come stroll among the wildflowers

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dog Years 1

Part One:  Grandma, Grandpa, and Skipper 
     The first dog in my life wasn’t really mine.  Skipper belonged to my grandparents.  My mom’s parents lived on Cottonwood Street in Emporia, Kansas.  Grandpa was a welder, a Democrat (yes there are some in Kansas) and a Yankee fan.  Grandma worked at Bon Ton Cleaners and made pies and noodles.  From my grandfather, I learned to swear.  (Skipper thought his name was "blank blank you Skipper, get your blank in here.”) From my grandmother, I learned to eat.
     I have often wished I had also learned her passion for cleaning dirt.  She did not clean, she attacked.  She preached that any good housewife had all her “chores” done by nine am.  This included baking pies and bread, making beds, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, and doing the laundry.  She came to visit me early one morning and was thrilled to see my laundry on the line by eight.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it had been there for three days.
     Perhaps my favorite story about Grandma Martha's tidiness happened shortly after Duane and I returned from his military stint in San Antonio.  When we moved, we left our parakeet, Linus with her until our two year tour was up.  She adored Linus.  He was a special bird.  He could talk.  His vocabulary included: "here kitty, kitty, kitty; Duane is a fink, hello, come here, bye now."  But what grandma liked best about him was his personal hygiene  routine.  He took a bath every morning in his green plastic bathtub with a mirror in the bottom.  Then he would check out his reflection in the toaster, bobbing his head, and muttering to himself in parakeet, not English.  When we came home from Texas and reclaimed Linus, she went directly to the pet store and bought a bird that looked just like Linus.  This one was, in grandma's words, "a dud."  He didn't talk, but worse, he refused to bathe.  No shape or color of tub or bowl, or temperature of water would tempt him.  She named him Billy.
     One day when I came for a visit, I stepped up to the cage to say hi to Billy.  He went berserk.  I asked grandma what was wrong.  She said, "He's been like that ever since his bath."
     "But I thought you said he didn't like to take a bath," I said.
     "He doesn't, she answered, "so I gave him one."
     "How in the world did you do that?" I asked, wondering how one would go about force-bathing a bird.
     "I just put a little shampoo and water in the bottom of a fruit jar, put him in, put on the lid, and shook him up a little."
     One afternoon after school, my grandmother looked out the front window to see her youngest, Franklin D. (I told you Gramps was a Democrat.) pulling a white dog up the sidewalk by a rope tied to its neck.  Once on the porch, he took off the rope, tossed it into the spyrea bushes, picked up the pooch, and came into the living room.  “This dog followed me home.  Can I keep him?”  Grandma caved and the dog stayed.  Frankie  named him Skipper. A circus had recently put on a show at the civic auditorium just down sixth avenue.  We thought Skipper might have been left behind.  He knew lots of tricks.  He was mostly white, perhaps part spitz, and medium sized.  A bit longer than tall, he might have been part corgi.  He was tolerant of kids.  My mom has a picture of me at about eight months with Skipper under the coffee table sharing his bone.  I was his first “grandchild” but eighteen more followed.

1 comment:

  1. Starting "Dog Years" thanks to Kristi's proud post about you on Facebook! These stories are precious, priceless gifts to your children and grandchildren. Thanks for sharing them with the rest of us too.