Two summers ago, I had a rare opportunity to teach at a school on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was so amazing that I could do a whole blog on that trip alone, but for right now, let me share one of my favorite parts of the trip…
The mongoose. Yes. Mongoose. (or, ‘Manakuke’ in the native tongue)
I know what you’re sayin’, “Jeff, what in the flying name of Rosie O’Donnell are mongoose doing on The Big Island of Hawaii?”
I’m so glad you asked.
The way it was explained to me was that, many years ago, (the 1800’s), The Big Island had a bit of a rat problem: rats would come in with merchant ships and stay for the sugar cane. So, someone had the bright idea to import Indian mongoose in order to stem the rat population… sounds reasonable, right?
Sure, if you’re a complete dumbass.
The problem was that no one seemed to realize, (‘til it was far too late), that rats are nocturnal animals and that mongoose hang out in the daytime- so, by definition, THEY’D NEVER SEE EACH OTHER. Not really a great hunter/ prey relationship when the hunter and they prey aren’t ever even awake at the same time. Duh.
So, now, many years later, these adorable, personable and impossibly fast little critters are all over the island; and because they have no natural predators, they’re partyin’ their fuzzy lil’ asses off.
Now, I know that they’re considered a major pest on the island, but being from ‘the mainland’, (and an animal lover), I thought they were just about the coolest things ever. Also, “Rikki Tikki Tavi”, (by the great Rudyard Kipling), is one of my favorite stories. It’s also an all- time favorite cartoon, which just happened to be done by my all- time favorite animator, the incomparable Chuck Jones. (And if you don’t know who that is, you should be ashamed… ashamed, I tell you! If you’ve never read or seen “Rikki Tikki Tavi”, do so. At once.)
During my stay, I had many encounters with these lil’ maniacs, (including a trip to the beach where they actually formed a ‘receiving line’ on the picnic table as we gave them pizza crust…), and they’re just so ridiculous, I would giggle my ass off every time I saw one.
They’re like little, tiny Jim Carreys in little, tiny squirrel suits. And they bark…. absurd, little barks.
Anyway, I was so taken with them that I started doing cartoons of them almost immediately… you can see some of my handiwork in the 'sketchbook' section.