My brother has a problem.
He lives in Colombia. But that’s not the problem. The drug violence is way down these days, he assures me. The homicide rate is less than Brazil’s or Detroit’s. So members of the family will probably visit, once he and his wife are comfortably settled.

My brother has a problem.

He lives in Colombia. But that’s not the problem. The drug violence is way down these days, he assures me. The homicide rate is less than Brazil’s or Detroit’s. So members of the family will probably visit, once he and his wife are comfortably settled.

Our family was certainly chagrined when he moved there from Northern Virginia—though again, that wasn’t his problem. He is The Chef of the family, and his home became the natural center of many reunions. Situated just out of sight of the Potomac River, high trees all around, we would sit in the colorful garden his wife had nurtured and eat the most succulent meals from his grill.

All our differences of favorite sports teams and politics were forgotten, as we silently dug in. Of course, our silence was somewhat enforced because his house was on a flight approach to Dulles Airport. While we were silent and satisfying ourselves, there was no silence. Bathed in the roar, we would look up from our eating to check whether each airliner’s wheels were down.

Mysteriously, flies, gnats and mosquitoes seemed to disappear when the big silver birds passed over.

After one meal of steak done just right, grilled vegetables, salad, French bread, a good red wine, I declared that I would willingly give up ten years of my life if I could eat such a meal every day.

I bask in these memories to show just how much his meals, his house and—well ok—himself and his wife are missed by the larger family.

Hopefully, my sister will revive the Virginia reunions. She lives in Virginia Beach, close to the beach, a good tree-lined backyard, and—best of all—she’s close to the flight path of a Naval Air Station. Still, the cooking will not be my brother’s, unless he visits.

His problem in Colombia is with his new apartment. Like many in his neighborhood, it has windows and doors that open to catch the mountain breezes. So far, he’s not convinced that he even needs air conditioning.

But salamanders come in through the smallest openings. He and his wife have caulked and caulked, but the critters fit through gaps “between, above and below” the sliding glass doors and window frames.

He concludes, “Ultimately we need a cat.”

As a non-expert with years of serving cats, I must warn him. There may be messes to deal with, assuming a cat would do more than play with the salamanders.

Our cats, those that were good mousers, did not clean up after themselves. Less edible portions of head, tail, and paws would be left on the carpet. Blood would have to be sponged up promptly. Same with garter snakes.

Going smaller, it’s taken years to find a cat that will simply kill crickets without eating them. Generations of his predecessors never learned that lesson; mornings our first task was to clean up urped remains. Nowadays, I don’t complain when I go on body patrol.

Course there’s always the chance that a cat will actually like salamanders enough to eat them, maybe from snout to tail. Are there enough coming in to save on canned cat food?

I reflect that jaguars love to feast on small alligators, or caimans. So maybe. After all, caimans are simply large salamanders with more teeth and wrinkled skin.

I wonder if my moral policy would be challenged by salamanders. I try to catch and release critters that I think serve a purpose in God’s plan.

Correction: Since we are taught that every living thing serves a purpose in God’s plan, I’ll add “that serve a purpose” beneficial to human kind—especially to the human whose house they have invaded. So forget ants, crickets, roaches, houseflies, and mosquitoes. They may be part of God’s plan, but this steward chooses not to welcome all of Creation when they creep into his house.

But yes on snakes, mice, lizards, and spiders, if I can get to them before the cat does. Yes, because they eat the smaller creatures that are on my wanted list. Come to think of it, isn’t that also God’s plan?

Salamanders probably consume noxious insects too. But if they came in in numbers, I don’t know. Are they fast? Would I have to move furniture?

Maybe a cat.

Bill Hagen is a retired OBU professor. He lives in Shawnee with his cat. Contact him at billha47@hotmail.com.