Kipling's "Jungle Book" the monkeys are the bad guys; full of dirty tricks, always conning the animal kingdom. Monkeys love to get into mischief.
"That's how they are," says Darline Rimensberger. "Our monkey Billy loves to get into things. We always have to keep a second ahead of him. When we wash the dishes we have to dry them and put them away immediately or he'll toss them around."Carl and Darline Rimensberger have had pet monkeys for almost 30 years now. They know the animals as well as most folks know their kids. They can be frustrating, heartbreaking. But the Rimensberger wouldn't switch pets on a bet.
"I particularly enjoy Woolly monkeys," says Carl. "They eat the spiders and bugs around. Billy's a Capuchin (an `organ grinder' monkey). We'll probably have him for some time. Capuchins can live up to 50 years."
Human beings have always felt an uneasy alliance with the ape kingdom. We call mechanics "grease monkeys," talk about being "a monkey's uncle" and tease little kids about their "monkeyshines." At the zoo, people breeze past the ground hogs and black bears, but they'll spend hours peering into the monkey cage. It's as if the monkeys were our cousins from Mars.
"You get an eerie feeling they're even smarter than you are," says Darline. "You see that little mind working like crazy and it makes you nervous. Raising a monkey is a lot like having a 9-month-old baby. I hold Billy in my lap, put a blanket over his face and say `Billy's gone, Billy's gone.' Then he'll tug the blanket away. If I get up to go somewhere he'll run over and grab my leg because he wants me to stay."
The Rimensbergers are members of the Simian Society. They get their information on monkeys from that group.
They also attend the annual animal auction in Indiana. Camels, bears, lions, elephants are put on the block and sold to the highest bidder. The Rimensbergers pay $10 for a seat (though they never buy). They use the auction to make contact with other monkey lovers and catch up on new developments and insights.
"When you buy a monkey," says Darline, "they're quite expensive, and you have to make sure you're going to keep it. Zoos won't take hand-raised monkeys, so getting one for a pet requires some thought."
As for Billy, his personality develops daily. He's into tearing paper now (the family supplies him with old catalogs) and he has a knack for turning anything and everything into a personal toy.
In Mexico, if you stare too long at someone they look at you and say, "What's the matter, do I have monkeys on my face?"
Look at the picture of Billy on the page here. You can read his mind.
"What's the matter?" he's saying. "Do I have people on my face?"