This Place That We
Call Home - Part Six By Nat Self
The New Pet
To see the first five installments of This Place That
We call Home, click on the Past Stories Link to the left
|Bulger was waiting on our front porch straining
to hear a faint sound of our approaching Whippet. Practically all day a
steady soft rain had been falling, and any sound of an automobile engine
prompted Bulger to cock his head to one side and stare at the curve in the
road beyond the community well where our car would first appear. He became
so familiar with the sound of the Whippet’s motor that he ran to meet
it before he saw it. Finally hearing the right sound, he bolted from the
porch to the yard and down the muddy road as fast as his short legs could
||When Dad saw Bulger, he stopped the car as he always did and
waited for Bulger who was running lickety-split through mud holes to jump
upon the running board for a ride home.
He lay there panting for breath with a pulsating pink tongue. Sparing no
effort for a short ride home, he was now tired, wet, and muddy, but happy.
Dad hurried through the rain from the garage some thirty feet away to the
front porch. He patted Bulger’s wet head, and Bulger licked his hand.
Then, suddenly Bulger shook his body with every ounce of energy he could
muster, and the vibrations sent a spray of water off his fur coat.
Dad cuddled something in his right hand near his belt buckle that looked
like a small animal. Before anyone could ask what it was, he said, “This
is a civet cat that’s had its odor glands removed.”
He took his hat off and hung it on a nail
on the wall behind a door. We children, with big bright eyes and pounding
hearts, gathered around to see our new white-and-black striped pet.
About a year ago Dad had brought home a gray fox. He had put a fancy collar
and a long chain on the fox and secured it to one of the wooden house
supports. Being fearful of people, the fox sought out the darkest place
underneath the house. It was a beautiful half-grown animal, but it was
unhappy being out of its habitat. Dad thought he could domesticate it,
but that was before the fox made a meal of one of his prime game chickens.
After Dad found nothing but feathers left of one of his chickens, the
fox had to go. That day the shy, young fox won not only a fresh tasty
meal but also its freedom. Dad loaded the fox, which had spent only a
short period of time with us, in the car and transported it over Kershaw
Mountain, where he set it free.
The civet cat had its teeth clamped on Dad’s pocket watch chain.
Mom said that the poor little thing was so scared of us that it wouldn’t
release the chain. Dad took a small splinter of wood from the firewood
box, and while Mom held the little cat, he forced open its mouth and removed
his watch chain. Dad let all of us rub the little pet before he put it
in one of the cages that he had made from empty dynamite powder boxes.
Dad had made a door with hardware cloth for each cage and had mounted
all the cages on the wall about five feet above the front porch floor.
We kept small wild animals in the cages. A cage near one end of the porch
housed an owl, which perched motionless with closed eyes during the day.
We enjoyed pestering the owl by tapping its cage and watching its eyelids
open wide. In stone silence it seemed to scold us with a stare.
Another cage at the other end of the porch housed a gray squirrel that
played on crossbars. Dad put the civet cat and a bowl of fresh water in
a cage near the squirrel’s cage. Whenever disturbed, the little
cat patted the floor of the cage with its right foot. Dad told us that
the civet cat patted its foot as a warning before spraying its odor. Lucky
for us, this one had no odor to spray.
Friend of Mine
One of my playmates was a redheaded five-year-old boy named Roy Lorance
whose family lived across the road from the community well. One day Roy,
who was about my age, came to show me his slingshot. He placed a small
rock in the pocket of his slingshot, shot it across the road in front
of our house, and then handed the slingshot to me. After shooting several
rocks with his slingshot we sat down on our front porch steps. Roy said,
“I killed a bird with this slingshot the other day.”
“What did you do with it?” I asked.
“I cleaned it and cooked it in the woods,”
“Did you eat it?” I asked him.
He paused for a moment then responded, “It didn’t get done,
so I ate it raw.”
I didn’t believe him because Roy frequently fabricated stories.
I pulled out my brand-new Barlow pocketknife from my pocket. “Look
at my new pocketknife,” I said as I struggled to open the large
“Boy, what a pretty knife!” he shouted.
I handed the knife to him, and he immediately started whittling on his
slingshot handle. “This is a sharp knife. Can I borrow it?”
“No, I need my knife, and besides you might lose it,” I answered.
Roy handed the knife back to me and said, “Guess what I seen yesterdy?”
I looked at him and shook my head.
“Well, yesterdy I seen a cow with two teats growed together,”
To me Roy was being Roy, telling me another one of his big stories. But
before I could ask him about the unusual cow, his mother, far down the
road, called for him as she walked toward our house.
Being hardheaded, Roy ignored his mother until he heard her yell, “Raweee,
you better answer me boyee before I snatch you bald headed!”
Roy leaped to his feet. While running to his mother he hollered, “I’m
a-comin’, I’m ‘a-comin’!”