Mother, Boys, and Dog -- Sentimental memories
Here’s some cool music for a sentimental holiday season. If I were to add music to my story, it might come from this album.
“SENTIMENTAL SEASON - DAVID HUNTSINGER CATALOG #: GHD5014
This seasonal edition of our wildly popularFor Sentimental Reasons Series includes light jazz arrangements of timeless Christmas standards by David Huntsinger and Friends. These smooth renditions of your favorite classics will bring warmth and romance to your seasonal celebrations. INSTRUMENTATION: Piano, Saxophone, Bass, Percussion RUNTIME: 46:01”
“Chapter 12 Mother, Boys, and Dog
My Mother had qualities influenced by both parents. She was gentle, kind, and with great capacity for forgiveness. She also expected that we would follow the rules that she set forth to the letter.
If we did this, we would have the highest degree of freedom. It was a winter day and school let out early because of impending bad weather.
Since my Dad had to drive fifty miles to work each day, he would sometimes have to spend the night at the office when weather was bad. This day, Mom said he was going to make the drive, though he would arrive late for dinner. She said that I could play outside longer so long as I followed the rules.
At seven years old, I grabbed my sled and headed out to the hillside adjacent the house. It wasn’t the biggest hill, though it was alright for warming up. I went up and down a couple of times, and then I saw Jerry Rawles across the street. “Hey, Jerry, can we sled in your yard?” I hollered. “Sure, but I have to go in soon.” He replied.
Jerry had a big hill that sloped away from my house and down to his house at the bottom. Jerry’s house was interesting because a part of it was an original log cabin. He lived there with his brother, Gary, and his Father, Ben, Mother, Toots, and Grandmother. The Grandmother was special because she made orange sugar cookies with orange glaze icing. I swear I could live on those cookies and nothing more.
Jerry’s Mother, Toots, was deaf. I learned some of her signing from being around a lot. Toots and my Mother wrote letters to one another until my Mother died. I learned that Toots lived fifteen years or more beyond my Mom, though I never found her son, Jerry as I was looking for him.
In elementary school he was learning to play the guitar, and he played and sang Oh Donna. I heard that he may have been in a band in Los Angeles. When we lived in LA, I couldn’t find him. Big brother Gary was too much older to have much interest in us. Though, sometimes he and his friends would tease us younger boys. I didn’t like this, and especially didn’t like a red head friend of his they called Peanut. (This was way before Charles Shultz fame.)
On this day, we took several long rides up and down the hill before Jerry had to go inside. I looked back at our house. Dad was not home yet, no sign of Mom either. So, I decided to sled on down Elm Street to Dicky Vail’s house at the bottom of the hill. That was problematic because I would now be out of sight and ear shot. Dicky was there, but he could not come out as he had just removed all of his play clothes. I could have gone inside there, but then, we would have to call Mom and she would likely tell me to come home. I left Dicky’s to pursue the biggest sledding hill of all. At Bank Street, there was a sloping cliff where I could slide down to the Whetstone Creek.
My Dad had showed this place to me as it is where he played as a child. I knew that I would be in trouble if caught, but the prospect of such a long steep slide was too compelling. I made the long ride a few times as the snow began to fall in earnest. There was already six inches on the ground and as much was on the way. On the last slide, I decided to see how far I could go. I aimed for the creek, and at the end, I found it. Cur plunk, in I went. I broke through the thin ice, and got wetter.
Well, I sensed that it was time to return home. I thought that if I came back the way that I arrived, Mom would have her eyes pealed looking for me. She might catch me breaking the rules of having left the boundary. I remembered that I could cut the back another way, which would be in front of my Grandparents house.
I could sneak in and pretend to have been home all along. As I approached I heard a faint call, “Jimmy, come home. Jimmy, come home now.” I would have to be quite clever at plotting my entrance. In fact, I decided that I would sneak back inside while Mom was still out calling for me. As I approached, I saw her with her back to me. I darted to hide into shrubs, and my movement must have caught her peripheral vision because she turned suddenly in my direction. Like a pheasant or a rabbit, I knew to stay still in the bush.
She studied the scene before her, and did not see me in now blizzard condition. When she moved, I moved and decided to circle back to the house in a new direction. She must have seen something, because she was now coming my way. I had this darned sled with me that I had to carry. It slowed me down. By now, the snow was falling, a wet snow at first, that was getting progressively colder as night came on. My clothes were sticking to me.
Mother was in pursuit, and I, believing that she had not yet made positive identification, would try to make it home without capture. She was calling, “Jimmy, I know you hear me. Come home right now.” I thought this must be a bluff. She really didn’t see me for certain or there would be a capture. I figured one way to dry my clothing would be to run around awhile. We continued to cat and mouse, her calling and my evading, as I worked my way to the back door. I entered and made it. Only problem was, my clothing was frozen to me. It was a difficult chore to take them off.
My intention was to get them off and to get into my bedroom where I would be reading a book. Well, she must have heard the back door shut because she came in the front door moments after and caught me standing there in a melt. This little escapade taught me a number of things, not so much about obeying rules, but about the greater treasures that lay beyond the boundaries.
I must explore more, though for next few days then, it would not be beyond my living room. Love you Mom.
It was fine to extend my range from home base, but it was a larger hurdle to stay overnight with a friend. Dicky Vail lived down the street for several years and we became very good playmates.
I would sometimes visit him in the morning as he would have his breakfast later than I. His Dad worked in town. His Grandfather had a dairy. Sometimes his Grandfather would have ice cream left over at the end of the day, and he would drop some off for us, at no charge.
His Mother was famous in her peer group as she was the 4H queen. Dicky had an older brother, Jim, and a younger brother Brian. Their kitchen was designed with a breakfast nook, and like in restaurants, they could eat in a booth. They had a black cocker spaniel dog named Jigs. I liked Jigs as he was very friendly.
Dicky was real popular after school because he had one of the first black and white television sets. We would all go watch Howdy Doody together before dinnertime. I remember that we all wore plaid flannel shirts in the winter and striped T-shits in the summer. It was a dress code of sort.
Dicky liked to have a backyard circus a couple of times a year to raise money for needy people. This was promoted on television by Flippo the Clown and by Casper the Camel. I remember having a prominent clown part to play in the circus, but at the last minute I learned that my Dad had other plans for me.
I had to work in the yard and couldn’t participate. That was disappointing as Dicky was counting on me. What is a circus without a clown?
Soon, Dicky’s family moved back to the country. I think they had dairy cows and planted corn and soy beans. The Vail’s invited me to stay overnight at Dicky’s for his birthday. I really wanted to do this.
First, there was a party with other friends arriving. We ate a lot of cup cakes. We danced to popular music. We got to play in the haymow in the barn where we would climb into the mow, and leap off a balcony, landing on the soft hay below. All the friends left and we had a big family meal. I remember that the Vails’ had a radio on a credenza in the dining room so they could listen to popular music during dinner. One song that I remember from that night was Sugar Time. That impressed me as being a good idea because we didn’t do that at home.
At that point during dinner, it dawned on me that I would be spending the night. I was exhausted from the day’s festivities and the food away from Mother’s kitchen wasn’t the same as at home. I wasn’t feeling well. I wanted to be an enthusiastic guest, so I didn’t let on that I was feeling homesick and just plain sick. They tucked me in early in my own bedroom next to Dicky. They showed to me the bathroom that all must share upstairs.
I tried to sleep, but my stomach was rumbling something fierce. Suddenly, I felt the urge to head to the bathroom, and I did so hastily. I had a bad case of diarrhea. How embarrassing. To top it off, I clogged the toilet. I crept back to my bedroom and hoped that no one would notice. The next morning there was a lot of discussion about it by Mr. Vail as he had to perform plumber duty.
I thought the next time I visit away from home, I am going to have to watch what I eat and cut down some of my activity as this wasn’t worth it. Overall, the thing that I remember about the Vail’s is how wholesome the farm family seemed to be. They ate well, played well, and were very comforting to be around.
If I had stayed in Mt. Gilead, Dicky would have been a close friend I bet. Billy Calhoun was another close friend. He lived a block away and had a sister Sarah. Sarah was a ballerina. Billy’s dad was a lawyer. His Mother was always kind and we played in Billy’s room that had cowboy wallpaper. He also had trombone. He had a dog named Skipper. Skipper was a Chi Wawa and wore a bright red collar. That dog was temperamental. So long as we were inside the house and playing, he was friendly and fun. If you walked by outside, he would bark and act fierce.
Billy, Skippy Woodward, Dicky and I were all pretty close friends, and after Dicky moved, Billy became my best friend. We played in a lot near his house where we could dig in the dirt and make forts. My brother was old enough to join us.
One day, I visited Billy and he said that Skipper had escaped from his leash. Billy was pretty upset about this and we called Skipper to come over and play and talk about it. We would meet him on Union Street to help him cross as it was busy with trucks. We met Skippy and he came dashing across, and as he approached our side of the road, he looked down and saw something interesting. There on the pavement was a wafer thin carcass, and embedded in it was a red leather collar. Well, that was the end of Skipper.
We scraped up his remains, and carried them to the fort where he was buried with honor. Caring for pets is a huge responsibility, and dogs, in particular, seem to want boundless freedom as I do. Dad had sold Rex when we moved into the house. That was OK with me because I didn’t think he was my dog, and I was not out there playing with him all the time.
Dad sensed that my brother and I might like to have a dog, and the chickens would benefit from a little overnight protection, he thought. We were taking a weekend trip to Lake Erie, and on the way home we saw a sign: Free Beagle Pups. Seeing this, Dad asked Mom, “Do you think the boys are ready to assume responsibility for a dog?” I answered, “Yes, I am Dad.” Tim looked on with approval. He made a prompt U-turn and drove up the drive to the barn where a farmer stood next to a cardboard box. As soon as the car stopped, I popped open my door and ran to the box as I anticipated the prize inside.
Sure enough, there were several puppies remaining, though only one was a male. The male was not as big as some of his sisters, but that didn’t matter to me. That was the one I wanted. Now, in this recollection, you don’t hear me talking a lot about what my parents were saying or doing, and you don’t hear about my brother either. The reason is that I was transfixed on that little dog that I picked from the beginning. I saw or heard nothing else. I just looked at my Dad and said, “That’s the one; let’s go.”
Well, Dad had to secure a box from the farmer, and to get some information about what to feed him and when. He also learned that the dog had not received any vaccinations and such, and might be “wormy.” The dog was a little lethargic, and the farmer said that it is a little early to be separated from his sisters and mother. I knew that I would have to spend a lot of time with him to make him secure.
I had seen the movie, Old Yeller, and I had an idea about what kind of pal he would be. We stopped along the way to give him some water and to let him walk around a little. He was shaking and afraid. My Dad went into a service station and came out with a rubber rooster that was made as a dog toy, I guess. On the bottom of the toy rooster was the name, Yippy. So, I said, we should call the dog Yippy.
No one objected, and that was it. My Dad objected to having any pets inside the house, though for a year or so, he allowed an exception as Yippy grew up and became a member of the family. Sure, he chewed up some clothes and pillows, but since we had such a close eye on him, and because Tim, Mother, and I took such good care teaching him, he was good dog.
He played with us every time we were outside. He required being on a leash, because without it, he would pick up a scent of rabbits and such and would be on a hunt and wandering away as fast as you would turn your head.
There is a picture of Dicky, Jerry, Tim and me playing in a pile of leaves with Yippy. I would get under the leaves and he would come dig me out. I was wearing a coon skin cap in that picture and I remember that the hat got the dog very excited.
Dad built a nice dog house for Yippy that looked like our house. It had shingles and was painted white. Inside, it was padded with hay that I kept fresh. Yippy had a nice collar and a long chain attached to the dog house. Dad built a fence of chicken wire around the dog house area so that no other animals would bother him when he stayed out all night.
Yippy seemed satisfied with his new home, though at night he would get into barking and howling something fierce as foxes and other animals roamed the neighborhood. Grandpa George complained a lot about his barking as he said it kept him awake. Sometimes, I would go out there at night and sit on top of the dog house to keep him company. I wanted to see if I could see what he was barking at.
With daytime visits, I sometimes took Yippy off the chain. After all, he was pinned up anyway. I quickly learned that beagles like to dig. One day, I left him off the chain, and he dug a hole under the fence and escaped. He did this several times. I opened the back door, and there he was sitting on the porch. I had to chase him around to get him back on the leash. We knew that if all else failed, all we had to do is offer a hot dog and the game was over. He was a real chow hound.
Beagles need to hunt and run. They need their freedom. So, on weekends, Dad would take us all to the woods where Yippy could run, hunt, and yelp to his content. We loved those family hikes in the woods. In Adcock’s woods, Yippy found a horse skull, and that spooked him out. He would stalk it, and bark. Every time we went to the woods and he would stumble onto it, he would act the same way.
One day, sitting in Yippy’s pin and singing songs with him, like Back in the Saddle Again, I taught him to jump onto his roof with me. He learned to jump up onto things, and that included following me onto fat limbs of apple trees and into large soft branches of pine trees.
My friends encouraged me to show off these skills, and this qualified Yippy for the circus. After Dad put a concrete footer around the dog pin, Yippy could spend his time in the pin off the leash. This dog was so smart that he combined the jumping knowledge such that he would jump onto the roof and over the fence at night so that he could track down all those varmints prowling in the dark.
This was good news for Grandpa Oscar because Yippy didn’t bark when he was out. Bad news was for me as I had to secure him when he did this bad thing. This went on and on. When Yippy was leashed, he barked. Grandpa complained. We would cut the dog some slack, and sometimes he would escape.
One evening in the summertime, Dad, Mom, Tim, and I decided to walk into town for an ice cream cone. When we were near the jail, we could hear Yippy’s barking and howling in the distance. I could only hope that he would stay put. While we were away, I learned later, Grandpa had gone to the pin and let Yippy out as he did not want to hear the barking.
We returned after a pleasant stroll in town, and there was Yippy, sitting on the front porch. The odd thing was that he did not rush out to greet us, or to try to run away as he surely had a bad conscience. The reason for this became apparent as my Dad approached and announced, “Yippy has been shot.”
I learned about a man in the neighborhood who complained to Grandpa that a beagle dog barked at him while he was pouring a new sidewalk. The man fell into the concrete as a result and he was mad. He had made threats that he would shoot that dog if he ever came in his yard. That is apparently what happened.
Dad hovered over Yippy with a blanket, and somehow managed to get him into the car and to the vet. But, it was too late. Yippy died that night and I cried my eyes out, filled with guilt and responsibility. When all the facts were compiled, I was very angry with Grandpa for letting him out. Then, I swore, if I ever found out who that neighbor was that did this, I would exact revenge.
When walking to school one day a year or so later, I saw a dog’s print in the sidewalk in front of a house that had an all new walkway. I had fingered the neighbor. I stopped and stared as my eyes welled with tears as I thought about my good old dog. That was his print for certain.
On the following Halloween, I went back to that house while I was supposed to be trick or treating. I had a hammer and chisel, and I removed a big chuck of that man’s sidewalk. I took that dog print and laid it to rest in Yippy’s dog pin. That didn’t settle the score, but he would have to repair that sidewalk.
I never had another pet after that as a child. I decided that animals need their natural freedom, and that if I wasn’t living in the wide open spaces, it wouldn’t be fair to keep them. Yet, I developed a notion that once you establish a relationship with a living being, be it person or animal, there is a connection that is permanent, and so long as memory serves me, I still have my dog, Yippy. Yippy returned in my dreams. I could fly on a magic carpet with Yippy by my side. There was nothing on this earth that would put me in peril as all I had to do is invoke Yippy and the carpet and we would fly above all threats and harm.”