Of Ferrets, Grandfather Clocks and Star Trek

by Bill Beck

Any Trekkies out there will know of my favourite of all the Star Trek films, 'The Wrath of Khan.' In this particular cinematic outing with Captain Kirk et al, the eponymous baddie, Khan, is outfoxed by the good captain who lures him into a misty nebula. Kirk stops; drops the Enterprise straight down and then doubles back underneath Khan's ship, then rises up behind and looses a salvo of photon torpedoes into his nether regions. Ouch! Khan is not expecting this because he is not used to commanding a starship and is thinking in two dimensions, not in three.

I believe that, similarly, some ferrets are 'Khans' whilst others are 'Kirks.' In other words, some are more 'vertically aware' than others. I've noticed that some rarely check what might be on a nearby low table or chair - they'll walk straight past a tasty treat because they can't quite seem to work out where it is. Similarly, some are much better climbers than others. Alberto found a way onto our computer desk for some tasty treats I'd left there - floor/chaise longue/swivel chair/desk... Bingo!

The most vertically aware ferret we've ever had was Teddy (The Nose) Edward. We thought our back garden was ferret-proof until one day we saw Teddy sauntering along the top of the back fence. But how on Earth had he got up there? When we finally saw him do his escape routine, we were gob-smacked. We had four-foot high vertical-boarded fence panels with concrete gravel boards and posts around the garden. Teddy couldn't climb these... could he?

Well, yes, he could! His trick was to go to a corner and climb up by 'chimneying'. This a technique used by rock-climbers and mountaineers to climb narrow crevices. They wedge themselves into a narrow, vertical gap and brace their left arm and leg against one side and their right arm and leg against the right side. They then wiggle their way up, and this is just what Teddy was doing! It's quite astounding that he taught himself to do this. I'm afraid I spoilt his fun by nailing a piece of half-round PVC guttering into the corner.

And what about this?...

Hickory dickory dock, the ferret ran up the clock...

OK, so we cheated and staged the picture, but one day, who knows?

(First published in NFWS News #97 Autumn 2013)