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The Spectator
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 by Frank Shortt
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A Good Beginning on Short Hill Road
2014 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
        I crept quietly so as not to awaken Wendell and Patsy as I had awakened very early this particular morning in July of 2012.
        A doe stole silently into my brother, Wendell’s, yard as I gazed out the back door window pane. She ate knotty apples, the results of an early frost in spring. I watched her as she disappeared behind the storage shed, and just as suddenly appeared on the opposite hill in Wendell’s garden. Her sideward glances told me that she was alert to any danger and she seemed to be familiar with her surroundings. After a while, she disappeared into the dense forest to the side of the garden leaving me in awe. Why awe? I believe this to be my first time spotting a deer on the old Ed Shortt property. Ed Shortt was my father. The surrounding area of Shortt Gap, Virginia was named for his ancestors.
        I decided to go for a walk to the end of Short Hill Road to fetch the daily newspaper. It is a little over one-half mile and usually brings some surprises. The morning was already hot and a little humid. Robins chirped, squirrels squawked, and hummingbirds buzzed me as I passed their feeder. The ruby throated one is king of the hill. I was visiting Wendell and Patsy for the Shortt family yearly reunion.
         As I went down Wendell’s road I was greeted by a puffy white tail bobbing up and down. It belonged to a tiny cottontail bunny speeding furiously down the hill to escape contact with human kind. I meant it no harm, but, I am sure he did not even think of that. His instinct was to escape. Raspberry briars by the side of the road offered the bunny a quick haven.
        Rounding the bend from brother-in-law Mac Carter and Ruthann, my sister’s, house, I approached the cow lot where, during childhood, I had milked our Jersey cow so many times. I was reminded of the time when I was milking the cow and EL, my younger brother, was hotfooting it down to the highway to catch bus Seventeen, the one we took to school for so many years. As he passed me, whistling to beat the band, I turned the cow teat to one side, squirting him directly in the face. His first instinct was to pepper me with stones, which he would normally do, but instead thought better of it and went back to the house to wash his face. I often wondered what would have happened had he not cared if he scared the cow away.
        Just as I was opposite the cow lot, a beautiful gray fox went scampering down the road ahead and disappeared down over the hill. When I reported this to Mac, he said he had never seen a fox on the property. This morning must have been made just for me.
        My next encounter was to approach the mobile home where my brother EL had lived with his second wife before his demise. It is in a state of disrepair since EL died suddenly a few years ago. It is said that his widow is now preparing to marry a man of means. I heard that she plans to sell the mobile home and the surrounding property. I wonder what this will produce. Will she sell it to strangers or to one of our relatives? After all, my father gave it to them.
        Ron Wade was leaving for work as I approached his home. He stopped, greeting me cordially, and after some small talk, he proceeded on to his place of employment. Ron is working for two companies even though he is well over retirement age. Some folks just cannot call it quits. He is a heart attack survivor.
        My return, after procuring the daily news, was without incident except to talk to Mac about the laxness of discipline among young parents today. He told me of his school days in Delaware which, according to him, were more like prison time than school. He reminisced,
        “We were not allowed to wear our hair like the rock and roll stars of our day, Elvis, Carl Perkins, etc. Our shirts had to be buttoned all the way up, showing no chest hairs, and we were required to wear starched khaki trousers. We were not allowed to walk with girls, only with another boy. The next couple had to be several feet behind us. If there was an infraction of the rules, we were taken to the principal’s office and given a whack with a special paddle with holes bored in it.” I smiled knowingly!
        After this encounter, I felt that I was very lucky to have attended the schools in Buchanan County, Virginia. Our teachers were very strict, but I must admit that I did not feel like I was in a prison atmosphere. The paddle used by our elementary school teacher was fashioned by my dad, Edward Shortt. It too had holes, bored with a red hot poker. I felt the sting of it a few times. I am sure I deserved more than I got.
        I returned to Wendell’s house for a breakfast of decaf coffee, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cookies, spread with peanut butter, and a banana. This was the beginning of a busy and fulfilling day. We were bound for the flea market at Tazewell and other adventures.