by Kent Fletcher
Several weeks ago I had lunch with Bobby Miller, an old Navy acquaintance. During this lunch, he and I were talking about various and sundry things, and somehow the subject of hunting clubs came up. Originally from Greenwood, Bobby related how he had been to many different hunting clubs in the Mississippi Delta.
When he mentioned Ozark Hunting Club, I asked him how he got back in that isolated area. He said he would ride across on some fellow’s boat--a green boat, aluminum, with a homemade cabin on it. I had to lift my jaw from the table when he said that. Turns out the boat was my father’s boat. Johnny Fletcher’s boat.
We kept the conversation going for a bit, talking about adventures we both had there at Ozark Hunting Club, and remembering one much older man in the club who only smoked Home Run cigarettes. Dang, can’t think of the man’s name right at the moment, but I’m here to tell you, if you ever thought Lucky Strikes or Picayunes were strong, you never had a Home Run. Rank is what they were.
Bobby then said he had some pictures at his house he wanted me to see, especially one of him holding a mess of squirrels while sitting next to Robert Earl McKay. Seeing these pictures later, I was swept with memories, especially of Robert Earl.
Way back when, Robert Earl ran McKay’s Cleaners on North Street in my hometown, Cleveland, Mississippi. His son-in-law, a high school classmate of mine named Bill Havens, runs it now, as I understand.
Anyway, this story takes place many years ago, when customer service was not talked about, just done. Robert Earl made his rounds in his car, a station wagon, going to his customers’ homes, picking up white sheets and suits and shirts and all kinds of articles to be taken back to his shop to be laundered and pressed and returned later in the week. (I wonder if milk was still being delivered in glass bottles then? Or lawns mowed by push mower, not with a motor but simple human strength?)
My mother Madeline had a Siamese cat at that time named “Prook” or “Pruk.” Heck, I don’t think anyone really knew how to spell the name, it just was. I’ll stick with the first spelling that popped into my head.
Unlike most cats, Prook loved to ride in cars.
Madeline’s folks were still alive in Round Pond, Arkansas, west of Memphis, just east of Forrest City. Often, when Madeline and I made a day trip over there, Prook went along for the ride. He loved it.
And on just ordinary days, Prook frequently got antsy for a ride and leaped into my car. I’d drive around the block and he’d then be satisfied, jumping back out the window when we returned home to do his cat things.
Prook knew no human enemies, and I guess he thought an open car door meant he was welcome to get in and go for a ride. This happened one day when Robert Earl came by our house on College Street on “laundry day.”
Robert Earl stopped in front of the house, leaving his car running and the door open while he walked to our door for the laundry. Prook saw this opportunity and bounded into the car and (evidently) on to the back of the wagon with all the dirty linens. Robert Earl came back with his load, flipped it over the seat, got in the car, closed the door and drove off.
I was outside looking for Prook when Robert Earl came back by the house. He stopped and asked if we owned a Siamese cat. When I told him we did, he told me what happened.
Leaving our house, he had made several more stops and was driving along when something jumped onto the back of the driver’s seat. Claws dug into his shoulder. He said he screamed and nearly ran off the road, then quickly stopped to investigate.
Of course, Prook had taken it upon himself to ride exactly where he liked--on the driver’s neck and shoulders, holding on with one paw’s claws.
At the time of Prook’s attack, Robert Earl was blocks from our house. He said he finally settled down and retraced his route, asking at each house about the cat. He said Prook just settled on his shoulder and purred his way back home.
While this conversation was going on, Prook nonchalantly hopped out of the car, off once again to do cat things. And I thought Madeline was going to fall down from laughing so hard when she heard the story from Robert Earl.
My brother Jack and I also used to take Prook to our funeral home on those days when we weren’t busy.
But that’s another story.
Kent Fletcher is a retired Navy man now living in Texas. He was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, from whence he pulls lots of memories and stories. He has been writing memoirs and short stories for a couple of years--when he isn't playing/working at woodworking.
Kent’s Sauce Piquant
Last Locomotive North
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