As Jupo grew, so did her personality. She went from being a loving little angelic tangle of shy, brown fur in my arms into a two-year-old with the pluckiness and strength of Godzilla. All arms, legs and tail now, she swung her way through our old farmhouse. From chandeliers to bookshelves, from standing lamps to picture frames on the wall that fell and shattered to the floor, she dangled, swung and swerved to her heart’s content. That is, until I’d finally manage to capture her again with a bribe of fruit.
She ran loose about the farm the summer of her second year, and established a blockade around the house—no one was allowed in or out without enticing her with treats. Deliverymen who came carrying milk, bread, vegetables and fruit, trembled in their boots as they got out of their trucks, looked around, and then ran for our shed door. Cleverly though, Jupo learned to conceal herself in the drainpipe above the door by laying flat as a pancake when she heard a vehicle come up our long gravel drive. Hidden from sight when deliveries were made, all she had to do was reach down with her long spidery arm, grab a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk, a peach, a cucumber, or her favorite, a banana or two, speedily seize what was to her liking, and then scuttle across the rooftop before anyone knew.
My father had always had wild animals as pets when he was growing up. His father was a captain in the Navy and during the many years he spent on active service, he and my grandmother, Pretty Polly Perkins, were often away. “I lived with my grandparents on Philadelphia’s Main Line on a huge estate called The Hedges,” my father, Daniel P. Mannix, IV, writes in his book All Creatures Great and Small (published by McGraw-Hill). “I didn’t have many playmates as the other estates around were mainly inhabited by regal dowagers and grim old gentlemen who lived in seclusion among their horses, formal gardens and shooting preserves. We had only one car, a venerable Pierce Arrow which no one could drive except the chauffeur and which was only produced on formal occasions such as going to church or an occasional wedding. To employ this stately vehicle for such frivolous purposes as driving a boy to a friend’s house was virtually unthinkable. Nor did the boy particularly want to be driven. By the time I was fourteen I was six feet two inches tall and gangling; a wretched athlete, and a nonconformist. From the end of school in June until September I seldom saw another youngster my own age.”
My father began collecting wild animals from an early age and kept them at the very far end of his grandparent’s estate. His summer days were filled with the pleasure and joy of collecting animals that he found on the property or that people gave him. He started out simply with a pair of rabbits. Then he found a nest of baby skunks whose mother had been killed by a neighbor’s dog. After that, he acquired a tiny porcupine, a crow that rode around on his shoulder, a great horned owl, a raccoon, an opossum family, several falcons and snakes, one of them being a rattle snake whose venom her learned to extract by reading a book in his grandfather’s vast library. He also had a six-foot alligator called Daisy, who swam in the pool at The Hedges twice a day. So it was no surprise to my father or my mother when my dear little monkey, Jupo, began to behave like King Kong.
“You can’t leave her alone anymore,” my parents both told me in no uncertain terms. “She’s your responsibility. Either she’s in her enclosure or she’s with you. And no more letting her run free outside, unless you are watching her closely.” Sadly, I agreed.
There was still a problem, however. Although Jupo might be in my arms one second, the next she would jump out. If, for instance, I was passing though our kitchen, she might hurl herself onto the kitchen counter where a set of small ramekin bowls of custard was settling. And more often than not, she would stick her head into each one, and race away, her face covered in pudding, causing our housekeeper, Anna, to wave her hands in frustration. In an attempt to control her, my father took me to our local pet store one fine day, where I found a snazzy miniature red-plaid collar and matching leash. Now, when Jupo attempted to bolt, I could very gently pull her back. The first few days she hated her new collar and she whined and complained bitterly and tried to take it off. But by the end of the week she became accustomed to it. And I do believe that in fact she began to like it because it made her feel safe. No one likes to be totally out of control. Not even a rambunctious two-year-old monkey.
Jupo loved me dearly. She would sit in my lap when I was doing my homework and make a chattering noise when she thought it was time for me to pay attention to her. She rode around on my arm, her tail wrapped securely around my waist when I did my chorus morning and night. When my friends came over my parents suggested I put her in her enclosure just in case one of them has a cold and might pass it on to her. Truth be told, though, as time passed, Jupo became very possessive and protective of me. One day, when my younger brother and I were wrestling outside, in between raking leaves, Jupo came down from one of the trees she was in, and, afraid he was hurting me, she took a bite out of his hand, requiring seven stitches.
Soon after that, my parents began talking about the fact that animals need a mate. I was sixteen by then and I had a boyfriend, so I understood. Jupo did not like him at all. She barked at him all the time, and once threw excrement at him. My boyfriend got the hint and never went near Jupo again.
In my father’s book, All Creatures Great and Small, he describes what happened soon after the incident with my brother. “After the stitches, Jupo went to live at the zoo—the first animal I have ever consigned to a life behind bars. Julie visits her there once a week with a present of fruit. Jupo now has a husband, a male spider monkey called Butch, even bigger and tougher than she.”
It broke my heart when the enclosure in my room was disassembled and a chest of drawers took its place. I couldn’t sleep for weeks because I missed the soft sound of Jupo’s snoring at night. I also longed for the way she would reach out her little hand and search around in the dark until I took a hold of it in mine.
“I love you, little baby,” I would say. And she would make a gentle cooing sound back. That was how we’d both fall asleep at night.