“Taming of the Schnauzer”

“Petruchio: Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are too angry.
Katherine: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
Petruchio: My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
Katherine: Ay, if the fool could find where it lies.
Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katherine: In his tongue.
Petruchio: Whose tongue?
Katherine: Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
Petruchio: What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman.”

In the mid-1970’s, Mom and Dad traveled to Janesville, Iowa and adopted a schnauzer puppy that we named Katie, or as her AKC papers read, “Katherine of Aragon” (I know, self-appointed fact checkers will insist that it is spelled “Catherine”, but WIKI and history will show that Henry the 8th’s first wife also spelled her name with a “K”, so there!).  And Mom got the “Aragon” from “Dargan”, her maiden name.  She believed that somehow, we were related to Katherine, or Catherine of Aragon, but she had no proof….just family folklore.  (We also are supposed to have French and Spanish blood somewhere way back in the family tree, and at one time, there was a myth that the Maruska’s —Grandma’s maiden name—were Jewish, but that story doesn’t pan out when scrutinized)

Anyway, I am more convinced more than ever, after having read the stories of other Miniature Schnauzer

A black-and-silver Miniature Schnauzer named M...

A black-and-silver Miniature Schnauzer named Mattie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

owners that members of  this breed that the Schnauzer breed has the unique characteristic of communicating telepathically to other schnauzers in a 50 mile radius at 2 AM and they all gather at a local Denny’s or other coffee house and drink enough coffee to keep Folger’s and Maxwell House in the black for the next millennium!

I will never understand some of Katie’s idiosyncrasies, but as far as I’m concerned, if she could have talked and carry on a conversation, I’m pretty sure that a psychiatrist would have made a case study on her.

One of my favorite games that I loved to play with Kate was the “Daddy’s Home” game….Katie could be sound asleep, and I could just say the words, “Daddy’s Home”  or sometimes, just “Daddy”, (or, “Mommy”) and she would be on all fours and in full attention in 0.005 seconds, and running up to the back window and wait for Mom or Dad to come walking up the back sidewalk, and she would be ballistic and would want to be let out of the house immediately.  Or, there was she “Sammy” game  “Sammy was a generic name that mom gave to all squirrels….Same scenario, but instead of uttering “Daddy” or “Mommy”, I would say, “Sammy!”, and I got the same results


After coming home one day from running errands, we all entered the house to find that the phone was knocked off the hook, and you could hear the dial tone from way in the kitchen.  We searched the house for clues…nothing…no break in, Thank God….

…Well, this went on for several more times, and then I got the idea that Katie was the instigator….I go an idea on how to catch her in the act….

I ran upstairs and got Mom’s binoculars, then grabbed the cordless phone, and then opened the Levolor blinds on the living room windows, and instructed Mom and Dad to not answer the phone under any circumstances for the next 3-5 minutes….

Now, back in those days, before the break up of Ma Bell, if you wanted to make your own phone ring, you substituted “99” in place of the first two digits, and that is what I did….I ran across the street with the cordless phone and binoculars and made the call… and waited….Ran across the street and stood in Meyerhoff’s front yard with binoculars aimed at the east living room window….

…Sure enough, Katie thought that she was left alone in the house…and when the phone rang, she ran for it, bit the receiver, and pulled the damned thing off the hook!

Too Cute!

From that day on, whenever we left the house, we made darn sure that the phone was in a place where Katie could not get to—Problem solved!


“Anything worth doing is worth doing well!”

Margaret Mary (Dargan) Meyer 1915-2008

This is my mother, Margaret Mary (Dargan) Meyer.  She was born June 21,1915, and died March 5th, 2008, of Alzheimer’s.  She was 92.  She was born in Riceville, Ia, to Thomas Dargan and Mary Maruska.  Her parents divorced when she was 8 years old, and was sent away to a boarding school, Visitation Academy in Dubuque, Iowa,

Old Cable elevator

Old Cable elevator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and spent her high school years at the Visitation Academy in St Louis, Mo.  Upon gradation, she was offered a full scholarship to Loras Collage, but instead turned it down to assist her family, who got down on their hands and knees to beg for her help.  Times being what they were (It was during the worst part of the Great Depression), she reluctantly accepted their urgent call. In January of 1941, she married Edwin John Meyer,the friend of her brother, Thomas Francis Dargan.  Margaret and Edwin were blessed with seven children, of which six survived.  Teresa Mary, born in November of 1944, Thomas Edwin, born in September of 1946, Timothy John, born in August of 1948, Marley (Pat), born in August of 1951, Martin (Marty) Gregory, born in June of 1953, and (me) Michael Anthony, born in June of 1961.  (A seventh child was stillborn at an unknown date, presumingly between 1949 and 1950).  I rejoice that someday, I’ll when I get to heaven, I’ll finally meet a brother or sister that I never knew!

Mom was known for her quotes that we kids heard ten thousand times, and the one that I remember most was,

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well!”

Others included a quote from Shakespeare, “To thy own self be true!”  And for some odd reason, she loved to quote Betty Davis’  line in “Cabin in the Cotton”….

“I’d love to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair!”

Mom also had some crazy idiosyncrasies like saving envelopes and using them for scratch pads.  i remember looking into “the drawer” in the kitchen (It was a drawer that wasn’t used properly for kitchen items, it was Mom’s junk drawer.  It was well organized…well, sometimes…but it was where Mom kept all of her important items like pencils, erasers, and of course, used envelopes!)  Long before it was chic, Mom got into the habit of recycling tin cans….but she didn’t stop at merely collecting them…she actually went thru the bother of putting them into the dishwasher after taking off the labels and after cleaning out the debris trap, would take the clean cans and flatten them and send them to the tin can box in the basement!  Mom was also a bit nervous and become forgetful…She would run around the house, asking, “MIKE! —Where’s my purse?”  “Where’s my glasses?”   And…we would point to the top of head or under her arm, and inform Mom that her glasses were on top of her head and her purse was already either under her arm or on the kitchen table…Then she would storm out of the house, get into the car and go do her errands, and we would just shake our heads and go about our business at hand.

Throughout her life, Margaret loved to garden and watch nature.  Among her greatest achievements in the garden were her Jackmani Clematises,

and to this day, I can still remember her admonition, “Hot heads and cold feet, and be sure to get the right amount of lime and bone meal!” It is with great joy that even today, 20+ years after the sale of the house in Waterloo, Iowa where Margaret and Edwin spent the majority of their lives together, mom’s clematises are still growing along the east side of the old garage at the end of the property, although, not much else remains of the thousands of dollars of landscaping that they invested into that yard.  Along the east edge of that yard, Mom planted a Doctor’s Wife rose bush (Trust me, you can Google that species all you want, it will not come up in a search but they did exist at one time!) in the late 1960’s.  On time, in the 1980’s, we watered that bush and forgot to turn off the trickle of water that we were watering it with, and in the morning, I stepped outside to the most amazing rose bloom that one could ever get their eyes on—it had measured across approximately 7-8 inches!  In the late 1970’s—about 1978 if I recall correctly—Mom and Dad had a kidney shaped flower bed installed also on the east end of the yard.  I remember that it was the envy of the neighborhood.  After all, it was the east side of Waterloo, and for anyone to spend that kind of money on their yard on the east side was unheard of! I can’t recall all of the plants that were in that garden, but it was the first time I had ever heard of the giant allium, and kinda toward the middle of this garden, mom placed a fountain of St Francis of Assisi—our sister Terry always commented that it looked like St. Francis was taking a leak, LOL!  Other notable plants were the Columbine and the old fashioned bleeding hearts as well as her crocuses and tulips, and on each side of this garden, they planted cedars and in the middle, some big old fur bush that was big and ugly and overgrown by the time that the house sold in 1992.In the NE corner of this garden, Mom planted another type of vinca and pampas grass and in front of that, her peonies…Mom said that peonies were very particular about how they were planted—you dig too deep or too shallow, and they won’t bloom.  Kinda picky for a plant that only stays in bloom for two weeks at the best, don’t you kinda think? And on the north side, along the fence, Mom planted a rose/tulip garden.  I forget which came first—the roses or the tulips, but one died out, and the other replaced it.  For years, Mom had a honeysuckle hedge, but it got wiped out when the witch’s broom infested the plants. On the south side, near the driveway, Mom planted a forsythia bush…originally, this was going to be a hedge, but later mom decided against that.  Those are picky bushes as well…they require a certain amount of snow cover or else they won’t bloom very well, or so they say.  Inside the fenced part of the yard, along the fence, Dad planted rhubarb which he transplanted from his family farm back in Sheffield, Iowa.  This farm had gone to waste years ago, as it was confiscated during the depression.  Mom also had the back and side of the house landscaped, and in the middle of this was the finest specimen of a dogwood bush anyone could ask for, and over behind the house, Mom planted a Japanese Flowering Quince,

which did actually produce some fruit from time to time. Behind he dogwood, Mom had a lovely collection of bearded iris that were stolen by one of my siblings (I won’t say who!)–from one of the local parks in Waterloo.  In the back of the house and almost directly under the peak of the roof, Mom and Dad planted a magnolia tree.  It didn’t do a whole lot for many years, so one year, they got another magnolia and that one was full of blooms!  But the winter wasn’t very kind to that magnolia and in the spring, the younger magnolia died, and removed and in its place, Mom planted chives, which were the attraction for many a grand child (Especially Tim and Kathy’s boys who lived two blocks away)Well, as fate would have it, the older magnolia apparently saw what happened to its younger companion and decided to straighten up, or be chopped down as well!  So, in the years that followed, the older magnolia sprung up like a weed, and so much so that it began to bloom twice a year! To the south, on the wall of the old crooked white garage that the prior owners, the Van Nices built,  Mom had planted her hostas, and in front of her hostas, in a vee shaped area, she planted vinca and moss roses, and above the hostas, in front of the old boarded up windows which were painted white, Mom hung an 8 foot long window box, and every year, you could count on mom planting pansies, geraniums, asparagus fern and some vine whose name escapes me, and some times, some begonias.   On the West border of the property, Mom and Dad planted six Lombardy Poplars and planted three on the East side as well.  Mom was kinda eccentric and one year, because they were not of  even height, she ripped them all out and started over with 9 new ones!  Margaret also loved the cardinals, and thru keen observation, I was able to discern 3 or 4 distinct calls of the American Cardinal male. But mom’s favorite “pet” were the squirrels—she named all of them “Sammy”!

Our schnauzer, Katie love to chase after”Sammy”.  In fact, she was so smart, she picked up on who “Sammy” was.  All you had to do was mention the name, “Sammy”, and she would go to the window and go nuts!