MY PAPA’S [ANIMAL] STORIES
Recorded by Evelyn B. Smith
For her daughter, Amy
Don was an extraordinary man in many ways. His presence lives on, with all of the family and his business associates, within the numerous vivid memories he left behind. He was never in the shadows, but filled whatever space he happened to enter.
These stories reveal just one facet of who Don was: his love of and attunement with animals. He grew up on a farm in Anson County, NC—the “big brother” to several siblings. He graduated from NC State University with his Ph.D. in Forestry. We all loved the long nature walks Don would conduct, pointing out all kinds of flowers and plants and telling us interesting facts about each one. If Don was in the room or outdoor group, people were laughing and having fun!
One beautiful spring day, on a busy farm with cows, geese, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and even a mule or two…a small blond boy is playing in the yard with his pull toy train. This boy loves animals and has two pet bantam chickens, a hen and a very cocky rooster…the chickens hop on the train and away they go singing their clucking and crowing songs. The boy stops…the singing stops…again the train moves and the singing continues…this small boy grows in his love for animals and a love for nature…he becomes a kind, strong, courageous man.
The Hurricane Dog
The wind and rain are coming down at an unbelievable pace…the hurricane has come in from shore and spread out miles from the coast. The farm is quiet with animals all sheltered for the stormy night…inside the house the family is gathered together, listening to the storm and hoping no damage is done. With sunrise the earth looks fresh and clean except for leaves and limbs blown from the trees. All of the animals are checked and turned out for the day when out from under the porch emerges an old, skinny, hungry looking dog…a blue tick hunter. Don, of course, feels sorry for this poor creature and immediately feeds him…thinking to himself that he is lost and will soon leave to go back home. Days pass and the dog shows no interest in leaving…he is allowed to join the other hunting dogs but no one expects him to really hunt as he is very old.
When a hunt is planned and all the dogs are raring to go…old blue insisted on going along…turns out his nose still worked pretty good. As time passes, he is found to be an excellent trainer for the new pups…teaching them to hunt with skill.
At some point, Don hurts his foot and is required to use crutches. One of his evening chores is to go out in the pasture and bring the cows in for the night…this is hard if not impossible on crutches…old blue comes to the rescue…off he goes barking to the top of his deep, hound voice. Rounding up the cows as expertly as if he had done it all his life…boy, Don thought he had struck gold. Alas, after several days his foot healed and he was again wearing shoes and walking on his own. Time to bring in the cows…calling old blue to come on…nope…never again did the old hound bring in the cows… never even walked out with Don to the pasture…
He did live out his life there on the farm…resting in the sun with a full belly.
The Big, Bad Bull
On the farm was this big bull…a specimen to behold…the neighbors were willing to pay for borrowing said bull to visit their lady cows. A pickup truck with a trailer backed up to the pasture gate and Don’s Dad and the farmer tried to round up the bull to load him on the trailer…the bull had no interest in a ride. The two farmers finally stopped to rest from their efforts…looking up they see Don riding the bull…riding him right up to the trailer…with jaws hanging the farmer drove off with bull loaded and ready for his visit with the ladies.
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