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Peachy
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The Spectator
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 by Frank Shortt
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2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
          She wasn’t much to look at. She was just a mix breed, droopy eyes, and white with yellow splotches. The only problem, she was bringing in too many pups. Every time we turned around we had another litter to get rid of. I suppose that Peachy thought that was what we wanted her to do. She probably thought that was her job in life.
          “Frankie, we’re gonna have to do something ‘bout that dog, dad opined. She’s gonna eat us out of house and home if we keep her.”
          These were words I did not want to hear as I thought of Peachy as my dog. Of course, all the other kids thought of her the same way.
Dad was a stalwart man, a coal miner, barely making a living for eight of us kids on his meager pay. He stood almost six feet tall in his stocking feet, and when he came from a hard days’ work in the little truck mine, his blue eyes always seemed out of place in such a blackened face. For some reason there was always a clear patch around his eyes which set off the blueness. Those blue eyes seemed to shine much brighter when dad got excited or angry. I never knew, as a kid, what his mood was going to be.
          Mom’s eyes were also blue. She had long Cherokee hair which reached down below her waist. This was due to her Pentecostal beliefs. She was a pretty woman and this was probably why dad kowtowed to her whims. This was probably why there were eight of us kids and more to come. This was how mom was like Peachy, in a way, as she felt that she was to repopulate the earth.
          I could not answer dad immediately as the words always stuck in my throat when he talked to me. I guess I was afraid of him as I had been on the receiving end of his wrath a few times. He was raised like a work horse and this was about all he knew about raising children in his early married life. We were expected to do our share of chores just as soon as we became able to lift a bucket of water or an armful of wood for mom’s cooking stove. We had to carry water about a quarter of a mile from a large spring down on the other side of Grassy Creek. This spring usually never went dry in the driest times and was originally used by the road crews when old route 460 was being built.
          I pondered the thought all night about what we could do to save old Peachy. “Maybe I could hide her in the barn and sneak her a few scraps from our leftovers. Maybe I could talk Grandma Evy into taking her for a spell. No, she didn’t have enough food even for her boys much less a dog to feed.” No matter what I came up with the same thought kept haunting me,
          “She would end up with pups again and spoil anything I tried to do.”
          My greatest fear was that dad would take her hunting and not bring her back. Her final resting place would be in some dark hollow with a pile of rocks over her.
          The following Saturday dad was to take some food and clothing to our aunt in War, West Virginia. He allowed me to go along and he finally put Peachy on last, tying her to one of the hooks in the bed of the old Forty-Nine Ford. She was tied well back away from the food as she had been known to forage for herself when she got hungry.
          Aunt Dora was in a bad state financially as the coal mine in War was about played out. When War was booming, there was plenty of work for all the men who had drifted in from all over the world. There were Italians, Portuguese, Polish, Germans, African Americans and hillbillies from all over the state of West Virginia and the neighboring states. When the coal petered out, all the men began drifting to the latest boom town.
          As we began our trek up over Jewell Ridge, the old Ford heated up a couple times and we had to stop at roadside springs to fill up the radiator.
          “Frankie, get out and get us a bucket of water for the radiator, the truck is gonna burn up if we don’t cool ’er down”. I did as I was commanded.
          When I got to the spring I noticed that there was a terrible stench of rotten eggs. I also noticed a discoloration of yellows, greens, and reds around the perimeter of the spring. When I returned with the water, I asked dad what was the terrible smell?
          “Oh, it’s just egg water, dad replied, it comes off certain coal seams.”
          I learned later that the terrible smell was due to the high content of sulphur in the water.
          I thought at the time, “I wouldn’t let even my dog drink that water”!!
          Jewell Ridge mountain is a steep and deeply wooded region. We had to drive through the coal camp there in order to begin the descent to War. I noticed that the houses were well kept, the lawns were green, and as a general rule, there was prosperity there. Dad explained that it was due to the good management of the coal Company there. He had once worked for the Company before he decided to go in business for himself. I am sure it was more due to the fact that he had to walk all the way from Shortt Gap to Jewell Ridge every morning just to slave in the mine all day. As soon as his shift ended he had to make the same trek back to Shortt Gap again. Our neighbor, Irving Davis, also walked the whole way with dad. If I am not mistaken, Irving was the one who saddled dad with Peachy to begin with. He also had a house full of young’uns.
          As a side note, there is an amusing story that was told about Irving. It seems that Irving only had ten dollars to his name. He left the house one Saturday morning to supposedly go and buy some groceries for his family. As he arrived at the store, one of the Osborne mountain clan came in at the same time. In his hands was a shotgun. Irving, being a squirrel hunter of squirrel hunters, noticed the shotgun right away.
          “How much for the shotgun,” Irving inquired?
          “Oh, I’d say about ten dollars ought to take it,” the man replied.
          “Well, I just happened to have ten dollars, Irving informed the man, here it is, so I’ll just take the gun.”
         The Osborne Mountain denizen was more than glad to get rid of the gun as it wouldn’t hit the side of a barn, even loaded with buck shot. Irving noticed too late that rust was creeping out of the barrel and around the working parts. He crept home ashamed and repentant.
          Next morning, Irving arose thinking to go to the table and eat a hearty breakfast. Instead, he saw the gun lying in his place of eating and heard his wife say,
          “Come on and eat, Irving”!!
           Dad was able, by bending the barrel between two hickory saplings, to get the gun to shoot halfway straight. Irving killed many a squirrel with the gun by holding the barrel slightly to the left of his target.
          Arriving in War, dad drove directly to Aunt Dora’s house, dispensed of the clothes and groceries and told me to wait as he had an errand to run. I was all too glad to stay and play with Ruth and Ellis, Dora’s kids as they were around my age. I had no idea what dad had in mind.
          When dad returned and we said our goodbyes, we again started the climb up to Jewell Ridge. I noticed immediately that Peachy was not tied in the bed of the truck.
          “Where’s old Peachy, I inquired?
          “Oh, I got rid of her”, dad replied, and that was all the explanation I ever got.
          I wept silently as we made the return trip to Shortt Gap too afraid to cry out loud. I was so miserable I felt like jumping out of the truck and running away into the deep, dark forest. If a bear got me on “Bear Wallow” what would dad care. I was just another mouth to feed. I somehow overcame my urge to jump out of the truck and we arrived home just at suppertime which took some of the edge off my anxiety. Mom had baked a cake, a rarity in our house, and must have felt that I would need some cheering up after this trying day.
          Things seemed a little sad for a while, but as children heal quickly, I soon began the routine of life without having a dog around. I began to think that it was better not having to always take care of a dog. Except at night, the memory of Peachy would come creeping into my thoughts. Some of those nights I had a hard time going to sleep. I knew in my heart that dad had either taken Peachy to a lonely strip mining job and shot her or just dropped her off in some out of the way hollow on the other side of War. Neither prospect was very appealing to an eight year old, very imaginative boy.
          About a month later, our family was all up early on a Sunday morning getting ready for church. I was usually the first out the door when we were to go someplace. I was always anxious to get to where we were going. As I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, I saw what, at first, seemed like an apparition. On the sack used for wiping our feet sat an old spotted dog, gaunt, with ribs sticking out, and tongue lolling.
          “Mom, Dad, look! It’s ole Peachy! I can’t believe she came all those miles back from War, West Virginia! Come here girl!” I screamed.
          Even though I never allowed dogs to lick me in the face, this was an exception. I was all over her, not knowing where to hug her next.
          After the whole family got over the shock of having ole Peachy back dad had some good news for all of us.
          “Seeing as how that ole dog was able to find her way back all by herself, I am sure that it was the Lord’s will that she be with our family. “We are going to keep her, I’m sure we can come up with some extra scraps, can’t we Stelly?”
          “I’m sure we can”, mom replied.
           That was the beginning of a different relationship between Peachy and my dad. He took her hunting for squirrels, rabbits and whatever else he wanted her to hunt. I was almost convinced that she was dad’s dog after that.
          Peachy lived a long life and finally came the day that she was hit by a car crossing busy route 460. We were all very sad but knowing that all life has to come to an end sometime, we had a funeral for her at our pet graveyard. Her bones are now under the new four-lane highway and I can’t help but thinking that Somewhere, beyond this vale of tears, I will see ole Peachy again.
          She was too good a dog to think otherwise.