Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Dog Skip

 By Cousin Don Dulaney  

    Skip was the last dog I remember Papaw Dulaney owning. His attention from the family was the result of his affection for corncobs.  Papaw had trained him to retrieve or find one, and it provided much entertainment at the Dulaney family gatherings. However, what I remember was the gleam in Papaw's eyes when he focused on the little fiest dog. Seems like Papaw was happiest when he was working with animals, and I believe that his love for them came from his dad James (Jim) Henry Dulaney. Jim was a country veterinarian, and Lawrence picked up the trade and was the last of a breed in Itawamba County. All of Lawrence’s grandchildren at one time or another accompanied Lawrence on a visit to doctor an animal. My best memory would probably have to be the first time I saw him insert his arm, up to his shoulder, into a heifer to turn a breached calf about to be born. This was quite a sight for a nine year old little boy.
    I have often wondered why every old farmer had a dog. After I started thinking about Skip and Lawrence together, it started to come into focus. Lawrence wowed all of us with his squirrel hunting skills and his ability to not only see talent in his choice of dogs, but how to train that dog to perform the given task. Even today, during whatever brief encounters I have with my Dulaney cousins, those squirrel hunting trips with Lawrence and his squirrel dogs are always a topic. You never shoot a nest.  If the tree is hollow, you can always smoke the squirrel out.  The art of having someone “turn the squirrel” by walking around the tree, and the act of shaking vines - these are just a few of the things Lawrence left in my generation’s memories. I was much older, and Lawrence had passed on, before I realized the true values Lawrence found in these little creatures.
    A dog was just as important as the Jersey milk cow or the hog raised for slaughter. To understand Skip's true value, you have to picture the family farm that provided the character our dear Ole Itawamba has today. For example, the trip to the barn was an every morning and every afternoon event, to milk the cow and gather hen eggs. Like many farms, the path to the barn was littered with old iron plows, or maybe stacks of old wood, or maybe empty canning jars that Johnson grass had overtaken. Skip, our fearless hero, spent much of his time putting himself in harm's way, sniffing out dangers such as snakes or controlling the rat population. The farms were dark at night with scarce lighting.  However, the family dog provided not only an alarm to the sleeping farmer, he also kept danger at bay until the farmer could assess the situation. If it was helping put meat on the table, such as deep fried squirrel head, or going head-to-head with a rattlesnake, a dog truly was farmer’s best friend.   

    Lawrence did as his father and grandfather did; he became a master in finding the full potential in his dogs. The value Lawrence found in Skip involved all these things, however the gleam in his eye came from unquestioned loyalty and from the nonjudgmental ear little Skip provided, not to mention the one quality Lawrence probably valued above all others  -- that was the fact that Ole Skip never talked back.

1 comment:

Arvil said...

Masterful piece.