Remember all the fun you used to have when we were kids and the carnival came to town? They usually came at least once a year and always set up on a vacant lot at the edge of town.
The rides, games and food made them so exciting that almost everyone in town would attend. You couldn't wait for school to let out on Friday afternoon so you could go down and investigate what they had to offer.
You never needed a date to go, but if you had one, that was all the better. They would spend their money on you for the rides and food, and maybe even win you a prize. Even if you went alone, you were eager to spend your allowance and enjoy all the excitement you could stand.
Some of the rides seemed scarier at night, so you rode them after dark on Friday or Saturday.
Back then, you could win a goldfish in a bowl by getting your ping-pong ball to land inside the bowl.
Most of those poor fish didn't live too long after you won them, but some did last a long time. I even won a tiny, soft, downy-covered, yellow baby duck at one of the carnivals that came to Walnut Creek. He was immediately named "Lucky" as they were hard to win, and I did it all by myself.
"Lucky" and I became best friends, so to speak, and he would even eat lettuce right out of my mouth. He followed me around with his cute little waddle everywhere I went, for he thought I was his mother.
I had lots of good food to give him as I lived upstairs at Arthur's Market at that time and the store had everything he needed.
He finally grew too large for me to keep at the store any longer, so I had to give him to a nice man who had a ranch. I went to see him only once at his new home; it just hurt too much to know I could never have him again. Ten-year-olds can form a very strong attachment to animals, and it's hard to say "good-bye" to them.
Ten years later while living in Long Beach, I bought one of those green lizards that the carnivals had pinned to a big board. They sold them as chameleons, but they were just cute little lizards. They came with a string around their neck that was fastened to a safety pin so that you could wear them on your clothes.
I called him "Freddie" after Red Skelton's character, Freddie the Freeloader. I got a large flat box and put dirt with some plants in there for him and gave him a longer string so he could move all around the box.
The string was secured to the box so that he couldn't get away. Usually, I took him with me when I went to the stables to go horseback riding so he could get fresh flies.
I would pin him to the top of the passenger seat and leave the window open. His belly would always be bulging when I got back to the car to drive home.
"Freddie" and I had a guarded relationship as I'm really not that fond of lizards, but he was little and cute. He would stay in the house while I was at work, but when I got home I would take him outside and let him chase bugs while I watched him.
I didn't want a cat or bird to have him for dinner, so I kept a close eye on his string to keep him in sight.
His box was the first thing I checked in the morning when I got up, and also the first place I looked when I got home from work. One afternoon when I returned home, "Freddie" wasn't in his box. There was no way I could go to sleep until I found him, so the rest of the day was spent searching every nook and cranny until I discovered his hiding place. After that, I kept a piece of window screen over his box to make sure that he couldn't escape again.
Another time when I checked on him, he wasn't breathing! I didn't want him to die but had no idea what to do.
Artificial respiration seemed the only thing that might help. How in the heck do you do that to a little lizard? I decided to push gently on his sides with both index fingers in rapid succession as lizards breathe very fast.
Lo and behold, it worked! "Freddie" started to breathe again. I was so proud of myself; I'd saved a lizard's life. Of course, no one cared but "Freddie" and me.
A native of Minnesota, Carol Olson grew up in South Dakota and Walnut Creek and now lives in Pittsburg. She can be reached at email@example.com.