The Best of Buck and Wolfe

Buck was an Anatolian cross, a big guy with a huge loving heart and an ingrained protective device for us kids. We all loved him more than any pet we had ever had. Between him and our big German Sheppard we called Wolfe, we were protected. The coyotes are howling in the dark distance, hungry and ready to steal what ever is the easiest. Those two together could send off a pack of coyotes in a hurry. Every year my dad would order 100 baby chickens. Strange, I can remember them coming in at the post office. I remember how cute they all were, all different colors and grew into different sizes. Black Minorca’s would lay a large white egg, while the Dominique’s and big breasted Cornish grew larger. The Rhode Island Reds were the prettiest, especially when they were crossed with the spotted Dominique’s. Growing up they all became our pets and we hated to think of what they were raised for, but we all knew, it was a way of life. Without the animals we raised, we may have starved to death. We always had pigs, chickens and often rabbits that dad would raise for meat. We usually had a summer garden that was canned when it was ready. Back to my friends Buck and Wolfe. Dogs were truly our best friends. They were trained to keep the pigs in the hot wire fences. I can see them making their rounds completely around the farm several times a day, never to be told. Katy bar the door for the one that got out though, the fight was on and the pigs usually lost. More than one pig was injured by our dogs. Occasionally one had to be put down due to injuries. They were never malicious to people and were very behaved. Buck with his long, white fur that could almost be brushed was kind and loved to be petted. Wolfe with his brown and back fur that was easily identified anywhere. They were farm dogs, working dogs and friends, they did their job well. I suppose it was on a Sunday that we went to visit my grandmother and grandfather in Roaring Springs. Mom was always ready and happy to be with her mom and dad, so were we. Dad would usually have a big day with all the brother in laws. There were always at least half a dozen of them. The Sunday draws near closing and mom and her sisters tidy up my grandma’s little house and we all pile in our old car. As said before, no air conditioning, all the windows down and me calling back glass seat, if I was fast enough to beat Buddy to it. I didn’t know that going home that day would be one of the saddest of my childhood. After about an hours drive we made it home to the little farm, down the old dirt road. Dads work didn’t seem to ever be done, so as soon as we were home he would begin checking on the animals. He made sure they had water and walked the fence to remove any debris that might have blown up against the hot-wire fence and short it out. All the while Buck and Wolfe making every step. All was well until dad went to check on his chickens. He had a nice chicken coop built for them, one that could withstand coyotes with Buck and Wolfes help. Setting under our shaded play area, we see dad approaching quickly with a snarl, cursing and extremely distressed. First in his own way, let me say he loved Buck and Wolfe too, he’s the one that got them for us and we had had them for years. Anyway, what dad was doing was coming to the house to retrieve his 22 rifle. While we had been gone that day, the dogs had broken in dad’s chicken coop and killed all but one of dad’s chickens. 99 of 100 chickens were killed that day by our playful friends. The one chicken that was spared was quickly snuffed out by dad catching it and ringing its neck and throwing it across the ground. They were all dead. They were not eaten. All I remember was looking at the hole in the chicken wire the dogs had torn through, finding only brown and black hair, no evidence of a white strand anywhere. It was Wolfe, our German Sheppard that had gotten into the chicken house and had a field day of fury, displaying a scene of mass murder. On close inspection of Wolfe, there were places that he had hair missing, hair that was found clung to the wire of the chicken pen. I can still see my dad with the 22 rifle. Wolfe had not made it all the way to the house when dad called him when a shell ripped from the rifle, hitting Wolfe in the front leg. I can see him taking off as a streak of lightening, making it about 500 yards before another round was sounded and he fell. We were devastated, even more so that we were made to watch this extracurricular activity of how to prevent your food from being taken from you. After walking out and being satisfied that Wolfe was dead, my older brother, I believe Kenneth took off his collar, we couldn’t hold back our tears and our plea’s of remorse and how we would make it all better if he just wouldn’t kill Buck went unheard. Buck was a friend, he was a person, so soft, meek and loyal. We kept telling daddy that there was no white hair found in the chicken coop anywhere, begging, pleading through blurry eyes and breathless begs for him to please spare our dog. Buck was so obedient that he would come every time he was called, it didn’t matter how far away he was. He was not feared of us, because he had never been abused, he was all loved. If you can stand to continue reading my therapy session, I can tell you that daddy called Buck. He had been resting at the entrance under the house where it was cool, his favorite place. Daddy knew where he would be. I have to say I loved my daddy now, before I say I hated what he did. He called our friend Buck, Buck came right up to my dad, his pink tongue half way out of his mouth, showing the black outline of his lips, his eyes bright and alive. We were crying, we were witnessing trauma and it still lingers with me today. “Buck come here”, dad said. Buck gets up, his long white tail wagging, his stately tall body obeying the command. Dad grabs him by the top of his thick, leather collar and holds it for just a second, as if he was giving it a second thought. We held our breath in hopes and prayer as we hear a single shot go off. Dad had shot our Buck in the back of the head and in an instance, he was still, his large frame unable to drag us around or take a ride any longer. Our orders were given to go and bury the dogs. They were big and we weren’t able to carry them. So, to make a memory worse, we lifted Buck into our little, broken down wagon with the warped wheels, his bright red blood still dripping. Fighting back tears, Rodney, me, Buddy and Kenneth pulled the old wagon toward the old well house. Kenneth began digging a deep hole, Buddy and I tried to help as much as we could. I wished it had been a proper ceremony rather than digging a hole and throwing one of our best friends in and covering him with dirt. After we had finished with Buck, we gathered to where Wolfe had laid for a good 2 hours or so before we could get to him. He was stiffer than Buck, not as big, but beautiful just the same. Kenneth carried him. I was as mad at Wolfe as I was in love with him for doing what he had done. It gook a long time to adapt to farm life without those two. We kept their large, thick collars for a long time. One of the older boys had scarred their names into the collars. After they were gone, no other dog ever measured up, except one, nearly! Her name was Gal. She made a good pig dog and the pigs respected every round she made. She wasn’t quite as nice to look at, sandy brown, not very pretty and not as loving either. Perhaps we wouldn’t let it be so. I have forgiven many people for many things and I forgive my dad for what he did. I knew we were poor and a lot of energy and money had gone in to those chickens. They had just started laying and getting ready to start eating. Dad had a rage that day, one we had seen before, one that finally faded in later years. I waited for a long time, but no apology ever came. I remember those big ole boys as if yesterday. They followed us through the forest, up the shelter-belt, down the ravines and up the rows as we chopped the cotton. I have a memory box in my heart and mind where the good things go, they are there. I open the old box once in a while and see them with their sparkling eyes and eagerness to please. It was a short ride, but they took us lots of places.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Advertisements

The Locust Bloom

Looking down the old dirt road at what used to be, I see furrowed rows where now mesquite trees have once again claimed their place. There are small drifts of sand, piled in swirls around fence posts, resembling what the wind must look like as it curves and turns around what it owns. They are made from the spring wind and unrelenting lack of rainfall as mother nature blows her breath. Tufts of dried grass can be seen bowing to the wind, brown and blending in with the elements, it’s master. The skies are clear, a magnificent blue, much like clear ocean water contrasting the irony of nature. What is known from what appears as desolate at times, this sandy place is home. It is an acquired taste to find the beauty in often barren times, but when the elements come together, it is quite beautiful. One accruing years of age can remember what our city used to be, what it held and what memories were made, the amenities it offered and the times the younger generation can only imagine. They will only learn what we already know through our telling the story, because time is moving too fast for them to stop and smell the locust blooms. Age in itself has its ways of causing visions of the past to appear. It is unforgiving, with a clock that suddenly begins to tick a little faster with every passing day. Some days hurry by with just a glimpse of sunshine before the dark falls again. The lonely locust trees are blooming. The ones that I long to smell each spring, the very ones I took my son to smell today, the very ones I smelled yesteryear. Sadly, their presence is becoming less and less as through the years they have also aged and began to fall by the wayside. Adding to the elements, consider the unexpected burst of cold that folds the newly budded blossom, causing them to wither and fall. Against natures odds, the blossoms are few and studded with thorns, yet their fragrance is astounding as they set there waiting to be noticed as part of the beauty of a barren landscape. Lest we forget we are still alive, take time to smell the locust blooms. For just a few short days from now, mother nature will claim their petals, making us wait for another revolution around the sun for their return.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Something Beautiful Began to Appear

The evening sunset light is bright as it streams across my living room floor, carpeted and warm. Comfortable with the central air running, reminding me of a time the old four-inch wooden boards for a floor in the old farmhouse were never either carpeted or warm. They were often splintered, and mother always knew where a needle was to dig them out of our feet. All of this dims the reality of comfort as I see my mom stripping material of all kinds into about one-inch sizes, multi-length pieces. After many, many pieces had been cut and sewn into what was uncountable feet of strings, mom would choose three pieces of her strings. They were all different colors because of the many materials sewn together. Gathering her strings, she began to braid them together. The different colored material, some stripes, floral, plaid and solids began to make a color and pattern of their own. Her hands were small, slender and agile as she continued to plait the materials together. She was tedious with her work, making sure the braids were equally as tight as the next, sometimes taking them apart with her medium length sharp pointed fingernails to redo them. After braiding what she thought she would need, something beautiful began to appear. Mom would take the end of her braided material, bend it just a little until she had made a circle. I remember watching her knuckles bend as she used her needle and thread looping the material together, pushing the needle through with her thimble. Depending on what shape she wanted depended on the shape of the tight or elongated circle she chose to do. As the thread began to run short, she would run the thread through the same area several times and cut it off real close to her work. Un-threading the spool for more thread, I can see her stretch her slender arm out as long as she could get it, often biting the end of the thread from the spool. She would then put just the tip of the thread in her mouth, wetting it so it would be pointed, making it easier for her to thread it through the eye of her needle, pulling it the same length and magically spinning her finger until a knot was in the end of the thread. She is sitting in the floor, one knee bent behind her, the other leg out in front as she continues her work, berets holding her hair back. In goes the needle from one side, out through the other, over and over until the making of a rug appeared as she kept turning and sewing. Stretching and flattening the shape as it began to grow into a finished product that was both beautiful and useful, covering the splinters in the old wooden floor. Just a fleeting memory revived by the rays of sun peeking in my door reminding me of those one-inch strips of bright material.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Bootlegger’s House and the Bicycle

Sometimes for hours my brothers and I would sit in the car behind the old bootlegger’s house, waiting on dad to get his evening or daily drinks. Behind the bootlegger’s house were many shade trees and a swing between several of them. If it weren’t for the negativity the place portrayed, it would have been quite the place to play. Mr. G as I will call him, seemed like a nice man, short and slightly rotund with a bald head, not lacking for personality. He was usually jolly and didn’t like to see us sit in the car. There were times he would bring us out a soda while he and dad talked for hours and hours about nonsense. Conversations that became more nonsensical as the day drew on and the laughter became louder and peculiar, for nothing I heard was funny. He wasn’t a bad person, it’s just the way he made his living. The longer we stayed, the more visitors he would have and the bigger the population of drunks became. With each new visitor came more grandiose stories than the last. One of them usually had a pair of dice in his pocket, so the crap games began. It’s strange how perfect the life of an alcoholic is when they are nearly anesthetized. In general, none of them were violent. Most of them did however have a very extensive vocabulary of expletives and knowledge of anatomical body parts. Mr. G. was somewhat of a hoarder. He had old bicycles in his back yard that we boys would take off on and never be missed. My first bicycle came from Mr. G. It was old, with rust on the chain and a seat that looked as if rats had lived there. It was awesome though, it was mine, something of my own. My oldest brother Johnny found an old bicycle seat that was in better shape than the one that was on it was and replaced it for me. He took the chain off at daddy’s garage, cleaned it up good by using gasoline and a wire brush and soaking it in old motor oil that was kept after oil changes. Daddy always kept the oil and would pour it on the backs of the pigs to keep them from getting lice or other embedded varmints in their skin. I remember him keeping the oil in a 55-gallon drum. He would dunk our chickens in it. By the time he was done with that, the poor chickens were so heavy with oil they could hardly walk, much less fly up to roost. My brother Rodney and I usually had the task of cleaning out the chicken house and raking all of the debris out before the oiling process began. He would make us coat the roost of the chicken house with the oil too. “There won’t be any fleas or blue-bugs in here”, he would say. Blue bugs are a tick that love chickens. It will suck them to death, especially under their wings. This was another sort of ritual my dad had every year, much like the story I have told you of him making us take worm pills every spring. Passing by old Mr. G.’s bootlegged house, I find it to be as dilapidated as many of the unpleasant memories of my childhood. It kind of makes we wish it had looked like this as a child, maybe we wouldn’t have spent so much time there. But then again, there were other bootleggers in town, with much poorer reputations than Mr. G. At least he was nice to us. As my bicycle came together and Johnny finished it, Buddy and I now had transportation, to come and go as we pleased. As this memory runs on secondary to the initial posting of the bootlegger’s house, I remember Buddy and I coming down the west side of Isbell’s Drug store one day. Buddy was pumping me on the back of the bike. We loved to go fast, we didn’t love not having any brakes. Well, as we jump the small uneven pavement that annexed another part of property, the jerk knocked the chain off of the sprocket. Buddy realized the brakes were out. By now we were underneath the canopy of the Texaco station that sits where Arvis Davis parks some of his vehicles today. Knowing the intersection was next, I remember pulling the handlebars hard to the left, even though Buddy was in “control”. We took a spill and slid almost to the intersecting road. I’m not sure if I hadn’t that Buddy would have let us go into the intersection. Everyone that was in the station came running out to see two kids scraped from one end to the other. We got up, walked the bike to the corner where dads garage was and licked our wounds. As we looked at the bike, we realized the chain had come off of the sprocket. I can still see us unbolting the back wheel, putting the chain around the sprocket and the back wheel sprocket, me pulling the wheel tightly backward while Buddy is tightening the bolts. They sure don’t make bicycles the way they used to. Two memories tied together, the bootlegger’s house that we dreaded, yet held the bicycle that brought so much joy.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Four Winds of Time

I woke up early this morning, thank goodness. I usually do, but without an alarm clock. I am up by 03:15 on work days, so it is kind of frustrating for my circadian clock to be set at that time when it is my day off. As I awake, the surrounding elements in the dark are amplified and I am swept back many years, by a tidal wave of loud wind carrying small pebbles and sand that hit my bedroom window. What visitor is this that is so fervently grabbing my attention. It must be a visitor awakening me in this manner, but who? I lay there, closing my eyes, listening to the wind swirl around the corner of my house, hearing the limbs and rustling of the vines not yet in full glory beat against the fence. I am automatically reminded that I am not in that old house sitting in the field of sand in the country. My home is secured with nice brick and mortar with a metal roof and gazebo in the back yard. So familiar is the sound from my childhood, that I can hear the cable leading to the top of the old television antenna flap, slap and ping against the tall metal pole. I can imagine the snow and white spots in the black and white television set making the clarity and volume irritating. Irrationally finding nostalgia there, at a time that was mostly unpleasant. Especially as I am now sitting in my own living room almost 50 years later, in a room that is almost half as big as the old house we grew up in, watching a 58-inch, color, flat screen television, with clarity that rivals my own colored pictures in my mind. Beginning are the hues of morning peeking through the crystal glass door that opens to our living room. Soon the daylight will be clear, even though the wind continues. I hear the griping moans against the top of my fireplace, only stopped from entering in by a closed flue. Soon the clarity of outside will become cataracted by the different hues of dirt that will outline the horizon, covering the beauty that will reveal itself in its own time, it always does. Soon the locust trees will bloom, and I subconsciously worry that I will not get to smell them this spring because of the wind and sand that hits the delicate flower that drapes like white grapes. All you have to do is be near the fragrance and you have to stop to find out where this beautiful smell is coming from in this desolate sandy place.  A lone crackle can be heard outside, I know he is clinging onto the bending limbs of my large Pecan tree in the back yard. By now you would think Anemoi (God of the winds) would certainly be out of breath, but not yet. Our high school yearbook certainly has an appropriate name, the Zephyr, meaning west wind. The sun is peaking up and shines into the window behind me, slightly obscuring the screen of my computer. My wife has gotten up by now and is laying on the oversized couch that engulfs her as she lays there covered with a blanket made by her grandmother. She quickly began snoozing again when she became comfortable. My boxer, Lola has taken her place on the other, smaller divan, making it her own, rearranging the pillows for her comfort. Awake, watching the signs of security all around me as I finish my second cup of coffee, I know my visitor. The wind has awakened me to remind me that life is good, and I have been brought safely through the four winds of time.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Remnants of the Past

Buddy and I were part of the Braves baseball team, circa 1970 or so. We were kids about 12 and 14 years old. One of my dearest aunts, who was by marriage but closer than blood in many ways bought our baseball uniforms each summer. My aunt Velma Grant was one of the sweetest women I ever knew. I can’t love her enough for what she meant to us. People used to say they didn’t know how the Grant men got such good wives. It is true, I don’t remember any of the aunts, or my mother that were not soulfully good Christian women, devoted to their husbands and probably much better than they deserved. But aunt Velma, well, I think she loved us more than our uncle did. She drove out in the country almost every Sunday and picked us up for church, fed us after and then brought us home. I can still see her writing in her tablet, the minutes of the church. Although I don’t remember the exact date I was baptized, I can rest assured she wrote it down somewhere and in the archives of the church somewhere it is written. I could write on and on about my aunt Velma and although this story sounds like it is about her at this moment, it’s really not, I just get lost in then. Getting back to baseball though. Buddy was always the ball player, I was just the little brother saddled to a team. I loved it though, it was one social event that we all looked the same. We had the same uniform that differentiated no one. You wouldn’t know who was poor and who wasn’t, thank you aunt Velma. One evening, getting lost in the game, getting deep in the 8th inning, Buddy, myself and several other boys were sitting in the dugout. To my horror, who can you imagine showed up drunker than Cooter Brown? It was my dad, not the nice Jekyll dad that had been drinking beer, it was the Hyde drunk that had hit the liquor bottle. He was always a different person with this kind of intoxication.  As if I didn’t already have enough insecurities playing ball and being small for my age, now one of my biggest fears was coming to fruition. The stands were relatively full, so there were a lot of people that saw my dad. My dad started getting loud, and obviously not in the right frame of mind to understand the game. He began yelling about us being in the dugout, that we should be out on the field playing and that if he needed to, he knew how to get us out there. This was probably one of the most embarrassing events I ever lived through. Dad was causing such a ruckus that the coach asked us if we wanted to go ahead and make sure dad got home, a polite way of saying get your dad out of here. Thankfully, we all learned to drive early, me included. I learned to drive in an old 1963 Ford Fairlane column shift. Buddy and I finally got our dad to the car and Buddy drove us home. I felt ashamed for a long time after that, so much so that I never played another ball game of any kind in my life, other than having to play in PE class. Only Buddy knew how deeply that affected me. There was no way I was ever going to set myself up for that immense humiliation again, despite Buddy’s infernal encouragement. Buddy played and continued to play throughout high school. I was always there though. I was his biggest fan, through the cold, wind and rain. I was always there, unless dad saw fit for us to do something else. By now, the school system knew how my dad was. I know some of the coaches went lightly on Buddy when he had to miss practice. So many things I experienced with my siblings, but Buddy and I continue to pick up remnants of the past and share them. In reading this story, it goes from good too bad. The feeling my siblings and I often felt. As I turn my head, I can see those little boys and remember every moment. I visualize Buddy swinging a crooked stick as I throw either clods of dirt are small rocks as we practiced baseball. I can see the tin cans we put in place for our bases and I can literally see the laughter bombard Buddy’s face as he hits the rock with that old stick. He was fun and in writing about him makes the words seem like a dance across the page. I love you brother!

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Memory Ladder

As I climb the ladder to my memory collection, much like the world’s largest library, my mind slides back and forth like that ladder as if putting books back on the shelf. I see sad memories, delightful memories, short memories, recurrent memories and that memory, the one that is waiting to be heard, wrapped in satin and warmth and tied with a bow of safety. Of course, it’s home, yet it’s a different house and a different time. My boys are small again and I have a chance to see them as they used to be, before they became men. I miss them. If you have a child, close your eyes and remember the smell of their hair after their bath as they crawl up in your lap just to be held or rocked. Maybe they were scared, maybe they were just sleepy and wanted that feeling of security. Do you remember, is it coming back to you? The care, nurture and work it took to get them to kindergarten and hating to leave them. Yes, I was one of those dads that always went to the first day of school with my boys and I would do it all over again. I wish in this memory I could go back and change a few things, things that would have somehow made it easier for them, a better choice, a decision, a wait for them to be a little older, a little bigger before they started that journey. But remember, although dreams and memories transform us into time travelers, they cannot change what has been. Alex is playing soccer, he’s four. It is hot outside and he’s playing as hard as he can. All of a sudden, he’s walking off the field. Alex! Go back, your team is still playing. “I’m hot and tired, I’m done”. Laughing all the while and shaking my head. It’s not poor sportsmanship, it is a determined, headstrong little boy that’s done. Ken is in daycare and is about three, oh my goodness, every parent needed a Ken. How many times did daycare call us at work. Ken won’t take a nap, Ken this and Ken that. Ken always thought he had to be the teacher. “Don’t touch the bird”, “aren’t you too big to pull your pants all the way down to use the bathroom”? “Don’t you know how to use a tissue”? “Aren’t you going to wash your hands”? “Why don’t you chew with your mouth closed”? Dad, please get me “Crayola’s, I don’t like rose art”. (Imagine all these words said with no R sound). Can I have those pens”? “I need new paint and art boards”! While Alex at that age only wanted Hot Wheels and computerized game boys, etc. Today Ken is an awesome artist and has done beautiful artwork from paintings to exquisitely decorated cakes. He has modeled for magazines, has done commercials and film, is well versed in music and can still play the saxophone. He is a fantastic husband and is hoping to have his PhD in a couple of more years. Alex is wise beyond his years, he had to be.  He was dealt a couple of bad cards during his formative grade school years.  Ok, his 2nd and 4th year, since we’re keeping it real and it is a memory. My wife and I home schooled him from the age of 14. It was one of the best decisions we ever made.  He can take any computer apart, put it back together and code just about anything it needs. He has a year under his belt in computer programing and gaming and plans to go back to school. Alex still reads music, can play the saxophone and is a lover of music. His soul resonates that soft, unconditional love he gets from his mother. My boys have made me proud beyond words and continue to do so. The fog is rolling in as these words end, for they too are turning into a memory as the last letter of each word is written. I climb back upon my ladder and slide to the memory side of my library. I am saddened to put this one back in it’s box, for it is pleasant and soothing and easily relived. Hold your dreams and memories close, hold your children closer, for each memory has it’s end only to be resurfaced by its calling.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)