Monthly Archives: September 2016

“Mr. Tabbo”– A Riding Shotgun Entry


A veterinarian must, of course, care enough for animals to be able to hurt them in order to help them, must be dedicated to giving them the best of healing care. But he/she must also care deeply for the animals’ caretakers/owners/family. Charles has always been wholeheartedly dedicated both to helping the animals and their people. He never misses a chance to go way beyond requirements in order to help. He also greatly enjoys the many characters he gets to know. He’s always been good to tell me about the folks and animals he encounters. Sometimes his descriptions are sad and pitiful, others just downright funny. Of course Charles himself is part comedian and loves to pass along a good story.

One of the characters he enjoyed telling me about was “Mr. Tabbo,” (Talbot) Jones.

I knew Tabbo myself because he was the man who fixed our washing machine when it was vomiting and spewing all over the back porch. “Mr. Tabbo” had an unimpeachable reputation: he could fix anything.

With one glass eye, a dark shadow of beard across a tobacco-swollen cheek, he’d slide out of a pickup truck stocked “to the gills” with every imaginable current and ancient part. When he left with a cheerful thanks for a modest payment, there would be greasy black fingerprints on washing machine/dryer/refrigerator. But who minded cleaning up when the machinery now worked?

Tabbo had earned a pin for twenty-five years of perfect attendance at First Baptist Church Sunday school. He never stayed to church, but he was always in Sunday school, the class of old men named the Scrap Iron Class. He didn’t stay for church because there was always someone, he was sure, who would be desperately needing some help with a warming deep freeze or a leaking refrigerator. “But,” he told me once, philosophizing on my back porch, “I tell ’em ain’t nothing so bad it can’t wait one hour for me to go to Sunday school. Take your husband now. Same way with him. He’s got to put ’em off sometimes so’s he can get to church. But I know Doc’ll come soon as he can. He ain’t gonna be unreasonable. That’s what I like about him, he’ll come soon’s he can, so I try to come soon, too.”

Tabbo’s truck was, as I said, packed up even to the top of the bed with what appeared thrown-in-at-random greasy and rusty parts. The back end of his truck nearly touched the pavement with its weight! But he could always locate the piece he wanted quicker by far than a salesperson in a bright shiny store. With a grin, he’d heft out a hose or gasket and say, “Just happen to have this here took off an old machine. It’ll get you going and probably outlast your machine.”

If  Tabbo’s truck was a legend, his barn was even better (worse?). When I rode there with Charles we turned in at a washed-out old painted sign which said “Jones Dairy.” (This is not to be confused with the dairy farm of Gene and Esther Jones near Whigham.)

“This is a dairy?” I asked and Charles chuckled. “Not anymore. Tabbo raises beef now.”

Charles had been telling me about the barn whose roof was supported by its contents, but it took seeing it to believe it. Manure had built up so high you had to walk up a slope to get in the center aisle. Better duck or you’d knock your head in the rafters. If you looked to either side you’d see stalls stuffed with more parts like those in Tabbo’s truck, stuffed in tightly like dressing in a turkey, all the way to the roof. The roof was patchy, but it couldn’t leak, I guess, because there were dryer backs and metal discs, etc. etc. crammed against the holes.

Tabbo was cheerfully negative as usual when he greeted us on one particular cow call. “World’s going crazy,” he grumbled. “Ain’t nothing like it used to be. Take this darn cow, fer instance. When I were a young sprout we never called a vet to the cows.”

“But you lost some too, didn’t you?” asked Charles giving the cow a friendly whack on her rump before stabbing her with a shot.

“Not as I remember. Maybe one or two. Not that many. Now, one looks a little pekid, we call the doc.”

“Yeah, times change. New washing machine and new cows.” Charles grinned.

It was an event when Tabbo bought a new truck. For a while it was neat, but I was nervous when I called for help, afraid he wouldn’t find what he needed. The messier his truck became, the less likelihood Tabbo would say he’d have to run home and search his barn, or worse, actually have to go buy a part.

Tabbo had two sisters, RaeNell and Angelea. Very shy ladies, they loved their many cats, at least fifteen at one time. They asked for a house call each year for vaccinating their cats for rabies. The cats were in stacked crates when Charles arrived. They’d been gathered, some of them hissing and scratching, from all around the house and barn.

Tabbo and his sisters eventually moved to a nice assisted living home named Magnolia Place where we visited them numerous times, particularly RaeNell who is still there. She told me recently that she went on a high school graduation trip to New York in about 1939. Her mother sold a cow so she could go, and Tabbo did her chores for her while she was gone.

RaeNell and Tabbo enjoyed telling Charles and me about when they had lived in the old log house in Cairo which was our home for forty-two years. RaeNell was born there in 1924 and has a clear memory of the kitchen being “out back,” then finally moved to connect with the long dog-trot hallway. Tabbo remembered standing at a northern window in November of 1918 listening to the courthouse bell ringing in celebration of the end of World War I. “After that,” he said, “we moved to a dairy farm that was where the high school is now. Finally we moved out on the Meigs highway where you know us.”

Charles has a favorite quote: “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Judging by that, he hasn’t worked very many days!


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Cicada Concert


Do you hear them? I was sitting on my porch in South Georgia talking on the phone to my sister Suzanne in North Georgia when she said, “The cicadas are here today.” And I could hear them in our yard too making music in waves of summer sound. That was probably about the first of August. But the summer sound lasts through September so I’m still enjoying the daily rhythm of music in the trees. It’s a background sound to whatever else is going on, a sound which makes me feel with Browning, “God’s in His heaven All’s right with the world.” (Though Browning was listening to a lark instead.)

But is it really cicadas or locusts or katydids or crickets we hear?

Kaison, three years old, who plays with me on Tuesdays, asked enough questions about the “bugs” that I set out to settle some facts about them.

 First, he found the empty skin of what I used to call a locust clinging to a pine tree where the transformed creature left it. He held that skin tenderly in his hand and asked if he were okay. “He’s gone,” I explained. “No, I have to take care of him.” He examined his eye places, his funny prickly feet and, of course the split in the back where the fellow crawled out and flew away. He babied that skin for two hours before something else got his attention.

 In a week or two, Kaison found the dead body of a winged creature lying by our back door. He picked him up too. It had beautiful transparent wings, some green and black on its body, no signs of why he had died. I told Kaison this was one of the cicadas that had come out of a skin like the one he had found. He was baffled and amazed. Again, he cradled that “bug” in his hand for an hour until I finally persuaded him to lay it gently in the low fork of a susquina tree.

 As I told Kaison his “bug” was a cicada, I wondered if it were a locust instead. And what exactly was a katydid? I decided to do the up-to-date encyclopedia search, in other words “Google” it. I wanted to be sure I didn’t lead this little boy astray!

 So here it is, the truth about the hoppers, Flyers, leg-rubbing, vibrating fascinating percussionists of summer.

 Crickets live in the grass and chirp as they hop about. Any pond fisherman knows crickets. They don’t live in the trees. So when you hear their little songs in the grass, you’ll know it’s crickets. They don’t form bands, either, like katydids and cicadas. Crickets are more ensemble and solo singers. Like “The Cricket on the Hearth” by Charles Dickens.

 Katydids sing at night, that is, they rub their legs together to make their fascinating waves of sound. They look more like a grasshopper than a cicada though their raspy sound is similar. Just know when you sit on your porch watching the stars come out it’s the katydids saying “Katy did, she didn’t, she did.”

Locusts are bad boys. They eat whole crops, take away the livelihood of farmers. Locusts were one of the plagues God sent on Egypt when Pharaoh wouldn’t let his people go. And I think the sounds you hear are the sounds of a million wings buzzing and an eerie chomping sound. At least that’s the way I’ve read about them in western pioneer novels. No peaceful rhythmic orchestra sound. But they do have a cousinly resemblance to cicadas in appearance.

Which leads us back to the cicada. There are, of course, many kinds including the ones you may have heard about this year called the seventeen year cicada. Those have an amazing life cycle. It goes from tiny larvae in the ground for seventeen years, to brown beetles crawling out on God’s time table and climbing trees, to the great transformation, the summer concerts, the mating, and then eggs falling out of the trees to the ground where they wiggle down and do their seventeen year thing again, not sleeping but drinking juice from tree roots. Cicadas, unlike locusts, do not eat foliage. They just drink sap which usually doesn’t hurt anything.

There’s also a thirteen year cicada and then just the regular annual ones which we know. In states where the seventeen year cicada came out in droves people were warned to beware that their pets not make themselves sick eating too many, or get choked on their wings. People do actually eat them too, prepared in many ways–fried, chocolate covered, pickled, you name it. 

When I was a kid my brothers loved to sneak up behind me and place a brown prickly cicada skin in my hair. One of us girls ended up going to church decorated thus, causing muffled snickers in the pew behind. I don’t plan to tell Kaison about that. 

I’ll just tell him again that the sound he hears high in the pines on a hot day are those cicadas with beautiful wings making music for their girls. They have special built-in instruments that vibrate with great vigor. So listen to them as they “sing” tonight. They’ll be gone very soon

What amazing creatures! Do you think God created them to make us smile?

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September Eleventh


So many of us living on September 11, 2001 remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the horrific news that unfolded for hours in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. That date is claimed. “9-11.” A day of terror that forever changed our country. But I want to remember another 9-11, a very happy day for the Graham family.

It was September 11, 1975. We were at last bringing home our adopted five year old daughter. We had waited months, no years, for this day. William, our son, only one year older than Julie, had not realized when we left home that it would take so long before we could bring his sister home–three days of meetings with a caseworker, signing papers, and getting to know Julie.

William had helped us prepare the room for his sister. He made a big colorful poster that read “Welcome Home.” He helped hang curtains and put new spreads on the bunk beds in the room the two would share until we could finish rooms upstairs.

Julie had strawberry blonde hair often put up in two perky pony tails that bounced as she ran, which she did a lot. Her eyes weren’t quite blue but almost green, depending on what she wore, and sparkling with curiosity. Her caseworker had described her before we met as having “well formed legs.” That comment would come back to us in later years. She loved to sing, songs she’d learned, songs she made up. She wanted to hear Glen Campbell sing “A Rhinestone Cowboy” over and over again. She liked pizza and hamburgers, but couldn’t stand seafood, which we all liked, so we would go through a drive-through fast food and purchase her a meal before going to Red Lobster.

Our little girl was instantly fond of several elderly men in our church. Her way of showing her affection was to walk up to them and hit them, then giggle at their startled expressions. She was a big tease and loved more than anything to “get someone’s goat.” She and William had great times outdoing each other with tricks on the front lawn, climbing the tung oil tree, raising two baby chicks named Thunder and Lightning and racing with each other. They were very competitive in the swimming pool and each discovered the others’ strengths: Julie was a fearless diver but couldn’t swim as far nor as fast as her brother.

Julie had been diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome of Childhood, a kidney disease, at a very young age, had had exploratory surgery and spent a long time in the hospital. However, she had outgrown that malady and had been taken off prednisone, the treatment drug therefore being freed by the state of Georgia for adoption. The lingering effect of this problem was that she couldn’t have salt or sugar. This led to my creating snacks with salt free peanut butter to take to her kindergarten class, also apples and her favorite fig cookies.

When we took Julie to our pediatrician after a few months we explained her medical history showing what few papers we had. Dr. Malone said there was new thinking on Nephrotic Syndrome. “Get her a big ice cream cone on the way home. Let’s see how she does,” he told us. That was the end of that. Except that Julie was never one to salt heavily–and she always wanted me to make those “Julie Cookies” made with peanut butter, flour, figs, and a little orange juice.

When she was eight Julie made a public profession of faith in our church and was baptized. She always loved her Sunday school teachers and was especially fond of girls’ mission meetings on Wednesday nights. That included wonderful playtime! Julie was very compassionate and was quick to try to help people.

When Julie was a teenager she complained a lot about her legs hurting. Sometimes she described her knees as having bubbles in them. We took her to the doctor but nothing apparently was wrong.

After high school, while attending Lively Vo-Tech studying to be a cosmetologist, Julie met a young man who captured her heart completely. We received a phone call from her one Sunday evening. “Daddy, put Mama on. And ya’ll sit down.” She and Doug had just gotten married at the Leon County Courthouse.

Julie had two babies and was a darling little mother. (When I say little I mean it. She was only five feet tall and weighed about 94 pounds, gaining to a whopping 120 when pregnant.) I remember that moment when first she asked me to hold her tiny newborn daughter. I experienced an extraordinary bonding between her and me and this little pink bundle named Amanda. When Charles Douglas was born she was so proud of him too, proud of being able to name him for her dad and her husband. And proud of being able to have him naturally though Amanda had been born by caesarian.

Julie continued to have pain and severe spasms in her legs and we sought help at three major diagnostic hospitals only to be told the doctors didn’t know what was wrong. It wasn’t until her daughter also showed signs of similar difficulty during early teens that she finally received a diagnosis: Familial Spastic Paraparesis. This rare disease usually affects only the lower limbs but Julie had the complicated form which caused spasms even in her arms and neck. Her hands sometimes shook so hard she couldn’t hold her beloved cup of coffee. Whereas Amanda was a good candidate for a surgically placed pump that would send spasm-relieving baclofen straight to her spine, Julie was not. She was always so happy that Amanda would not have to suffer she had. Julie did, however, with the proper diagnosis, get on medication that allowed her to have successful knee surgeries which relieved a lot of her pain. Spasms had torn meniscus time and time again.

Julie loved to go shopping looking for bargains. But that became too hard as time went on. She did get an electronic wheelchair she could drive like Jehu. Amazingly, sometimes she could walk, almost run. Sometimes she walked when and where she shouldn’t resulting in numerous falls. After many ambulance runs to the emergency room, her veterinarian father put together his own kit just for stapling Julie’s many wounds to her head, hands, and face. Julie was so stoic, would squeeze my hand hard and seldom cry as her dad once again put her back together.

Julie loved her family and her friends and her pets. She was an avid telephone conversationalist. She got a big kick out of good jokes, particularly Papa Graham’s. Some of her favorite shows were “Survivors,”” Criminal Minds,” ” Hawaii Five-o,” and “NCIS.”

On the Fourth of July, 2012, Julie came to a family gathering at our house. She was excited to see her children and her little granddaughter Charli, and all of us. Her face glowed that day. She bragged on the supper being so good. She couldn’t hug everyone enough. We had no idea when she left that night that we’d never see her alive again.

On August 18, 2012 at the age of 42, Julie didn’t wake up. She simply went to sleep and woke up in heaven.

But today, September 11, 2016, I’m remembering that day 41 years ago when we brought that bouncy little girl with ponytails home and watched as she skipped along our driveway.



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