So one day back in 1952-1953 my maternal grandparents showed up in Amarillo, Tex., for a visit from their home in Enid, Okla. And they brought with them ... a dog.
Well, a puppy. Someone had abandoned it near their house; they had started feeding it--then thought the grandsons (we three turned 11, 8, and 4 in 1952; I was the 8) would enjoy having a pet.
For a while
Both soon began hanging out in the woods behind our house, staying more and more in an old barn back there, killing things they could, and Lycidas (female--sorry, Milton) began delivering kittens with the regularity of a mail-carrier ("Neither snow nor rain nor heat... will stop this cat from its deliveries"), all of which became ferociously feral. Claude and Lycidas would stroll over to our house for an easy meal now and then, but for the most part they preferred the woods and the wildcatting and the old-fashioned ways. And it wasn't long before they disappeared from our lives forever. For all I know, their descendants are still back in those woods, killing and eating things that are slow or stupid or both.
Anyway, Mom wasn't sure--but she thought her parents would have asked first (unlike their middle son). And one day, here they came with that puppy that we would have for a decade, a puppy whose exploits became legendary, a puppy whose parentage was extremely complicated ... Dad always said, when asked about Sooner's breed, that he was a Heinz--you know, 57 Varieties?
This is from the official Heinz website ...
1892:Henry J. Heinz sees a sign advertising “21 styles of shoes” while riding an elevated train in The Big Apple. He likes the idea of advertising a number of products and hits on the slogan “57 Varieties”—even though his company is making over 60 at the time.
I'm not sure what his breed was--some kind of terrier mix? But when I finally get around to posting a picture of him, I'm sure some of my friends who are canine authorities can help me out.
We'd had a few other pets before Sooner arrived. There was a guinea pig whose name I cannot remember (so long ago? or maybe because he was ... with us ... for so short a time; we buried him in our backyard), and a couple of cats. One was gray, and brother Richard named her Scheherazade--you know, the woman who told tales for 1001 nights and kept herself alive? I don't remember how Scheherazade lost her nine lives, but I do remember that every time a friend asked me what that name meant, I had to tell a story. Became something of a Scheherazade myself, I guess. (I now have this vague memory that we actually had two gray cats with that name, successively if not successfully.)
When we were living in Amarillo (pre-Sooner) we somehow acquired a cat named Boots (he/she (don't remember) was all black except for little white booties--such an imaginative name). I remember liking Boots, though Boots--in true feline style--was aloof and regal. Still, I felt ... a bond of some sort.
And then one day ... Boots was gone. Outside, we called and called for him/her until the Texas Panhandle sun finally set--and even on into the dark, we cried, Boots! Boots! Boots! (Isn't calling a cat a bit like asking a cat to go fetch your slippers?) Boots never returned, and our parents offered us all kinds of possibilities--ranging from Boots is a traitor to Boots found a "friend." I do remember this: Not one of the possibilities involved Death.
But Death--as I learned many years later--was the reason. Boots had apparently decided to nap beneath a back tire. Dad did the rest while backing out. He felt so bad he just couldn't tell his young sons that he'd sent Boots to Boot Hill. And so--for about forty years--he lied instead. (He finally fessed up when he was near-nursing-home stage.) A parent myself, I understand. (As you'll see later on in these posts.)
TO BE CONTINUED ...