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Don't Shake the Ice Cream Bucket

Years ago, I served as a county coordinator for a rural service organization. In this role I conducted monthly meetings with our board of local farmers and ranchers. I enjoyed working with them because they were the type of people I had grown up with. Rainfall amounts were a common topic of conversation, and they kept me up to date on the latest gossip. Before one of our late winter meetings, one of my board members walked in carrying a one-gallon ice cream bucket with a handle.

I’d known her for a few years before I had come to work with her on the board. She’s very knowledgeable and a hard worker. She also has a mischievous side. I could tell there was something in the bucket. I could see a claw resting against the side but whatever it was wasn’t moving.

She got a good laugh teasing me with it because

I can handle lots of things but slimy things that crawl or slither along the ground are not on the list.

My husband found this salamander in the pasture and thought one of your sons would like to take it to school for show and tell,” she said.

The cold temperatures had sent the black and yellow salamander into a sort of dormancy. My board member suggested keeping him and his bucket outside until showtime that way he would remain in that state. It gave me the willies, but I took the creature home and set it on my front porch.

My youngest son came home from school later that afternoon and I told him the story of what was in the bucket on the front porch.

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t have shaken it,” he said. Why was his first inclination to shake the bucket? Boy brains just work differently sometimes. After a quick wellness check on our tiny captive, we settled into our evening routine.

Well, the salamander survived show-and-tell for both of my son’s classes the next day. The science teacher released it out past the edge of the playground so it could escape into the nearby field. He knew it had had some eventful hours at our house the night before.

I was happy to report back to my board member that the salamander had been a hit with the students even if it had been treated a bit like a martini beforehand.

I would like to think my son learned not to shake everything he couldn’t immediately identify but I haven’t gotten anymore salamanders in ice cream buckets to find out.



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