Since Luke died (I wrote about it a few days ago) I've been thinking of dogs--my dogs.
1. Blackie: Blackie was really never named until he died. My pet duck had died--that's a whole other story!--and my father brought home this black cocker spaniel for me. It was a total surprize. I must have been 6 or 7 and my father thought a dog to take care of would keep me from being such a strange, dreamy kid. I took him out on the porch and gave him a bowl of food and ran in to get my parents to watch him eat and when we got back, he was dead.
Why would I make this up?
My father buried him down near the creek and asked me what to scratch on the rock he was going to put on the grave. "Blackie", I said.
That was my first dog. 15 minutes worth.
2. Fatzo was really never fat. He was a beagle and mostly black and white with a little brown. He lived a long time--all through my childhood and into my teens. He lived in a pen and house my father built on the little hill beyond our yard, but he came inside a lot during the day and followed me around town all the time like a kid and a dog in a '50's movie. Anawalt was tiny and a car or two an hour came by so he wandered a lot by himself as well. Everyone knew him and would send him home if he walked into one of the stores or someone else's house--most doors were open from spring through fall in the WV mountains. I believe in the winter he came in and slept by my bed.
Fatzo never asked for much and seemed perfectly satisfied with his life. He didn't like Gene Kelly though.
Gene Kelly was a black man who worked in my uncle's store and since I worked there after school and during the summer from 11 until I went to college, Gene and I worked together. We brought up boxes and stocked the shelves of the H&S Grocery--five aisles and a good butcher shop. We checked the produce and chucked bad stuff. Gene always found one bag in a box of candy--like malted milk balls or something--that was damaged. He'd dutifully show it to my uncle and then Gene and I would eat it. I knew he was the one who damaged it and my uncle did too. And Gene knew where the key was to the Coke Machine so we'd have a Coke every once in a while as well. Gene was a good worker. He was a drinker and a womanizer (breaking the heart of his wife, Geraldine, who was my uncle's housekeeper) but I always loved him.
We all thought Geraldine would kill him someday and my uncle said it would be 'justifiable homicide' but she never did.
Fatzo hated Gene, mostly because Gene was afraid of dogs and would stop and yell and wave his arms when Fatzo was around...which Fatzo was a lot, wandering the streets, poking his head into the open door of the H&S from time to time.
Fatzo and I would go into the woods and climb the mountains. Some of my best days as a kid were spent with just Fatzo as company.
He'd go to the bus stop with me when I was in high school and be there waiting for me when I came home. I know he couldn't tell time, but folks around town would see him a half-hour or so before my bus came laying on the sidewalk on the corner, waiting.
He died my senior year of High School. I'm sure he knew I was about to go away. And one day he wasn't there when I got to the bus stop so I ran up the street and found my dad and my uncle and several other people waiting for me in front of the H&S. They'd put him in a Campbell's Soup Box with a blanket.
Gene Kelly was there, tears running down his face and smelling of cheap whisky.
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