from mine and there was a hotel employee that he found sleeping in his bed. When he woke up the guy said Merry Christmas and went on his way.
On that same trip we visited Kenya. One point I so vividly remember about that trip is how much I hated walking on the gravel or sand because there would always be someone right behind you to smooth it out. My family and I frequently travelled over the Christmas holiday and those are always special memories.
I loved to be among the great whales in Baja, California. There is a ship that parks along the Magdalena Bay. They doc the ship from the wave side. You get off the docking steel grid and into the Zodiac. What I found most troubling about the experience is because of the sway of the waves you have to make the transfer at just the right moment. The people on the ship said they had never lost anyone in this process, but I was dubious. The Pacific Gray whale comes to this point each year to deliver her babies. The second day we were there a youngster found a new game – to push our Zodiac from one end of the bay to the other. My brother James and his friend Maurey went with me. It was wonderful there. I really had such a nice time. When we started back to San Diego it was rough water and they warned us to be careful with the doors. The big risk was the hinge side. The door had shut and my thumb was still in it. I couldn’t stand to look at it and called for a doctor. Upon having it x-rayed I realized the bone was broken.
On a trip to Uganda one year with my mother, on the very last day we were there, I woke up and couldn’t breathe. I had various issues and since I had no water I couldn’t take any pills, so was offered pepto bismol. I was not only sick but also scared. I had been bitten on the finger by a monkey. I was lying on the seat in the back of a car and rose up to see what was going on. The group I was with was looking at wart hogs and there was a lion on the left, ten feet away with cubs. I had to lay back down and couldn’t enjoy the moment because I was so sick.
While in Entebbe, back at the hotel, I wondered why the water in the bath was so cold when I had only been running hot water. I looked down and was cherry red from the temperatures. I thought to myself, I don’t want to die in Entebbe, but rather on a plane to Frankfort.
My mother’s suitcase lock had been broken and we replaced it with a cheaper one. The young man loading the car kept picking up the broken suitcase to put it in, so I showed him that it was broken so I told him to take the suitcase and the flashlight. A guy from the hotel started running down the street after us when we had left and wanted to know if we had really given him the suitcase as he was not a senior hotel employee.
I still believed there was a good chance I was going to die on that trip. We had to switch planes in Frankfort and there was a really long layover. They had this little bench I sat on and I started coughing and this lady sat down at the other end of the bench and began coughing as well. She said she was just getting over the Asian flu, and had all of the same symptoms I did, so I assumed I must have had the Asian flu as well. Even though there were many obstacles to overcome during that trip, I still loved Uganda and had such a wonderful time. All of my journeys to Africa were so special.
One of the strangest trips I ever took was on the coast line in Massachusetts. A little cab drove me down to the dock and I got on a sailing ship; my ship was tied to another ship (which also happened to be on the other side of the dock). You had to crawl over the larger ship to the smaller ship. It was a former fishing vessel. They had three cabins in the halls, all of which were so small you had to sit on the bed and if you wanted to stand up you had to be close to the door. There were just six passengers and three crew members. The ladies did all the cooking and cleaning. It was such a funny little ship, that after so much time together we all felt like family. When we would hit waves to hard the food would go flying and the captain would yell down to the ladies and say, “I hope that didn’t cause too much damage!”
In the late fall and early spring, the cattle on the open range would sleep on the roads because the asphalt would remain warm. One time my mother and I would have been in a horrible accident coming over a hill if it hadn’t been for a steer standing up in the middle of the road. My mother and I were coming back from Kentucky where we attended a horse show. We had left my dad off in St. Louis where he was flying off to give a speech. The alternator light came on in the car and we stopped in a very small town to have it checked. An elderly lady came out and told us there was no one close who could fix the car. I asked her if there was a mechanic in the next town over and she said she had spent her entire life in that very town and never left, not even to visit the next town over. I remember her saying how fortunate we were to be two women traveling across the state alone. I believe in that moment we showed to this lady that women are capable of many things, including traveling on our own.