I had gerbils for several years when I was a kid, and a few of them did make it to the back yard after they lived out their gerbil lives. Joe The Gerbil had a crazy long tooth that really was never right. He was the first to come into the house, and the first to make it into the back yard. I remember packing him in a Maxwell House coffee can with woodchips when it was time for his burial.
I also remember taking and old, heavy, slate, stepping stone of some sort and working on it with a hammer and chisel to carve his name into it. Now, it feels like that was a project I spent days or weeks on, but it could easily have been just an afternoon. I must have been in that 10-13 year old age bracket at the time.
Writing this, it almost seems like a sad story (I suppose I could punch it up and make it a real tear jerker (the handicapped gerbil with the weird tooth would put it over the top)), and I was probably sad at the time. But it wasn't a traumatic experience; it didn't scar me. Carving that tombstone wasn't a labor of love. It was just what you do. It seemed natural, and I took to it like the project it was.
Over the years, there were several more gerbils, and several more backyard burials. They came in and lives through their normal gerbil lives. I think there was only one more tomb stone, though.
I'm not sure what the point of this story is. It started off as a tale about paint, but I guess that will have to be a future post. I can't always be certain just which story will want to be told.