This is not a shaggy dog story. The dog in question has short hair. But … the daughter recently bought a dog. She paid more for it than the worth of an entire cotton crop on the little hilly red clay farms of Frontier Country.
They had a dog, old Tuffy, whose life pretty much equaled that of the growing up years of the grandkids. He was a boxer. He was the perfect dog for a trio of rambunctious youngsters, the ones I used to call the Wrecking Crew. They could lie on Tuffy, pull his tail, twist him into all sorts of odd positions … and he loved it.
But old age finally got to him about the time the youngest grandson was finishing high school, and he had to be put away.
So now there’s a situation: not only no kids around, but also no dog around. They had liked old Tuffy. So they decided to get another boxer. They found one on Ebay. Not only did they pay a fantastic price for the puppy, they had to go to Tupelo to get him.
Pay for a dog?
Here’s how it used to work. Somebody’s dog would have a litter of puppies. The owner would get the word out. Want one of these pups? (want was pronounced “yaunt”) “Yaunt one of these ? Pay? He was delighted to get rid of them.
That’s the way I got old Bounce. A semi-wild dog had a litter in Uncle Kent’s cotton house, the one across the big gully from the house. He looked as good as any of the others, so I brought him home.
He was fed cornbread and peas and turnip greens just like the other people at our house. He looked like he would be a good squirrel dog, but I soon found that I could smell about as good as he could.
When I’d go hunting, I’d try to slip off without him, but he’d soon follow, and run around and swim back and forth across the creek and scare every squirrel within a quarter-mile. But he was mine. I don’t believe this, but brother Jack swears that when I went off to college at East Alabama Male College, Bounce would howl all night on the night before I’d come home, which was maybe one time during a quarter and at the end of each. C’mon. But he says it’s true.
A little dog named Spot just showed up one day. He and Daddy developed a very strong bond. Daddy could just suggest something, like, “Go around to the other side of the barn and run them cows in.” And he would. He also loved to play in the creek, down at the bridge, where most of us learned to swim. Kids would be playing in the water, and Spot would be on the bridge, eager to get with them. Daddy would say, “Ready? OK. Go.” And Spot would splash in amongst them, and come up, ready to go again.
He got run over.
Then old Spike came along. He was big, mostly boxer. Mother also had a pet pony. The pasture came up close to the house, by the pear trees. Pat, the pony, and Spike developed a close relationship. Sometimes you’d see Spike, sitting like the RCA Victor dog, and Pat, reaching over the fence, nose to nose, as if discussing some deep philosophical subject. Sometimes, Spike would go down to the barn and sleep with Pat.
He got run over.
The only people who would buy a dog would be high class hunters, quail hunters. I expect Uncle Jeff paid money for June, the sweetest little English Setter there ever was. Oh, how disgusted she would sometimes look when Ross and I would miss birds she had pointed. A serious coon hunter might also pay money for a dog. And even maybe an Alabama-style fox hunter. But usually? “Yaunt one of these?”
So, daughter, if you want to pay more for a dog than a brand new Ford cost in my high school days, go ahead. Dempsey? Interesting name. I gotta “omit,” as cousin Artie used to say, Dempsey is a cute little thing. But he won’t have those boys to play with.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.