Saturday, August 8, 2015

Chewing Tobacco in Paradise

I was born and raised in the hills of southern West Virginia. I left when I was 14 and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. That was around 1960. The weekly series The Waltons was almost an exact replica of the life I led in those hills. The balladier, John Denver said about West Virginia: " Life is old there, older than the trees." The Waltons was based somewhere in the year 1930. West Virginia was still the same 25 years later when I lived there. As a matter of fact, it is still pretty much the same even today.

My mind goes back to an incident that occurred when I was on my way home from piano lessons. I used to ride the bus over to the Van Stavern sisters, two spinsters, after school and take a weekly piano lesson. I would then walk home. It must have been a couple of miles to walk. The route took me by my cousin Smokey Dunbar's house. I must have been 13 or so years of age the same age as Smokey. On this particular occassion, Smokey, was playing around out by the barn. I saw him out there and stopped off to goof off with him for a little spell.

I noticed right away that he had his cheek all pooched out and a little drizzle of what looked like chocolate escaping down his chin. I asked him what he was eating and he told me that it was some Red Man, did I want some? In a state of constant hunger and no stranger to tobacco I decided that I would try some. He loaded me up and I commenced to chewing and spitting. In spite of the fact that I was coming back from piano lessons, Smokey refrained from beating me up on general principles. I think the fact that I relented to chew some Red Man with him got me a pass on the thrashing for being a sissy that took piano lessons.

We sat there on the fence and talked and chewed and talked about things that 13 years olds do, mostly girls and school. After a brief few moments those beautiful mountains on the horizon began to appear upside down. I also began to feel ill. I uttered a weak " I gotta go Smokey" and took off for home. As soon as I got out of sight of Smokey I cleared my mouth of the vile weed but the damage was done. Man, I was sick. I almost immediately threw up and then broke out into a cold sweat. The nausea and dizziness was more than I could take.

In an effort to find some respite I laid down in the ditch by the side of the road. I laid there for quite some while attempting to start feeling better. It was a little one lane country road. The weather was pleasant and I had decided that it was not a really bad place to die. Not many vehicles passed by. The ones that did did not notice that frail, skinny little kid beside the road, in the ditch with the greenish hue about him. It was starting to get dark and I had about resolved to arise and commence my journey home.

I saw the headlights of an old pick up truck that looked sort of like my Dad's coming towards me. As it got closer I was right about the truck but wrong about the driver. It was my Mom who had become worried about me and came looking for me. I loaded into the cab and she inquired as to why I was so late. I advised her that I had become ill and laid down in the side ditch along the road hoping to get to feeling better. I had no idea as to what it was, obviously a virus floating around school. She drove us home. I went to bed pretty much immediately without dinner. I felt pretty wicked to have been chewing tobacco when I should have been heading home and not worrying my parents.

Today we are a much more sophisticated tribe. You rarely ever see people chewing on that animal purgative, tobacco. Nowadays the habits gravitate in the direction of a capsule, tablet or hypodermic. The masses consume barley by the barrels in front of the television. Somehow we are more developed and aware.

I hear John Denver's refrains: " Dusty road, take me home, to the place where I belong. West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country road." In my 70 year old mind I see myself. An insignificant, little country boy living a life in paradise and did not even know it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dogs are wierd people

We have a little bassett hound named Petie (PT). She is soon to be 10 months old. She is the love of our family. She happens to be our only child still living at home. She is very much like a child. She cannot be trusted alone in a room as she cannot restrain herself from chewing up distal parts of furniture, kleenex, newspaper and various other inanimate objects. She has pronounced rodent qualities in her chewing proclivity. Unfortunately she is so hyperexiteable that she cannot restrain herself from jumping on and performing some mitigated chewing of our grand children when they come to our home. This is very annoying and makes people not want to come in the same room with her. She, therefore, is banished to her kennel or the back yard when we have company.

Our last bassett, Maggie, drowned in our swimming pool around 4 years ago. We are very careful about allowing PT much time around the pool. Fortunately we installed a kiddie fence some 10 years ago to control access to it by various grand children. It is gated and locked and provides much peace of mind when all is in place.

Last week while cleaning the pool I found the carcass of a dead skink in the skimmer. If you don't know much about skinks, think 5-6" snake with legs. I removed the carcass throwing it over next to the base of the kiddie fence. My hope was that a bird would discover it and carry it off.

Flash forward to this morning. I am cleaning the pool and PT accompanies me to sniff all over and discover what she can to illuminate her little hum drum life. I notice that she is upside down writhing and wallowing all over something along the fence. I think, I should have buried that skink in a shallow grave or thrown it over the fence so my neighbor's dog, Rex, could wallow all over it. However, Rex' owner is a college dean and most likely has been taught to forego the tendency towards wallowing all over dead, necrotic reptiles.

I continue to vacuum the pool and then notice PT padding along the deck with something snake like in her little jaws. I connect the dots and I say " Oh no, not on my watch. You are not about to dine on a week old, drowned skink today." I put down the vac pole and head hastily PT's way. I catch her just before she gets to the gate. I grab her behind the neck and try to extricate the skink. She protests vehemently and I win. Or lose if you want to calculate that I am now holding a week old, dead, rotten skink in my hand. Ewwwww, much hand washing goes on in an instant.

A little later I am sitting down in my family room reading the paper and PT gets up from her nap and comes to get some spontaneous scratching and loving on. She is such a a cute little fellow that I cannot resist picking her up and putting her in my lap which she always enjoys immensely. It is then that I catch a drift of the pronounced smell of the dead skink, one letter off from skunk. I mean I catch the entire effect of her wallowing all over it.

This leads to an immediate bath which is a whole other realm of PT escapades. It is a wonderful workout with chasing her, restraining her with one hand while lathering her with the other and her being convinced that I am torturing her.

This is all leads me to make the declaration found in the title of this post. What sort of errant DNA mapping makes the dog want to roll around on dead corpses and other vial smelling substances? Perhaps it is some sort of primitive protective activity. No enemy of the dog would stoop to make it a meal if it smells as putrid as is caninely possible. Indeed, dogs are wierd people.