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Front Porches, Dirt Roads, and Wild Dogs
by Thomas Givens

The house I grew up in, smack in the middle of the Mississippi Delta, had a front porch with a swing. This wooden porch faced a dirt road which was flanked by a bayou. The bayou had some pretty good perch in it, and Id stroll down there and drop a hook, watch the cork go under, and get a fine mess of fish. Real pleasant.

Our yard had cottonwood trees and for the most part was nice until summer. Then everything got hot, dry and dusty. The dirt road acquired about a foot of steaming dust, which turned into a quagmire when the rare thunderstorm came through. Rain kinda shut down in July and didn't get started up again until it was time to pick the cotton.

There were two tenant families on down past us, so there was some traffic in front of the house on the dirt road--traffic that picked up on weekends. Still wasn't a whole lot going on.

Sounds like a peaceful existence, I suppose, and for the most part it was. But there were hard, almost violent times also. Rural life wasnt always pretty.

When I was a small child, I had a feist dog named Buddy who made the rounds with me and took care of me. Id played with him one morning, but that afternoon he went mad and had to be shot. I had some scratches on me, and Daddy had also petted Buddy, so we had to go through the painful series of rabies shots that were given in the abdomen. Painfuls not exactly the word for it. How bout torturous? Unbearable? I never forgot those shots.

We take care of animals much better today than we were able to 50 or 60 years ago in the Mississippi Delta. Stray dogs were a big problem back in the late 40's and early 50's. The county was good about coming out and vaccinating domesticated dogs for rabies, such as pets and hunting dogs, but that didn't include strays. Wild, rabid dogs--dogs we couldnt get within 10 feet of--were really a menace then, and Im not talking about little nips and bites. Im talking agonizing death.

Well, I had a .22 rifle. Remembering the terrible rabies shots Id experienced, I became a one kid extermination squad. Sounds bad now, but at that time I considered it survival.

The wild dogs roamed all over the countryside, and unlucky for them, many times theyd come down our dirt road. Id sit on the front porch, trusty .22 at my side, and wait for them to show up.

The stray dog population dropped to minimal levels, but never ceased to be a serious problem. I did my best--and I never had to have any more of those excruciating rabies shots in my stomach.

Interesting the memories that crop up when you start thinking about things like front porches . . .


NOTE: When told the SPCA was probably going to pop him in the head for this article, Tom wrote to Ye Editor: "Well, remember this was about 50 years ago. I'm a dog and animal lover, but was performing a public service back then. These were not lovable, sweet puppies and fluffy pets, unfortunately. To be honest, they were like vermin -- mangy, flea-bitten, disease ridden, and wormy. They were dangerous and wild. This was really self defense for us and for the domesticated pets out there, not to mention the chickens and small livestock. I'm just giving an account of how folks had to live back then."

Write Judge Tom Givens at Deltajudge2@aol.com.

For more of Toms memoirs, read:
Remembering Fats Domino
Gravel Roads
Ahhh, Rufus, How We Loved You!
The Fine Art of Grabbling and Frog Gigging

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