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!