Apr 22

FridayQ: Pet

I’ve skipped the last several FridayQs because they didn’t seem very interesting. But I can’t pass up this one; it’s about pets.
FQ1: Any pets as a kid? Yes, quite a few. My parents’s household has never been without at least one dog since years before I was born. The dogs I remember best are Sally, a fox terrier we adopted when I was five, and Leo, a poodle we acquired when I was a preteen.
Some other pets were with us for briefer periods. My grandmother gave me a cat when I was very young, but my mother is allergic to cats and we had to find another home for it. When I was a teenager, I had gerbils for several years, and grew to dislike them quite a bit (they’re nasty, bad-tempered creatures that like to bite). We also had tropical fish for a while. And a parakeet.
FQ2: Any pets now? Yes, we have three pet rats. We adopted our first pair of rats in 2002, and I was amazed to find that they were nothing like the gerbils of my youth. Rats have been bred as pets for about 150 years (three times as long as gerbils) and are thoroughly domesticated. If they are handled and petted by humans from an early age, pet rats are gentle and affectionate creatures who bond with their owners and love to interact with them. (In three years with pet rats, I haven’t been bitten once.)
Our original pair of rats died this year (typical life span is two to three years), and we adopted our current trio several months ago.
FQ3: Name your favorite famous pet from television or movies. Gromit, the dog from the Wallace and Gromit films. Although I’m not sure that he really qualifies as a pet; he’s smarter than Wallace and has been his partner in a couple of business ventures.
FQ BEST FRIEND: If money and legality were not a barrier, what exotic animal would you like as a pet? Not interested. Exotic animals are not domesticated, meaning that they haven’t been bred for compatibility with humans. They are wild animals in captivity, and that’s a recipe for all kinds of problems. I’d much rather share my living space with an animal that actually likes me and wants me to play with it.

Apr 20

Jed, move away from there!

The second verse of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” has never quite made sense to me. It describes the events that follow Jed’s discovery of oil on his property.

Well the first thing you know, old Jed’s a millionaire.
The kinfolk said “Jed, move away from there!”
They said “Californy is the place you oughta be,”
So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly.
Hills, that is. Swimming pools, movie stars.

Jed is now a millionaire, and the first thing his kinfolk say to him is, “You have to move. To California. Now.” I don’t think I follow the logic. One of the advantages of being wealthy is that you can live pretty much wherever you want. As far as I know, there is no law requiring millionaires to congregate in Beverly Hills. Why does Jed have to go there?
To answer this question we have to consider who, exactly, is urging Jed to move. Who are these “kinfolk”? They’re not Jethro, Elly Mae, and Granny. If those people were suggesting the move, they would say: “Jed, move away from here. Californy is the place we oughta be.” The wording of the song establishes that the kinfolk are not members of Jed’s household, and they don’t expect to go with him to Beverly Hills.
Why are they so keen to convince him to move? This isn’t the reaction you would expect from people related to a man who just became rich. Shouldn’t they be sucking up to Jed in the hope that he’ll share his wealth with them? Urging him to move across the country doesn’t fit that pattern. I can only think of one thing that explains this odd behavior: Jed and his kinfolk are not on good terms. They know that they don’t stand a chance of getting their hands on any of his money — and therefore, they see his newfound wealth only as an opportunity to get rid of him. And Jethro and Elly Mae and Granny as well.
So we know that Jed’s kinfolk are not close relatives (or they’d be living with him) and don’t like him much. What kind of kinfolk does that suggest? In-laws, of course. Notice that Jed’s wife — Jethro and Elly Mae’s mother — is nowhere to be seen in the series. Presumably, she is dead. Her family may never have been fond of Jed in the first place, but tolerated him while she was alive. Now that she’s gone, that tolerance is at an end.
This is pure conjecture, but here’s what I think happened: Jed and his wife were members of families on opposite sides of a feud. When they married, their families declared a truce. After his wife’s death, the old grudges reasserted themselves. Jed’s transformation into a millionaire inspired only envy and resentment among his kinfolk, who were only too happy to goad him into moving away and taking his blood relatives with him. And he was quite willing to oblige them.
So he loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.