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Keep that ferret in your pants

Dear Uma: He's here; Theo is here and he is a wonder boy. He's handsome, polite, and tidy, but most importantly he is interested in absolutely everything and everyone. I believe it is called having charm.

Dear Uma:

He’s here; Theo is here and he is a wonder boy. He’s handsome, polite, and tidy, but most importantly he is interested in absolutely everything and everyone. I believe it is called having charm.

He is a vegan, a fact which is a bone of contention in his family, and speaks three languages fluently. An omnivorous reader, he is open to all manner of ideas and makes no judgments; though he is willing to have an opinion he is comfortable with changing it.

I think being a stepmother is going to be a delight.

Pete is quite overcome with pride and pleasure. He’s taken an extra week off work to take his son on a tour of northern Yukon. They’ll be staying in hotels; Theo says he never understood camping. He tried it once and said it was fun until it got dark and then “all the things that eat meat wake up.” He admitted that his one experience was in Africa, but it was a powerful one and he is not at all ready to repeat it. He was even less ready after I’d told him of your encounter with the bear when you and Andrew camped with us last summer.

Pete, the avowed outdoorsman, declared himself glad to be taking advantage of hot showers and a bed on this trip, and they will not be doing any fishing because Theo isn’t keen on the idea of killing anything.

In the early days of Pete and me, when I too declared myself reluctant to camp and fish, my hesitations were greeted with an expression of such astonishment and disappointment that I surrendered immediately to the tent and the fishing rod.

I also have never been referred to as “my wife” at any time other than when the identification is necessary, whereas these days Pete’s conversation is larded with references to “my son.”

This would be causing some bitterness if the lad were not so appealing—everyone who has met Theo has liked him.

An invitation was extended to me to accompany them on this expedition, but I have graciously declined. It wasn’t really a sacrifice; I have a lot of work to do, but I also recognize how good it will be for the two of them to get to know one another, to establish a new relationship now that Theo is older. I am really happy for Pete; for all sorts of reasons that have not been discussed in any depth since he and I met, he hasn’t been much in the lives of the boys and to be given this opportunity obviously means a lot to him. Besides, I get him all to myself when Pete goes back to camp, an event which I am anticipating with real gladness; this kid promises to be excellent company and seems interested in spending the time with me. All my fears about finding appropriate young people for him to be with are laid to rest.

They left yesterday morning and Theo unknowingly gave me a parting gift, something with which to occupy my spare time.

We were attempting to describe the aboriginal games; kicking a caribou hide ball from a squatting position, and racing across the floor on one’s knuckles. The conversation went on to other unusual sports events and Theo told me about ferret legging. I didn’t believe him, but on the World Wide Web this morning, there it was.

And here I am, about to share with you the history and details of this amazing sport.

First off, your stuff must be stern and your lip stiff to indulge in this event: the other participants, your team, so to speak, are animals of a nature most often described as ferocious. They have nicknames like the shark of the land, a piranha with feet, fur-coated evil, and are said to be the only four-legged creatures that kill just for fun. They have the flexibility of a snake and the jaw musculature of a pit bull.

They are carnivorous, often used in the old days to hunt rabbits and rats; it is said one ferret with a string on his leg could knock off more than a hundred street-wise New York City rats in an evening.

A group of ferrets is called a business of ferrets, and the females are jills, the males hobs and the babies kits. If this isn’t cute enough, the neutered males are gibs and the females sprites.

It gets better, jargon-wise: the sound they make is called, “dooking.” They also are famous for their weasel war dance, a series of twists and hops and leaps that can and must be seen on Youtube. This dance is likened to “binky” by rabbits and “popcorning” by guinea pigs. I discovered these and other marvels of the rodent world by following links all over the place.

Luckily, ferrets are seriously nocturnal, sleeping up to 18 hours a day. Their name comes from the Latin furonem, which means thief, and they are. They are also abundantly curious and abundantly energetic.

Now, for ferret legging.

The participants must don trousers and tie the bottoms tight around the ankles. Two (live) ferrets are then introduced through the waistband of said trousers and imprisoned in the pants by cinching the belt snugly.

The winner of the competition is the man (women have not been known to involve themselves in this sport) who can keep them down the longest.

Mr. Reg Mellor, of Yorkshire, England, is the king of ferret legging.

“No jockstraps allowed,” says the 72 year old, “and no underpants. And the trousers cannot be tight; little bastards have to be able to move around in there from ankle to ankle.”

The record, until Reg came along to dominate the sport, was one minute, after a painful crawl from 40 seconds. It now stands at an awesome five hours and 26 minutes.

The ferrets must have a full mouthful of teeth; no filing, no clipping, and no doping for the ferrets or the man wearing the pants.

The rules allow the leggers to try to knock the ferret off a spot it is biting (from outside the trousers only) but that is no small matter, as ferrets never let go.

Reg says he was surprised by the growing popularity of ferret legging during the ‘70s. He’d been hunting with ferrets for years, often keeping them in his pants as a cold and wet ferret hunts with less enthusiasm than a dry one, and where he lives it rains a lot.

When the world record hit 60 seconds, Reg’s response was “I can stick one up me arse longer than that.” He was 69 years old when he found his game, setting the record that still stands.

This research has given me a good idea for Watson Lake. The town needs an attraction, something to make it special and bring in hordes of people to spend money in the community and boost the sagging economy. Beyond finding the face of Jesus magically growing on a jack pine, leading to an influx of pilgrims, I think ferret legging may be the answer.

We already have a population of sturdy and stoic men who drive dual-axle pickup trucks with large barking dogs in the back, fearlessly ride through the woods on ATVs, drink Budweiser from the can and dress like the Sundance Kid. Who better to challenge Reg?

I feel certain the Watson Lake men could also put down their pants animals known for their astonishingly powerful bites and their penchant for insinuating themselves into small dark holes, and hold ‘em down for longer than five hours and 26 minutes. They may even enjoy it, and they would certainly be appreciated for bringing prosperity and fame to a town in need of both.

What do you think, Uma, would you buy a ticket?



Heather Bennett is a freelance writer who lives in Watson Lake.