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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog

Another thing I recall about the time in that yellow house is when I wound up with egg on my face—literally.  It was in the winter when everything was frozen.  The chickens were watered in an old wash pan and, of course, that froze. 
One Saturday after noon, long after the episode of the itch, we were going to go to Bona.  When we got ready to go I had forgotten that I was supposed to take the hot teakettle off the kitchen stove and thaw the water pan for the chickens.  Just as we were getting into the Hupmobile, my mother asked about it.
I ran back and got the boiling kettle off the wood stove.  In my hurry to get going to Bona, I raced through the back yard toward the chicken house and tripped over a big root from a maple tree.  I and the tea kettle hit the frozen ground at the same time.  The lid popped off and the scalding water splashed over my arm and one side of my face.
I probably near raised the dead in the next county with my howling.  My mother came running and, as usual, she knew what to do.  She hustled me into the house, broke some eggs and separated the yolks, then smeared the egg white on my face. 
I felt pretty silly walking around with that dried egg white on my face.  For years I thought about that every time I heard the expression “…and there he was with egg on his face.”  Either I was not burned all that bad or else my mother’s treatment was just right because the burns healed in a few days and did not leave any scars.  I always had a healthy respect for water after that, but being a dumb old country boy, I kept getting into “hot water” one way or another for the rest of my life.  And sometimes got “burned.”
I researched this home remedy and found it to be part of the training for firemen.  Absolutely my grandmother knew what she was doing.  The natural collagen in the egg white helps to heal the burn.
We lived in that yellow house for a year or so, then Dad moved us into a big white farmhouse about half a mile south of Bona.  It was also up a long lane from the road to Dadeville.  In fact, from the white house you could see the yellow house we had lived in a quarter of a mile away across acouple of pastures.  After we moved, a very distant shirt-tail relative, Kaz Shouse, moved into the yellow house with his family.
The big white house we had moved into belonged to Fred Hulston who was the Chevrolet dealer in Ash Grove over toward Springfield.  I do not believe we lived there very long as I do not remember much about that place as some of the others.  One thing I do remember though, was an incident about an old hunting dog named “Hoover.”
Possum hunting was a fall pastime in the Ozark hills and a little money could be made at it.  The fur dealers that came through occasionally would pay a dollar or a dollar thirty-five or so for a good possum hide.  They were dyed and made into cheap fur coats or coat collars.
The time for possum hunting was in the fall after the first frosts and when the persimmons were ripe.  It was done at night when the possums came out to climb the low persimmon trees for the fruit.  Their fur was thick for the winter by then.  All that was required was a good flashlight with which to spot the possums in the low trees.
A good possum dog makes the hunt much more certain.  The dog would sniff out the possums and bark to let the hunters know which tree he was in.  The possum can then be shaken or knocked out of the tree.  They seldom run when they hit the ground, but usually just curl up and play dead.
Well, old Hoover was a real good possum dog.  He was smart enough to not go off chasing rabbits or to tree a skunk.  The dog belonged to an old widow who was a relative of ours.  One time the old lady told my father that she wanted him to have old Hoover.
When the old lady died, Dad went to get Hoover only to find that Kaz Shouse had already taken the dog and claimed that it had been given to him.  I do not know who was right, but I know that my father was quite peeved about it and threatened to go over to Shouse’s and get the dog.  My mother did not want to see trouble started over an old possum dog (feuds have started over less) so she talked him out of it.
The morning after I had heard my father talking about it, I took little brother Rex with me and took off across the fields.  When we got to Shouse’s I found old Hoover tied up in the alleyway between the house and the smokehouse.  With Rex at my heels, I just marched up and started to untie the dog.  Just then one of the Shouse girls, Hazel (who later married my first cousin Carl Frieze) saw or heard us and came out the kitchen door.  She knew that her father would be pretty riled up if I took the dog so she set about talking me out of it.
“Conrad,” she said, “it will just cause trouble if you take that dog and you don’t want to cause trouble now do you?”
“Well,” I stated flatly, “my daddy says that the old lady gave Hoover to him and my daddy don’t tell no lies.  I’m agonna take him home with me.”  Meanwhile I kept pulling at the knot in the rope.
“Now just a minute,” Hazel said.  “It is just your dad’s word against my dad’s and you don’t know which one is right.  You let them settle it.”
“Dadgummit,” I said emphatically, “my daddy don’t lie and Kaz Shouse don’t have a very good reputation for tellin’ the truth!” (That was true, but I had not stopped to think that I was talking about her daddy.)
Hazel got downright indignant about that.  She jerked the rope out of my hands and pointed across the fields at our house.  “Now that’s about enough, Conrad.” She snapped.  “You and Rex Donald just get right along home and don’t you come near this dog again!”
A family gathering in Bona.  Richard is center with the hat, Conrad bareheaded next to him, Rex the little boy in shorts and cap.  My grandmother is in the cloche hat and white dress to the far right, her sister (we believe) in the dark dress and standing next to her, and their father over their shoulders between them.

Rex was already backing away because Hazel was a pretty big girl and probably in her late teens at the time.  I stood there fuming for a minute then, in exasperation, kicked a piece of sand rock against the smokehouse wall hoping it would bounce and hit her accidental like—only it didn’t.  My dander was up, but there was no way I would fight a female so I turned around and marched truculently away—feeling ashamed that I had let an old girl face me down.  Later on I decided it did not matter much as Hoover was pretty old and I think he died not long afterward.
When I was born in Wichita both of my grandmothers lived across the country in Vancouver.  It was Carl and Hazel that came and stayed with my parents at first so I expect that my father had gotten over his resentment over old Hoover!