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They Call me Chipmunk

*This post is inspired by Karen’s ant pancake

All through middle school I had the same science teacher.  He was the best science teacher I ever remember having.  He was funny and challenging, and especially fair.  I went back to visit him for years after I left the 8th grade, at least once a year I would pop in at the end of the last day and he would call me “chipmunk”, the nickname he adopted for me during my 8th grade year.  I even went back after I had kids and introduced them to him.  He is retired now, but I still see him from time to time.  It is amazing how a great teacher can impact a person’s life.

The event that triggered my nickname occured toward the end of my middle school years.  I was sitting at the long black table surrounded by my fellow classmates…

“What is in there?” a girl leaned close and whispered to me eyeing the terranium sitting on the table at the front of the class.

“Looks like crickets,” I whispered back.

I chuckled to myself as the girl shuddered and said something about crickets being gross.  “How could a cricket be gross?” I wondered to myself, and thought about how fascinating I found them.

“I have an extra credit project for you today,” the teacher announced.  Ears suddenly perked up.  While we all loved our teacher he definitely was not easy and you had to work hard in his class – extra credit was always a welcomed boost in his class.

“Crickets and other insects have been a major food source to many over the centuries.”

We eyed each other – half excited and half being filled with dread, not to metion those who were grossed out with the mere thought of eating bugs.

“The extra credit will go as follows: you will get 20 pts if you eat the cricket completely – chew it up, swallow it, the whole bit. 15 pts if you chew it up and spit it out. 10 pts if you at least bite it in half, and 5 points if you hold it in your mouth for at least 5-10 seconds.”

A chorus of ewws arose from most of the girls, while the boys were nodding their heads determined not to show us how grossed out they were.  The thought of holding the cricket in your mouth with it jumping around in there was much more terrible to me than eating the thing.

After a moment of tension – excited, nervous, and shocked – the first boy stood up to obtain his extra credit.  He did pretty well devouring the little devil and then took off like a shot to the water fountain. After a short time about 3 or 4 boys had eat crickets (or tried to eat crickets – I almost felt sorry for those in the first row having to dodge flying cricket guts if a person couldn’t get it all the way down the hatch.)

“I can’t let the boys get all the glory.  Girls are just as daring,” I thought to myself as I found myself rising out of my chair and walking up to the front of the class.  My nerves were jumping just as much as the crickets in the cage.  My teacher scooped one out and plunked it in my hand.

To my dismay the cricket promptly hopped out of my hand and started to make its way hopping across the table.  My nerves made me even more awkward as I tried to recapture my afternoon snack.  Finally I had it in my hands.  I could feel it whacking against my palms trying to free itself from its fleshy cage.  Without thinking about it any further I popped it in and began to chew like a wild woman.  It was rather salty – and crunchy. I managed to gulp it all the way down and dove frantically for the water fountain.

“You chewed so fast, you looked like a chipmunk!” my teacher chuckled, myself and the class joining in.  The nickname stuck, but I didn’t mind.  After my infamous cricket eating a few more girls were brave enough though only one other was able to obtain the full 20 pts.

Needless to say, I can’t stand crickets today.  They completely gross me out, and just writing about this was making my insides squirm.  I have found I am not nearly as brave and wreckless as I was in my youth.  Sometimes that is a good thing, but sometimes I kind of miss those daring days. 🙂

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