Tuesday, August 21, 2012


          Mad magazine was a constant source of amusement and howling entertainment for Ross, my eight-year-old brother, and me back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. As a nine year old, I believed Alfred E. Neuman, the fictional cover boy of Mad magazine, should have been President of the United States. Ross and I saved our allowance for Mad magazine and purchased the bimonthly release. After reading the wild antics of Alfred E. Neuman, I’d scan the back of the magazine gazing longingly at the items for sale.
There, before my big, blue eyes was the latest and greatest craze Alfred begged me to buy. For only $2.72, I could order my very own baby alligator and have it shipped from Florida! We had plenty of room on our 165-acre ranch for my new pet to grow up and roam. My summer was beginning to look promising.
I grabbed a pair of scissors from the kitchen, took the magazine into my bedroom, locked the door and began the instructed steps to ordering my baby. I cut the order form from the back of the magazine. Then, I painstakingly taped two one-dollar bills and the coins to the order form I’d filled out in pencil. I stuffed the required items into an envelope and addressed the front. I located a stamp and then walked 10 minutes up the driveway to our rural route mailbox. Walking home, I named my baby, “Snappy.”
Minutes turned to hours, hours turned to days and days became three weeks. Each day, I raced to the mailbox waiting for Snappy to arrive. Each day, however, my hope turned to disappointment.
One sweltering afternoon, my mother, Ross and I headed to town for groceries. On the way home, my mother pulled into the Post Office and told Ross and me to stay in the car. A few minutes later, she returned with a box in her hands asking, “Debbie, did you order something?” Inside, I thought I’d burst with excitement, while lying through my teeth, “No, Mama.” I wondered how she knew.
My mother took the wheel of our wood-paneled station wagon and began the drive home. Ross leaned over my shoulder and eagerly asked, “What is it, Debbie?” I put my first finger to my lips and whispered, “Wait and see!”
Carefully, I began taking the packaging tape off the shoe box. Then, I tore the brown paper away and gently lifted the lid. Ross’ and my eyes grew wide as we gazed into the box at Snappy, gasping for his life. He’d journeyed from the other side of the country without food or water!
Ross began bouncing up and down. I grabbed his arm and told him to sit still. He was bursting at the seams over Snappy. Putting my thumb and first finger at the back of Snappy’s head, I lifted him out of the box while his mouth snapped open and shut ferociously. The remainder of his six-inch body frantically waved back and forth attempting to be free.
I was sitting in the back seat behind my mother while she drove. Carefully and slowly, I set Snappy down on her right shoulder for their introduction. Ross screamed in hysterics and doubled over while Snappy latched his snapping lips onto my mother’s right ear lobe.
My mother grabbed Snappy, flung him onto the passenger floor and slammed on the brakes. Ross and I went sailing into the back of the front seats. When my mother turned around, she demanded, “Debbie, what is that and how did you get it?!” Sheepishly I replied, “Alfred E. Neuman sent my baby alligator from Florida.” My mother’s escalated voice demanded, “Who is Alfred E. Neuman?” I quietly said, “He’s my friend from Mad magazine.”
My mother turned the car around and said she was taking Snappy to the nearest pet store. I pleaded with her and said I had everything figured out for his home. I cried and told her Snappy could live in the bathtub until he was large enough to live at our pond. Sadly, it seemed my mother went deaf and became robotic. The 30-minute drive to the pet store felt like a death sentence.
My mother told Ross and me to stay in the car while she carried Snappy into the store in his shoe box. When she returned, I was still crying my big, blue eye balls out. Ross put his tiny, freckled hand on my shoulder to comfort me. He knew I was devastated at my loss.
I’ll never know what happened to Snappy, however, thankfully the purchase of baby alligators was banned. Although I maintain a close watch on animals and opt for them being in their natural habitat, Snappy and Mad magazine remain larger than life in my mind’s eye. 

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