Have you ever sat and listened to your critters talk to you? Seriously, have you? No, they don't have voices that you magically hear in your head - well, at least mine never have had voices, except of course for their purr or bark/growl or what have you.
The summer of my fantastic fourth grade year, we made a trip to my Dad's sister's house in rural Missouri near the mighty Mississippi River. It was a boring trip, except for having to beg Dad to stop driving long enough to let us out of the car to go pee. The cool part was visiting my Aunt D and her family, even drunken Uncle J. We got to sleep on an upstairs summer porch that was all screened in. You could hear crickets, tree peepers, bullfrogs, owls, even, shudder, bats whirring by. What a magical week it was.
Aunt D had a mynah bird named, appropriately, Mi Nuh Byrd. Byrd liked to whistle. Dad taught him to whistle Stars & Stripes Forever - off key! All of us kids - the 3 of us in my family and Aunt D and Uncle J's 4 - loved the heck out of how ticked off at Daddy Aunt D got when Byrd would whistle that tune. I had even more fun "listening" to Byrd talk to me about the going's on in the house. He would show me images from his vantage point (base of a two-story staircase) in the main hall that was the central hub of the house. Byrd's birds eye view of the household were hysterical to "listen" to once I figured out what they were. Remember, birds have eyes on the sides of their heads, we don't. So, the translating of the images was interesting for sure. Gave the surreal household an even more surreal twist when seen through Byrd's eyes. I sat for several hours one morning just talking with Byrd - silently of course - while everyone else, including the adults, were outside doing other things. When Aunt D finally figured out I was missing, she came looking for me. Finding me staring at Byrd, she asked what I was doing. So, I told her, "I'm talking to Byrd. He's talking to me too." Now, parents talk about their kids with one another, this is something that kids know, so, I just sort of clammed up after having answered the question put to me. What happened next was such a relief to me and made me love my Aunt D deeply till the day she died. "So, are you using your mouth, or are you two talking in your heads?" At first I thought she was making fun of me, but, her energies were telling me that she was seriously asking which type of talking I was doing, so, swallowing hard and taking a big chance, I told her, "We are talking in our heads. But, please don't tell Mom and Dad. That'll get me in trouble - again." Bless that dear woman's soul, she laughed the best laugh ever and just hugged me till I thought I would burst into pieces.
"Child, your Daddy could see dead people when he was your age, and he talked to them too. So did your Granma. Heck, even I know when there are ghosts and things around. And both of your uncles could too. Your Granma came from a line of folks with Indian blood in them and that's part of your heritage. We just don't talk about it in front of your Momma because she has a hard time with all kinds of things since Sister died. And your Granpa knows about it, but, with his upbringing, it's something he's not to keen talking about. Okay now. So, you go on outside now and play with the other kids. It's our secret." And then she gave me a big old winky eye and swatted my butt gently to urge me outside. WOW!!! Not only was I a weirdo, but my Dad, Aunt D, their two brothers and Granma were weirdos too! I wasn't alone in the world - but, I still couldn't talk about it in front of anyone or to anyone with few exceptions. Oh well, that was still great news and made the vacation even better.
Uncle J raised fighting banty roosters in addition to the regular chickens that laid eggs. He and Aunt D also raised a few pigs, a few calves, had a milking cow (a lovely little Jersey named Hilda) and a sway-backed mare named Fern. It was so interesting to watch those critters interact with one another and the 15 cats and assorted kittens, 4 hunting hounds and an old half-blind collie named Smooch. Everything ran loose around that place. The term these days is "free range". Back then the phrase was "J's too damned lazy and drunk to keep the fences mended and the buildings fixed, so the critters pretty nigh much have run of the place except for the lane to the big roads." Anyway, the critters all ran loose except down the lane to the big roads which had the one solid fence and gate in the whole place. It was a glorious cacophany of critter sounds and messes. "Go fetch the eggs in" meant you wandered over about 5 acres following where the flock of chickens had been to find their eggs. "Milk Hilda" entailed finding Hilda, milking her wherever she was and gingerly carrying the buckets back to the house. It was an absolute hoot!!! Loved every minute of it. I really did. I wanted to stay there "forever" because it was okay to sit for hours and watch the critters doing their own critter things. I was a kid, it was summer, and it was okay to goof off except at chore time.
The banty roosters were some of my favorite critters to watch and listen to. Forgive the pun, but, they were really cocky little birds. They definitely spoke their minds quite clearly and with great opinion. They really despised my Uncle J because he was a drunkard and he was rough with them. They didn't like the fighting thing much either from what I could gather. Roosters are a bit odd anyway, and listening to their thoughts was kind of tough because their field of vision is so different and so hard to grasp what they were saying.
The hens were a noisy lot, both actually and mentally. Jabber, jabber, jabber, jabber. They really didn't like loosing their eggs to the humans, but, since they got to run around loose, they accepted it as part of the deal, so to speak. But, they were so incoherent most of the time, that I got tired of them fairly quickly.
Hilda and Fern were really neat though. I could just sit near them and they would just wander over and stare back at me, or, if they really wanted to talk, would lay down next to me and just "be". It was really neat to talk with them. Hilda would let me lay next to her belly and rest my head between her udder and her ribs and just lay there and rest. We'd talk about the weather, the other critters, Fern, the family - you name it, we talked about it. She would follow me anywhere I walked, something she never did with anyone else, before we came to visit or after we left. Fern was awesome too. That old sway-backed old mare never let anyone ride on her bareback. Never, well, except for me. I'd bribe her with an ear of dried corn and she'd walk over to a place I'd tell her in my mind and up I'd climb and we'd walk all over the place like that. No bridle, no saddle, just me, Fern and the halter that was always half off her head. Mom about had kittens over our agreement when I asked Fern to "run" and she did - at full gallop - for about 5 minutes with me holding onto her mane at the withers. Both Fern and I were having such a good time "running" that we didn't realize that it was scaring the bejeezus out of the adults - even Aunt D. Mom screamed at Dad to "do something!" Uncle J stood there slackjawed and went, "Well, I'll be damned!" So, Aunt D took a dish towel from the laundry line and stood in our path and waved it up and down a few times to get our attention. Fern flashed me a warning to hold on tight with my legs and hands because she was going to slide to a stop in front of Aunt D. WOW!!!! We slid 50 feet quite literally. It was terrific! Mom was having kittens all over the place. Dad was laughing so hard he was crying. Uncle J reached for another cold one. My siblings and cousins were all asking how I got Fern to move faster than a walk, and Aunt D was just grinning like nobody's business. "Did you two have fun running?" "Yes ma'am, we sure did!" I so much wanted to tell her what Fern was saying, but, I think she already knew that the "old girl" had had the time of her life as well. "Well, climb on down from there, take Fern over and give her a good bath, feed her and put her up for the night, okay?" "Yes ma'am!" The rest of the kids helped with that assignment, prying me all the while for my secret as to how to get Fern to (a) let them ride bareback, and (b) how to get her to run.
For the rest of our vacation, three days as I recall, I wasn't allowed to ride Fern at all. But, I got to sit and talk to the critters a lot. It was great. The other kids wanted to go swim in the river - the Mississippi River - but, I didn't like to and so I didn't have to go. When they'd come back from their jaunt to the river they'd ask, "What are you doing now?" "Listening to critters talk" was always my answer. They thought that meant just sitting and watching the goings on of the menagerie that inhabited my Aunt and Uncle's place. It didn't. It meant I was sitting and listening to critters talk. It's a trait I can still employ at times but, I am far more comfortable using my ability to sense energies to communicate with the critters around me these days. It doesn't take as much translation, and, it's still as much fun as listening ever was.