Monthly Archives: May 2014

Riding Shotgun–Some of Our Pets

Floofy was William’s first dog. Charles had stoutly insisted William should wait to have a dog until he was five years old and able to take care of it himself. He’d had his birthday several months ago. Finally, one magical day Charles took him to the animal hospital and introduced him to a fully grown smooth-haired brown, black and white beagle. When they brought the dog home and William said her name was Floofy I started to say, “Oh, no, she’s not a floofy. She has such short hair.” But Charles gave me a look that said leave the boy alone. Later he told me he’d already argued with William but “Floofy” was definitely the name he’d chosen.

So Floofy it was. She was a well-mannered dog, did not jump on us, barked when company came but stopped politely when everyone was settled, and ate happily everything we set before her. That is, until Charles said she was unhealthily fat from all the leftovers and we’d have to put her on a diet. “How would it look,” he posed, “if I’m trying as a good veterinarian to get my clients to feed their dogs healthy meals while my own dog is rolling in butter-fat?” That’s when Floofy started visiting down the street and would come home grinning around a crisp chicken leg or a wonderful meaty ham bone. William and I visited that neighbor and asked her not to feed Floofy since she was on a diet. The neighbor agreed but paused not one day in her feeding program. Floofy’s requests obviously spoke louder than our request because the fattening leftovers kept coming.

William tried to teach Floofy how to fetch but she was pretty lazy (that goes along with too much fat!) and the main game they enjoyed together was simply rolling over and over on the grass, dog and boy barking and giggling.

Floofy gave William a fantastic late Christmas present about 1975. On New Year’s morning we woke to the sound of puppies squealing–under our house! We’d been in our one-hundred-year-plus house only a couple of years and hadn’t underpinned it yet. Thank goodness we hadn’t put in air conditioning ducting yet either. The house is only inches above the ground so when Charles crawled in to retrieve the puppies, he had to maneuver in many places with his face sideways on the dirt. William shouted with glee as Charles brought the wiggling little blind puppies out, one at a time, eleven fat puppies!

I took a picture of William with that tumbling mass of puppies when they were about six weeks old. He was seven years old and hating to give any puppies away. But we had to and we did. Feeling we had saturated our field of folks wanting puppies, Charles then took Floofy to the office for an operation so she wouldn’t have any more. William seemed to understand his dad’s explanation and didn’t object, just went along to watch.

Much later, when Floofy died, William was eight or nine and Julie was part of our family. The two of them watched as Charles buried Floofy out near the pasture fence while I sobbed. William asked if a tree would grow up out of Floofy’s stomach. Charles said no, because he didn’t want a tree there so he’d be sure to pull it up if it started growing. I left the scene to shed my tears elsewhere.

After Floofy we had Lucky, an Australian cow dog, who tried to punish us all for not being in line, I guess. She was a terrible jumper, meaning she jumped terribly high and often. I could never get to church without having railroads up my stockings during Lucky’s days. Charles found a farmer who wanted her and none of us cried when she left.

Julie had acquired by then, through the generosity of Linda Wells, a cat named Misty,a beautiful Persian cross with fluffy gray fur. She had a sweet disposition which was very good to go along with a little girl’s whims at dressing her up and toting her everywhere. My only problem with Misty was that she was extremely good at catching anything, including our songbirds. I wanted to put a bell on her neck as we had always done in my family, to warn the birds to stay away. But Charles absolutely refused. That would be more cruel to the cat whose instinct it is to hunt than it would be for the birds to be snatched literally from the air. I still don’t agree with him. But Misty didn’t wear a bell. I can see her right now in my mind sitting on a well cover behind our house calmly bathing herself while a mockingbird bomb-dived her, pecking her back. An hour later the mockingbird would be a heap of feathers on the same well cover.

Misty got ornery as she became elderly. One day she slashed at Julie instead of playing with her. Or was that William? When Charles saw the blood on his child’s arm he grabbed Misty up and threw her bodily into a bed of lilies. That same evening I found Charles asleep over his newspaper with Misty curled in his lap looking at me with round eyes that said, “He’s mine, you know. Lay off.”

Misty went with Charles to the office one day for her annual shots and a check up. Her fur looked all ruffled, a sign she’d probably eaten a bad lizard or something. On his way home Charles stopped to leave some medicine at a client’s house, and Misty leaped out. We never could find her, though we looked diligently for weeks.

The only way not to endure heartache over your pets is not to have pets. But what a vacancy would be in our lives with no pets to make us smile–and laugh out loud–and cry.

 

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The Mulberry Tree

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This is not a botanical dissertation. It is not an advertisement of fruit trees. I claim no academic knowledge concerning the subject. It is not a cookbook or a health issue or a devotional. It is not a poem or an essay or a short story. I have no intention of trying to make you a lover of mulberries or to persuade you even to bake a mulberry pie or tart.

I simply want to tell you about my mulberry tree I discovered just this week.

We’ve been so busy moving in and adjusting ourselves and our furniture, pictures and other belongings to our new place that I hadn’t studied every tree in the backyard. But I noticed several times in coming and going that squirrels and birds really were doing acrobatic performances in this one particularly graceful tree. Squirrels sometimes inched to the ends of very limber limbs and then all but fell trying to get something that was obviously very important to them.

I finally set out to find out what the important things were in that tree. That’s when I found it was loaded with the most interesting berries I’d ever seen. Similar to blackberries in size, but not as black. Very juicy when I tried to pick one, softer than a blackberry. Knowing I’d found no dead squirrels around, I deduced the berries must not be poisonous. I tasted one. Delicious! I went for another and another. I began to get excited. What did we have here?

In the yard where we lived across town we had satsumas, oranges, figs, blueberries, kumquats, and pecans. Here, we didn’t have the first fruit tree, I thought. Until I discovered this beautiful tree on the inside of our circular driveway. I brought some berries in to show my guys, my husband and 19-year-old grandson.

My grandson, who is not botanically inclined, immediately guessed those might be mulberries. I was duly impressed. (He must have listened when I sang “Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush”!!!) His granddaddy agreed that maybe Charles D was right, but said he didn’t know enough to make a guess.

I broke a branch and brought it to my computer so I could compare leaves, fruit, arrangement of same to examples on internet. It seemed like a good match, even to the fact that the leaves vary on mulberry trees, of which there are about twenty species worldwide. Leaves may be lobed or not, smooth on top or hairy. The berries can be red or black or stages approaching those including a stage on nearly all mulberries when they are white.

I had just decided that the next thing I would do would be to find a recipe for making mulberry pie.

That’s when Sally came over to pray with me about some urgent needs in our families. As she got out of her vehicle, she called out to me (this is the honest truth), “I’ve just made a mulberry pie and we ate nearly the whole thing. Natalia and Clay brought me some.”
My mouth dropped open. I hadn’t heard until then of anyone in our neighborhood or town who was either growing, harvesting, cooking, or eating mulberries.

I do remember one little mulberry tree in the meadow of Pinedale where I grew up. We had picnics around it. I don’t remember there ever being anything on it!

Needless to say, I did get a recipe and proceeded out to the tree to pick mulberries. I needed three cups. After trying from the ground, I hauled a step ladder out. Perched precariously, I tried to snag enough berries to make a pie while birds and squirrels began to protest. After twenty minutes all I had were about a dozen berries. I surveyed the situation again and got down off the ladder. I believe that tree belongs to the birds and the squirrels. I’d rather not have that pie than to end up in the hospital with a broken back. I brought in what I had and they were very delicious on cheerios for breakfast this morning!

Have at it, squirrels and birds! I’ll just enjoy your acrobatic shows and forego the mulberry pie–unless some kind, adventurous soul wants to share some with me!

P.S. Thanks, Sally, for the “out-of-this-world” slice of mulberry pie Charles and I each enjoyed at your house last night after church! The taste is milder than blackberries, a subtle, soothing taste. I may, after all, have to try again to pick mulberries. Sally said Natalia and Clay drove their truck under the limbs. Sounds like a good thing to try.

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True Air Mail

While moving recently I read bundles and boxes of letters I’ve written and mostly received over the last fifty-five years. That included childhood letters long since forgotten. Like the one from my father when I was eleven visiting an older sister. It was in my mother’s handwriting because he was almost blind at that time and she did all his correspondence. But it was his voice, his words, I heard from the page. And he had even signed it in his own shaky handwriting! My father died when I was sixteen.Then there was a letter from my oldest brother, a missionary then in the Philippines, praising me for my work as editor of a family newspaper I operated for several years. He said the news in that monthly epistle was so welcome and he would miss it now that I was going off to college. I didn’t remember that he cared! Recognizing how very precious were all these letters, I determined to save them and boxed them carefully for the move across town. But I missed it on one box. That one was not so carefully secured!

On most boxes I fastened the flaps and even taped them shut as if they were going a thousand miles instead of only three. But on moving day I was at the new house receiving while Charles and all our wonderful muscle men brought boxes and furniture to me. When I saw this open box of loose papers arrive, my heart sank. Oh no! how did this happen? Charles explained someone had started out the door with it and dropped it, had to cram everything back in. I stuck the whole thing in a corner to deal with when I had time.

Two weeks later I walked in to my Sunday school class to the sound of a sudden round of snickers and then silence. Charles had arrived before I did and gave me a grin. I wasn’t sure whether it was a teasing grin, an encouraging grin, or a bad news grin. Our teacher, Charlie McBee, cleared his throat and held out a neatly folded paper saying, “I saved some of the Graham family history this week.”

When I unfolded the letter (there was no envelope), I gasped. It was to Charles, William and Julie and me, dated in 1976, from my oldest sister Pat, a “bread and butter” letter after she and her husband had visited us. I looked at Charlie in bewilderment. “Found it hung up in a shrub in my yard,” he explained with a chuckle.

Charlie lives between our old house and downtown Cairo. And if he “received” one of those “air mail” letters, how many other folks may have also! I was appalled–and amazed–and very amused! Good thing that wasn’t one of those personal letters ending with “Burn this as soon as you’ve read it.”

But I was glad to get my letter back!

Letters say so much about a family’s personal life, a community’s history, the flavor of weather, national news, and thoughts concerning God, sorrow, happiness, bewilderment, problems, everything. But how many letters are there going to be in years to come? Have you written one lately?

 

 

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