Friday, March 30, 2012

Drifter the Three Legged Huntin' Dog

My Papaw always had a dog when I was young. The one I recall the best was the one that disappeared for a long period of time. I figured he had run off. Not many folks had fences back then. My Papaw told us kids, he drifted away. When he returned, he had lost a leg. Papaw didn't see a disabled dog that needed medical care, he saw his huntin' dog had returned.

The way my Papaw trained his dogs to tree squirrels was to tie one of the critters cut off tails to the dog's tail. I can't recall how long the dog had to wear that squirrel tail but it was longer than the dog was comfortable with and it would bite at it, tear at it and papaw might tie it back on day after day, but it stayed put until my Papaw saw some sign I wasn't privy to that let him know, the dog was ready to hunt.

It wasn't just squirrles either, that dog would corner or tree any animal after wearing a second tail for long that didn't smell right.

When Papaw thought there was a critter under his house, it didn't matter to him if it was a 'possum or a mouse, he would open the small crawl space door, shove Drifter under the house then shut the door behind him. At first it was quite a racket. The loudest was near the floor heater that took up most of the hall in my grandparent's tiny home. Drifter would slam into it with a clang barking like crazy. Then his barks and snarls would be heard under the floor in differnt rooms. I would try to track him from the safety above the wood floors, careful to step around the floor heater, even in the summer.

The longest time I remember Papaw leaving Drifter under the house was an entire day. Mamaw would not put up with the fuss at night. Most of the time, Drifter got out pretty quickly. That long time he was under there, he walked out with a tiny gray field mouse between his teeth. He pranced like he had been big game hunting and just bagged a lion.

Dogs like Drifter didn't want any reward. He seemed to know his job and he did it well. He did more with his three legs than most dogs could dream about in their twitchy dreams of chasing cars. Drifter's reward was being fed, petted by a proud owner and fenced in at night so he didn't have to live his life with any fewer than three legs.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fly Swatters and Switches

I was talking about my neighborhood to one of my grandsons yesterday, giving advice about not pulling a prank. He was a captive listener, since we were in the car, so off I went into stories of my youth. He is either a great actor or he actually loves hearing these stories, which in part prompted my putting them to paper, so to speak, for all my grandkids.

When I was young, everyone was allowed to spank a misbehaving youth in my neighborhood. Most likely was the same all over town. My mom would not hesitate to pop one of my friends across the face for a miss spoken word. No police showed up at our door and my friend was more careful around my mother.

If I got into a neigbors yard and made a mess, or was into some mischief, it wasn't uncommon for them to bring out a fly swatter or take off their shoe to whip me out of their yard. No police showed up and I would pick a differnt location in the future to compare how quickly a magnifying glass would burn sticks, leaves, ants, one of my brother's green plastic army men or the paper on old tin cans.

At my Mamaw's, she had different rules from my house. My mom and dad could have cared less if I ran through the living room from outside yelling, "Gotta poop, gotta poop, gotta poop!" all the way to the bathroom. All us kids did things like that at our house.

I did this only once at my Mamaw's house. She had ladies over visiting, maybe a church group or some other reason but running in the middle of her friends yelling, "Gotta Poop" not only delayed my trip to the bathroom, it resulted in her grabbing my arm and spanking me in front of all them while she scolded me for saying such things. Once released and after the ladies left, she said the dreaded words, "Go cut a switch Terri Lynn."

My grandmother wanted to make a point, again. Her two favorite implements of punishment were the flyswatter, which was kinda cool in a way. It stung but I knew she was tossing fly guts all over her clean house every time she swung the swatter to smack my legs.

With switches, it was different, more serious. Switches hurt more, even through cloths. I looked up over the cabinet that held my Papaw's coffee pop at the huge stick/switch she put there and ran outside, tears burning my eyes.

In the past, I tired to cut a tiny switch so it would not hurt as much and my grandmother promptly stomped out the house with her angry march and cut a huge limb. She brought it inside and told me if I did not cut a proper switch, this is the one she would use then sent me back outside to pick a nice green switch that did not require her to bend over to reach my legs and was stripped of leaves. It would whistle with a high pitch scream as it traveled through the air and left angry red streaks on my calves. I did my best to avoid the switch and usually learned after her first lesson.

I now know she would never have used that big stick, about the thickness of a man's thumb. She also did something the nighbors didn't do when us kids were punished, she talked to me about how to change the behavior that caused the whipping.

She never pulled any punches with, "this hurts me more than it hurts you", she knew it hurt me more and she wanted it leave a memory. The police never showed up at her door.

It is a different world today. I would call the police if a neighbor whipped my grandson, we lock our doors even during the day when the sun is bright, we don't leave our keys in unloced cars in drive ways or at stores and we don't give rides to hitch hikers, even if we have seen them in our neighborhood.

When I was a kid, fly swatters and switches were an important part of molding my personality. It took a village to raise children and our village was a small southern town in the foothills of Ozarks where police would smile and wave.

Mamaw lived to be close to 100 and I loved her as much then as the days I spent in her home laughing with her or getting switched. Although I saw her very little due to moving away from the Ozarks, her lessons have carried over to my current life with my own grandchildren. I made the choice to never switch my grandkids but I am forever grateful for the lessons my grandmother taught, even if was taugh at the end of a fly swatter or switch.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dashboard Coffee Table Lessons

When taking trips with my dad, you could always count on one hand the amount of conversation he offered. He had to of dreaded trips with me, you could not pay me to stop blerting what ever came to mind. Look at that tree, it reminds of last week when Debbie and I.... and then we..... and then the next day...." My poor dad. He was very patient. This could be why he always had lots of snacks for even a trip of a few hours, the one I am referring to was four hours.

I never gave a single thought to the fact that our dashboard held everything we took with us, besides a cooler or other equipment. We were usually in a truck and everything was at arms reach. We had easy access to snacks, drinks and a place to put important mail that needed tending at some point. This particular trip is when it was burned into my brain, not one piece of paper, not even a recipt from a drive through, will ever be on my dashboard.

Dad loved to snack on fresh shelled roasted peanuts so at times, peanut shells would find their way into the defrost vents, eventually to be cleaned out during the first frost as warm air clearned the windshield and peanut husks.

Now because there were so many uses for the dashboard coffee table and we typically hit some dirt roads on trips, there was always a layer of grit on the mail, papers, and under our cups. The dashboard would actually have to be clear of clutter to clean the grit, so it built up and we just shook it off. When we had soda with our peanuts, like all good Southern folks do, we used the dashboard to hold the cups. I can still recall the sounds, like sand paper as we picked up and replaced our cups, tossing shells out the window if going slow enough or on the dashboard if we could pick up speed.

Dad and I liked different types of sodas and on the rare occation he would stop at a gas station, all the cups were the same, no matter what went into them. He didn't care for the fizz I got from a coke and I liked mine without ice, more fizz foam. I loved the feel of the sweet tepid foam that would make my cheeks swell. It was easy to tell which drink was mine, not cold, no ice rattle.

Since he was somewhat organized for having a coffee table on his dashboard, we would line up cups. Oh, did I tell you he chewed tobacco?

When we traveled he would use an empty tin can that could fit nicely against the windshield. If he forgot his empty can on trips, he would use an empty coke cup that had been neatly stored on the dashboard, for when he forgot his tin can. Back then, all the cups looked the same. No fancy advertizing of the latest Vampire movie, it was just a simple bright red paper cup with a Coke logo.

It was what happened on that trip that made it the last time I used the dashboard coffee table. A dashboard can serve as a snack and mail holding area but it is not the best place to put drinks and a used tobacco spitune disguised as a coke.

He has passed away so I can't go back and ask him if he switched the cups on purpose because I was bugging him, as a joke, or was it really an accident when I took a mouthful of his used tobacco out of the cup that was tepid and did not rattle with ice sounds?

My dad did not have a mean bone in his body, he would not have done this to hurt me in any way but he did have a sense of humor and his own way to make a point, even when one did not realize a point needed to be made.

Daddy loved me, no doubt. I gave him grief through out his life, no doubt. What I do doubt is that this big swallow was an accident. Maybe he knew I needed a dose of humility and it was his way to guide me? I will never know.

I do know it made an impression on many levels since it is still so vivid in my mind and other senses of my body, hince the gag reflex when I recall this night so many decades later.

Hill people parent their kids just as well as city folks with PhD's. They may have different methods that had been passed from generations past. If nothing else, one lesson from that experience has been stable in my life since that day, nothing is allowed on my dashboard! It is not a coffee table to be used for drinks, snacks or a holding area for books or unsorted mail. In my car, I have cup holders for my drinks that usually look much different from any others in the car and no smoking, or chewing tobacco, in my car. Ss for mail, snacks, or books? I have floorboards, which I put to good use!