Cracker Jack and Related Memories: A Childhood Story– Part V: “Go on and pet him; he won’t hurt you.” That was the voice of Cousin Bobby Messmer reassuring me with his wobbly, gray eyes that Blue, a big blue-tick hound (photo) that weighed more than I did, was nothing to be afraid of. Blue was tethered on a chain along with 3 other coon hounds that Bobby’s Dad used for hunting. Besides Blue there was a black & tan, a walker, and a mixed breed. But Blue was new to the kennel, so I was a bit suspicious of Bobby’s judgment. Blue was gentle enough and enjoyed the petting, especially when I stroked his floppy ears (photo). After a bit, I turned to leave while still within reach of his tether——BIG MISTAKE!!
The occasion was a Sunday afternoon visit with Aunts, Uncles and cousins at the Messmer house where the Dads and Uncles played cards, Moms and Aunts quilted, and my cousins and I played and explored the farm (photo). These Sunday afternoon visits were common and routine except that each visit was at someone else’s house, including our own. The adults did the same old stuff. Dads would play cards (photo), enjoy each other’s homemade wine, slam their fists on the table when they had a good card hand or bad, and use “colorful” German words that they assumed, incorrectly, we kids didn’t understand. Six Moms seated around a quilt frame (photo) were focused on their fingers and their sewing needles as they made stitch after perfect stitch in the beautiful quilt they were completing for next Sunday’s church picnic raffle. Intent on their work, they would speak without looking up for nuance in facial expression or gesture; given their close acquaintance and familiarity, the sound and cadence of their voices was nuance enough to communicate all meaning intended, however complex. While the adults did this same old boring stuff, we kids did exciting things and some things we shouldn’t, like petting unpredictable dogs!
Just as I turned my back I heard a loud bark and instantly felt a sharp pain in my right rear buttock (fancy word for butt). It hurt BAD!! I yelped and ran toward the house and knew I was in trouble when I felt a 3-inch tear in my pants and blood on my fingers. “Mom , I think I need a band-aid (photo),” I said, as I tapped her on the shoulder. Telling Mom was the last thing I wanted to do because I thought she would be really mad about my torn pants. She turned away from the quilting frame, saw the blood oozing out of the rip in my pants and with one quick jerk had my pants down around my ankles!! “OOOH my! Goodness sakes alive! Well look at that!” said all the ladies in unison. I turned red as a beet and was never so embarrassed while all those women stared at my bare butt. Luckily I was facing a wall, but that was little consolation. Of course, they were exclaiming about the blood and the cut and could care less about my butt, but to an 8-year-old boy all that commotion was too much to “bare”.
In those days, a 10-stitch cut was treated with iodine, two small band-aids to hold the cut together, and a patch of gauze to keep the dirt out. Of course, that left a scar, and to this day it is the only significant one I have—- but don’t ask to see it! As years go by I’ve purged most bad experiences from my memory, but every time I see a colorful homemade quilt I always see Blue. (To be continued)