Finally, a dog!
Sometime after the turtle episode, I moved on to begging dad for a dog all over again and it actually paid off, because dad brought home a pitiful looking rat killing dog from the grain mill where he worked at the time. You see grain mills were notorious for having rodents of all sizes living in and under the grain. The rats go under the grain in tunnels that were dug outside of the grain bin. Once entering the tunnel, they are free to move in to the silo, itself.
The problem for the rats is a small one, literally. Ten or more rat killing dogs, live there too and they are all small enough to claw their way through the rat caves and tunnels. Dogs like Jack Russel and Dachshund were both pure bread weasel dogs. Very rarely would they be found around the grain mills. There are however many strays that don’t belong to anyone. They adopted the workers as their friends and caretakers. Dad told me that he put out water for them and some food occasionally. The point is that the dogs liked my dad and he them.
Floppy was the first. They called him Floppy because of his big ears. They Flipped and Flopped whenever he ran and he ran quite a lot, chasing the rats. Now I know rats can sometimes make good pets if they are tamed and domesticated, but the wild ones are quite vicious and nasty. All the dogs that lived around the grain bins would catch several a day. Some of them enjoyed digging into the tunnels and crawling in after them. Dad said sometimes they used flares to send a bunch of smoke into the tunnels and the rats would run out like crazy. The dogs would grab them as they came out and that would be that. So anyway, Floppy came to the house first. He didn’t have any manners at all. For one thing he used mom’s laundry basket as a bed and got his stink all over mom’s nighties. That didn’t go over to well. Mom said she caught him lying in the basket of her clothes and looked at him mean and asked him if he thought those were his clothes? He looked back at her kind of cross eyed and then delivered his answer, which was to bite on her big toes. Well, of course you know that didn’t go over at all with my dad, so poor mister Floppy went back to the place dad worked. I suppose maybe Floppy might have mistaken her toes for baby rats. Possible, I guess in an abstract sort of way, because mom had hammer toes for a long time and those are weirdly animal like. But old dad wasn’t about to put up with behavior like that from a mutt whose life he had saved from the rat infused grain mill. He boosted poor little Floppy up by his scrawny little neck and right out the back door. Threw him into his old blue pickup truck and headed straight on out the driveway to the place he liked to call “Ratville,” I always thought that was ugly and funny at the same time, and every time he said that I would crack up laughing. It always brought to my mind the image of a big ant farm situation and yet, no ants, just all the rats running around in little tunnels and getting their greasy little bodies on that corn in the silos. Just where do people think their food comes from anyway? The farm? What a silly notion. Think of all the people’s hands that have extended their grubby little nose picking fingers onto your food. What a horrible thought though right? In some part I suppose it is true though. Our food might start at the farm and be born of nature’s sunshine and dirt, old and filthy enough to have dinosaur DNA hidden somewhere in it, but thank heaven, somewhere along the line it’s transformed into this country’s generous bread basket, back yard grilling food, the lovely ear of corn. Slather that rascal up with fake butter, roll it in phony Italiano cheese with salt and pepper from Portugal, wrap it in good old-fashioned Reynold’s wrap from China and you got yourself some good eats there, mister. What could be better than that? Except there was a problem. Dad took that little dog Floppy back to the rat killing grain bin and mom has infected, dog-bitten toes and me? Well, let’s just say I had some good old-fashioned corn bread, split into two halves with real country butter dripping down the sides and a tablespoon of Smucker’s strawberry Jam on each piece. Good bye Floppy. We ain’t gonna miss you much at all…and we didn’t. But then since I had been an obnoxious little rascal by begging for dogs, dad couldn’t help himself, I guess, and brought home the ugliest dog I had ever seen. The thing looked like the canine version of a Bengal Tiger. So, that is how he got his name. Tiger. I was just a young lad and in need of a mentor and protector, since we lived way out in the boonies. My mother was always afraid I would get molested by some homeless bum that lived in the woods, or possibly strangled by a giant black snake. Neither of those were at all likely, but mom was a worrier, so Tiger became my bodyguard and travel companion. All my days started with Tiger eating half of my toast for breakfast. At the time I didn’t think mom noticed us sharing that precious bread. Now that I look back with any eye for detail, I believe she did notice. There was always a twinkle in her eye and a small smirk at the very edge of her lips. Later in her life I noticed the same look when she was confined to a nursing home bed and I would share her Hydrox cookies. She still eats a few cookies, but the joy of her orneriness is gone and the sparkling eyes, just a memory. Tiger was a marvelous companion for me and the best animal friend I would have a long time into the future. Tiger’s light ended, the same way it began, with much difficulty and great pain. I like to look back on those days and wish I had a Genie that could help me time travel. Maybe all those lives past, would not seem to be so far away in time or so hard to remember, without pain. Maybe I will see you again my old friend. Wait for me if you can, it won’t be long now.