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Father’s Day 2014

Ole Henry

During the years our family spent on the big farm on Pinemount Road, there came a time when Daddy decided he needed a critter. The watch dog he decided upon was a white pit bull with a brown spot around his eye, a large dot of brown on his body and a stubby little nub of a white tail. We affectionately named him Ole Henry as a new puppy. Daddy raised this pup with an eye to having the dog patrol his large farming operation and alert us if visitors came up the hill. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t want anyone coming to our homestead; it was intended more as a warning someone was approaching as opposed to our being surprised at the ring of the doorbell… The fact the dog was a pit bull was in itself a deterrent to many as the breed has a somewhat fierce reputation. Daddy always believed however, that no matter what breed a dog is, if it is treated right it CAN be trained to be protective but to also be a great companion as well. There were no security cameras available in those days and no 911 availability so he took whatever measures available for his family’s protection.

Our farm was 300 acres bordered by dirt roads on two sides of the property. The land was noted as one of the highest points in the county and when one stood within the confines of the lovely old pecan grove where the new home had been built, you could see for miles from the front of the land. The back portion, however, was hilly with random blind areas of the surrounding pastures.

We had always had dogs and cats on our property but this critter needed to be more of a watch dog than merely a family pet. (However, as time passed it became clear that Daddy himself made the dog more of a pet than any of us children ever could have!)

Daddy had a very thick length of hemp rope and he loved to play with Ole Henry in the yard upon his arrival home from his day job at the Power Company. He would drop the end of the rope on the ground and tell the dog “hang on boy…let’s go for a ride!” Ole Henry would grab that rope in his strong jaws and hang on for dear life while Daddy would swing him in a wide circle. The dog loved the ride and absolutely would not let go until Daddy told him to. If Daddy took the end of rope and placed it over his shoulder away from the dog, Ole Henry would stare at it intently, nub wagging exuberantly until Daddy dropped the rope lower to the ground then the ride would begin all over again.

I’m not sure who had more fun as I remember those days; Daddy or Ole Henry. The family pictorial treasures contain old movies of Daddy exiting his company truck in the yard, laying his hard hat on the seat and grabbing his trusty rope to play a few rounds with Ole Henry.

He spent a lot of time training that dog and had him so well bonded that when the tail-gate of his trusty farm truck was left in the down position, Ole Henry knew that was Daddy’s invitation to hop on up and go for a ride. Daddy’s old truck would be seen traversing the dirt lane down our property to the hard road with an exuberant white pit bull in the back, tongue lolling and slobber flying!   Even with the tail-gate down, however, the dog knew to stay immediately behind his master, remaining firmly planted on either side of the cab of the truck, wherever he felt so inclined to ride.

If the tail-gate was up, however, Ole Henry knew he wouldn’t be able to take this trip with his beloved master and remained at the house. He may stay home from that particular trip but he also watched every inch that farm truck travelled away from him! I don’t remember seeing him even try to get into Daddy’s work truck or his personal car; the dog was indeed well trained!

It is with this memory in my mind today as I document this story that I can also see four little girls begging “Daddy, can we go too? We promise we won’t get in the way!”

If the trip was one that could include little girls he would grin, those beautiful green eyes shining, and say “hop in young’uns, just don’t stand up. Hold on tight though and y’all watch out over each other, ya hear?” Four little girls would dive into the truck bed and prepare for wherever Daddy would drive us! I was six years older than my first sister Charlene but ten years old by the time the youngest, Nola Jane came along. Kay Sue was the middle and between all three, Mama dressed the little ones many times in matching outfits. Many little colorful shoulder-tied rompers remain in my memory for long, hot summer days. I’m sure her feeling was that if she needed play clothes for all the little ones, just buy three and be done with it! Kay and Nola were so alike in their youth they were many time mistaken for twins. They remain close to this day although both have now grown into their own appearances far removed from those days of old.

One day Daddy and Ole Henry needed to check on the cows so he lowered the tail-gate and the dog immediately jumped in, tail nub wagging furiously! Yes…I can imagine the dog thinking…we’re goin’ for a ride! Oh Boy!

Daddy was always attentive to the safety of his pet when he drove but this day noticed the dog was in the front of the truck bed looking very intently at something down on the floor. He normally witnessed the dog eagerly hanging with his front paws on the truck bed immediately behind his master in the cab, tongue hanging out, thoroughly enjoying the wind in his face. Today was a little different though. Daddy didn’t think much of it at the moment and continued on his way. As he was gaining speed though, he looked back at the dog to assure his safety and noticed Ole Henry now had moved to the opposite end of the truck and again was eyeing something in the truck bed very intently.

He slowed his speed to see if he could witness what was keeping the dog’s attention so fiercely and noticed that as he slowed, the dog moved to the front of the truck. What in the world? He thought to himself. What the devil has that dog found now?

As he pulled over to the side of the road, he emerged from the truck and went back to see if he could see what was bothering the dog. Of course, Ole Henry, at any opportunity would come to him, tail wagging furiously and offer his great big ole head up for an ear scratching…Daddy always complied with a pat on the head and good scratch around both ears. That dog always LOVED it when his master gave him such loving attention!

 Seeing nothing of any magnitude in the truck bed, he once again got back into the truck and hit the accelerator. AGAIN, the dog moved from one end to the other in the truck bed!

 As Daddy slowed his speed, he began to notice a distinct pattern in the dog’s movements, front of the bed, take a little jump then move to the back of the bed.   From there he would intently watch whatever was in the truck bed, take another little jump then move to the opposite area of the truck bed. This went on for three or four times before Daddy finally realized what was happening…

 The speed in stopping or accelerating the truck was causing that something to roll from front to back then back to front again over and over again and the poor dog was merely attempting to stay out of its path!   Poor Ole Henry had not even been introduced to the new critter riding in Daddy’s truck but by gosh, he was going to keep a watchful and wary eye on it…wherever it went!

 Upon their return back to the house, we saw the dog eagerly jump out of the truck bed, obviously excited at the prospect of Daddy grabbing his favorite old rope and together they went for a GREAT ride round and round that day!

 “Arrufff, arrufff, fuff”, my daddy loudly cackled, “Ya’ll come on out here and let me tell what poor Ole Henry got into just now!” We all came a-runnin’ to learn what joke Daddy had to share; we loved to hear his laugh, see his twinkling eyes and hear what outrageous funny tale he was going to tell next!

Daddy laughed heartily and long as he shared the circumstances of his beloved pet moving frantically from side to side of that truck in his attempt to evade whatever was attacking him. “That was the funniest thing watching that old dog runnin’ from that critter each time I hit the brake or accelerator. Pa decided to keep on driving for a while so I changed my destination and kep’ him jumpin’ as long as I could!”

The laughter shared that day was enormous and allowed much attention to the family pet which he certainly would NOT reject!

The only one worse for wear that day was the poor plump and delicious watermelon which was the source of the dog’s hilarious actions and which ultimately was sacrificed to treat a delighted and happy family!

This story comes to mind this day June 13, 2014 in honor of our beloved Daddy, Charles Henry and to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. He may be absent from our earthly presence but will remain forever in my heart.