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Mary To The Contrary

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Vegetables, Fruit Trees and Hobos

My parents inherited a parcel of land in the suburb of Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  To a Texan, this ⅓ of an acre was a smidgen of earth, but in this part of the world, a parcel of land this size would house eight double homes with eight backyards and eight outhouses.

In the summer, Dad decided to increase our food income by planting all sorts of vegetables: beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. He did the planting, convincing my mother that he needed a full sized tractor to assist this modern day farmer. My brother said it was more like a planter of yesteryear without the horse.

Of course, there were four of us kids to do the hard work-planting potatoes, sowing seeds, keeping the rows free from weeds, and harvesting the veggies.   

There was always something to harvest throughout the season.   Early on it was stripping the snap bean plants, then after the beans, tomatoes were pulled from their plants to ripen from the vines to line up on our backyard fence.  Later is the summer, our father, after a hard days work, would come home and with a giant metal tub, go out to our ”farm” and snap off dozens of corn cobs, and bring them into the house. Mom would boil them up and with a pound of butter on the table, always a steak or prime rib, several other veggies, and often an apple pie for dessert.  We would sit down to, a royal feast you could say.

Also around our land he planted fruit trees, including apples, pears and peaches.  Each year the fruit trees grew taller and more abundant as my father would nurse them with his green thumb, and each year people in the neighborhood would help themselves to the fruit, which was fine by him.  My father so enjoyed sharing our bounty with the neighborhood that he never minded cleaning up the spoils on the ground.

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I also remember that, in summer, hobos would come to the house. The word was out that Mom was a soft touch. My mother always gave them a sandwich and a soda, and in those days the sandwich slides were big, thick slices of freshly baked bread, stuffed with either thick slices of ham, a sirloin steak, or maybe miles of Lebanon bologna and cheese with lots of mustard.  The hobos would sit on our porch and chat with us kids, and in those days no one ever thought of anyone stealing from us – what was there to steal?

These are the things I remember.

 

My Pets Are “My People” Too

Do you remember the name of the person who sat opposite you at your brother/sister/cousin’s wedding dinner?  Or the name of the salesman who sold you your first car? Or when you lost your first molar?  No, you likely can’t. Because these people were not all that important in our lives.

However, I would bet a dollar to a doughnut that you can remember practically all of your pets, if indeed you were lucky enough, like me, to grow up having animals in your life.

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There are those of you who, like my sister, do not like animals. Or, you are unlucky to have allergies out the kazoo to fur or feathers of any kind. Or, you have not had the privilege to have a friend-to-the-end pet in your life.  I have had many pets who helped to make my life more enjoyable, more interesting, and just happier because they were there. My friends. To the end.

I would like to share a few of my friends from my past, and in my present, who traveled along my life’s highway.

“Peso”, a German Shepard, stood guard at the family compound when I was growing up. Nobody, but nobody crossed his path who was not a familiar face.  I can’t say it was “Gunfight At The O.K. Corral” (a famous movie from 1957 starring Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, and Dennis Hopper, among others) in my neighborhood, but close enough. Peso protected my family and my home. His loyalty to us was second only to his love for us and us of him.  The pictures are long gone of me as a child, standing next to this loyal friend as I hung on to his thick furry body, me smiling, and Peso looking happy, with his tongue hanging out; my love for him remains forever in my heart.

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I don’t remember the names of all of the goldfish I had, but I do remember how happy they made me just watching them do their swimming thing.

I remember the kitten I rescued who had fallen into a hole in the ground. He was huddled on a little ledge.  I climbed in halfway and, with my 12-year-old feet digging into the seat (it was an outhouse), I grabbed the crap-covered, wet cat and pulled him out. Both he and I were hosed down by the neighbors who later helped me bathe our furry friend.

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I remember my brother’s rabbits, especially “Big Pat”-one huge, big-eared, friendly bunny who lived for years with us.  We could take the rabbits out of their pens and let them graze in the yard.

I remember “Holly”, a black lab who, like Peso, kept the family safe, as one teenager found out. This teen was looking for drug money and tried to enter our house through the patio doors only to be greeted by a very angry Holly who took a bite out of crime (the kid’s leg)…

Holly decided she was my private friend.  Each night she would sit down right next to me in bed and I would pet her good night. Holly lived a long life.  When she left us, for many nights afterwards, I would put my hand down to pet my dear friend who was not there.

I remember “Inky”.  My daughter wanted a pet of her own, and finally my husband relented to her having a cat, to which I mean we returned home with a beautiful little black dog — it was Inky. My husband was not talking to us for a day. A few days later and many years later, Inky was carried around in my husband’s arms, or he was on his lap in his office.

Inky became Don’s dog, and remained his dog until the end. Many weeks before my husband’s death, Inky stayed on Don’s bed next to him.  For many weeks afterwards, he was still on his bed.

I remember when I first moved to my present home, I took a walk to a dog park a few blocks away, feeling unusually low.  I met a small  brown and white Beagle named “Nimbus”.  He took one look at me across the park, strode across to say hello as if we were the best of friends.  Nimbus introduced me to all the “park regulars”,   the hidden ‘ole swimmin’ hole, the fountains for dogs and people, and you think i’m crazy now, but it happened…I discovered quickly that Nimbus was the King of the park

Nimbus eventually introduced me to his family and they too became my close friends. One day years later, Nimbus did not come when I called him from across the park.  I knew what this meant and said goodbye to him at the park. He died a few weeks later.

“Marley”, named after Bob Marley, comes from Turks & Caicos and was carried home in my daughter’s purse. He was found, tiny, half starved,walking down the middle of a one lane dirt highway.  That was 11 years ago.  Marley is over 60 lbs., my main squeeze. There is no room in this story to tell you about Marley.

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And then there’s “Will”.

Will is a little white dog; a member of the Coton de Tulear family. He is a ball of fluff who puts a smile on my face the minute I hear his yap yap yapping as he drives up in his Toyota to visit.  He is accompanied by another friend, a female human. Will, named after William Shakespeare, has all knowing marble black eyes.  He has conversations with me on a dog-to-human level, always happy conversations.

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I’ve had conversations with many exciting people, and not so exciting people, but my conversations with Will are always more interesting.  And anyway, would you rather talk with Will or with the IRS?  I thought so.

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