I heard the conversation, but I don’t remember much of it. After all, it was way back when I was 15 or 16 years old. Dad and I had been bird hunting, the walking was rough, and we had walked a lot. Football season was over for me, and I was still in top shape. But I was tired. Dad was settled in his favorite easy chair, and the newspaper was crumpled in his lap. He had been asleep for a while. He was good tired, and the hot bath had put him right out.
Mom appeared from the kitchen where we kept our phone, nudged him awake, and reported that she had just gotten a call from Vollie Dark, who said that she and Oliver wanted my parents to come over to their house for supper Saturday night. My mom asked if he wanted to go. Dad shuffled the newspaper and, without looking up, replied, “I’d just as soon as not.”
“Ralph, what does that mean?” my mom asked. “Is that yes or no?”
Dad never responded but drifted back into the peaceful world of slumbering bliss. Mom stormed back to the kitchen and rattled some dishes. Soon, I could hear her on the phone saying, “Vollie, we would love to come.”
As I passed by the kitchen on the way to my bedroom, I gave her a hug and kiss. “So he meant yes?” I kidded.
“Sometimes,” she said. “Your father can be as ornery and contrary as cat poop.”
“Mom!” I squeaked. “How can you say that?” I was referring to the “S-word,” which she actually said.
“Well,” she questioned rhetorically, “Did you ever try to clean up cat poop? It squishes here, and it squishes there, and you can’t hem it in or know which way it is going to go. That’s why.”
I went to bed and stayed awake snickering to myself. After all, she was almost poetic. She was right—Dad could be that way sometimes.
After church the next day, Dad wanted to go exploring in the country and look for some new places to hunt. One of his responsibilities as postmaster was to ride all the rural routes each year with the carriers, and he wanted to check out some promising spots he had discovered. I enjoyed those trips immensely, for there was always a lot of bonding and reminiscing. Dad was generally not much of a talker, and at times he was outright taciturn, but not that day.
“We were hunting at the Zana Farm, and were finding a good many birds,” he began. “I had Penny and Nellie then, and Fred had two pointers, Jim and Jack.”
Penny was a Gordon setter, and Nellie was a pointer. Jim’s real name was “G.M.,” so named because Mr. Fred Dobbs was the Chevrolet and Buick dealer in our town. Fred was Dad’s favorite hunting buddy.
“All the dogs were hunting well, and we were having a lot of fun bragging about them.” Dad continued. “We would kid each other if our dogs happened to run up a bird or something.
“We got up a covey behind Willie and Laura Belle’s house where there was a pea patch. Penny was fetching a bird to me and pointed a single bird with that one still in his mouth. We shot the single, and Penny brought both those birds to me together. I began bragging that most dogs can’t smell a single while holding a fresh-shot bird in his mouth, right under his nose. I even bet him a nickel that neither of his dogs could do that.
“Later that afternoon, we got into another covey where two field roads crossed, about a hundred yards from the old Nolen house place. Each of us shot two birds on the rise. Both Penny and Nellie fetched a bird, as did Fred’s dogs. We were about to look for singles when Jim came up with another bird. Fred said that he didn’t shoot it, so he tossed the bird to me. Well, that bird never hit the ground but took off like a scalded dog. Both of us shot three times, and the last we saw of that bird, it was sailing across the cotton field still getting it.”
“Big Ralph!” I laughed, using the handle I could get by with when we were joking. “Is that the ‘sho ’nuff?’”
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, wrinkled his brow, and said, “Ask Fred.”
“Mom was right.” I said under my breath.
Dad and I had been bird hunting, the walking was rough, and we had walked a lot. Football season was over for me, and I was still in top shape. But I was tired. Dad was settled in his favorite easy chair, and the newspaper was crumpled in his lap. He had been asleep for a while. He was good tired, and the hot bath had put him right out.