come stroll among the wildflowers

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dog Years 3

   Part Three:  Back to Kansas

    I was perfectly happy with 111th Street but my parents decided we should move back to Kansas.  Aunt Dot and Uncle Roy bought the place and lived there for many years.  I’m sure that is why my memories of the house and neighborhood remain vivid.  We loaded the Chevy and headed east.  I shared the backseat with Spike and a blonde console radio.  Crossing the desert with no air-conditioning and a short-nosed dog in close quarters involved much panting, snorting, and slobber.  Spike and I took turns napping among the legs of the radio and drinking 7-up from a paper cup.  We moved into an old farmhouse about eight miles from Emporia in a small village called Plymouth.  Spike had a tough time adjusting to life in the country.  He killed the neighbor’s chickens and chased cows.  Then he disappeared.  My Uncle Bud told me he had run away. 
     The community of Plymouth was home territory.  My grandparents had lived there when their children were small.  Grandpa Lehnherr ran a service station up on Highway 50.  I’ve often wished I had the hand-lettered placard he placed in the window:  “I’ll pump your gas, I’ll mind your baby.  But I only take cash, and I don’t mean maybe.”  He could have written for BurmaShave.  Another of his poems was a bit more salty.  Each morning, my grandmother served him his coffee with the sugar bowl and a small tin of condensed milk.  Next to the milk can she placed a punch type can opener.  As he poked a hole in the tin, he always said, “No tits to pull, no hay to pitch.  Just poke a hole in the sonofabitch.”  My mom’s brother, Uncle Bud and his wife Betty lived with us for a time.  The antics of he and my dad are the stuff of legend in Plymouth.  The Gossers had this black cow that was always getting out of the pasture and tromping other people’s tomatoes.  My dad and Uncle Bud caught her and made a Holstein out of her with some whitewash.  The Gossers didn’t find her until it rained.  Our neighbor, Albert Harris, was sometimes in on and frequently the victim of their escapades.  I don’t think the poor man was ever able to visit the outhouse in peace.  Someone always dropped a cherry bomb down the vent pipe.
    My mom worked in Emporia at the hospital and Aunt Betty was my day care provider.  One day she was cleaning house and discovered a coiled up snake at the back of the utility closet.  She phoned Uncle Bud at his job in town at the welding shop screaming in panic that there was a rattle snake in the closet.  He broke  a land speed record and several traffic laws covering the eight miles in less than ten minutes.  Rushing into the house, he grabbed a shotgun from the back porch, ran to the closet and blasted away.  He opened up a ragged dinnerplate-sized hole in the floor of the closet, then had some choice words to say to his wife when a closer examination proved the snake to be a coil of fringe off an old chair.  Lucky for us because if it had been a snake, he would have missed it completely.

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