Saturday, January 1, 2011

I REMEMBER - Fishing for Crawdads, Snake Day, Bats and my dog Suzie

My Dad and me in front of our new house
Here are a couple of stories I remember from my childhood in McAlester, Oklahoma.  We moved to McAlester into a brand new house in a new subdivision that was right across the school from a new elementary school.

All I had to do was walk out the front door of our home and walk across the street.  When I was about six years old I received a new puppy.  Suzie was what my parents called a ‘Heinz 57' (The name 'Heinz 57 ' is also sometimes used to describe a dog which is a mix of multiple breeds).

Suzie stuck with me like glue.  When my mom needed to find me, she called Suzie.  The dog wouldn’t leave without me and would tug on my pant leg to let me know it was time to go home.  My mom had a big tin whistle hanging on a nail right outside the back screen door and would step outside, grab the whistle and give it a big tweet.  I could hear it most of the time, but Suzie could always hear it.  I thought the whistle was for me, but now I realize it really was for my dog to bring me home.

When I went to school, Suzie would go with me to the front door and then follow me on the outside of the school and wait for me under the window of my class room.  She would always be there when I got out of school.  At the end of my year in First Grade (Ms Billingsly) we all got our report cards on the last day of school.  Suzie got one also that testified that she had perfect attendance and didn’t bark during class.

Summers, before I started school, were fun and the rule was that we could head out the door with just shorts on - no shirts/no shoes and if we took a butter and ketchup sandwich (my favorite) for lunch with us, we could be gone until dark.  

When the street lights came on, it was time to come home, unless there was a good bug show going on - that would buy us an extra 10 minutes.  Little bugs, moths, fireflies and mosquitoes would swarm around each street light.  Then the bats would come out.  They would dive into the swirling fog of bugs around the light for an aerial picnic.  Very cool.  Once a bat got into our house and I remember my mom chasing it out of the house with a broom.

The other memory I have about this new house was the ongoing construction of the neighborhood development, providing thrills for a small Okie boy with time on his hands (no TV, no Nintendo or Wi's, no God, how did a kid survive?)  

There was a ditch across the street before they put in water lines for the expanding neighborhood. I used to go fishing for crawdads (tiny, freshwater cousins of lobsters) in that ditch until Snake Day. If you got a long stick, tied a length of kite string on one end and a strip of red cloth (a bloody band-aid would also suffice) on the other end, you were set.  I would grab a coffee can, my 'fishing pole' and head to the creek.  There were little holes along the edge of the muddy water, that provided hiding spots for the crawdads.  If you dangled the wet red cloth up and down in the hole, you could catch quite a few crawdads (also called mud-bugs).  They would use their pincers to grab the cloth and you could just pull them out.  In retrospect, the cloth probably didn't have to be red, however, it seemed awfully important at the time. 

I mentioned above that I got to do that until 'Snake Day'.  On that fateful day, I was going from hole to hole in my little muddy ditch fishing spot, filling up my little bucket with crawdads (we never ate them, we used them for Bass fishing), when I discovered that snakes like crawdads too.  I saw this little snake tail sticking out of one of the crawdad holes and rushed home to get a canning jar off the back porch and ran back to the ditch.  Not appreciating that although I knew snakes could bite you, this was a actually a deadly, baby water moccasin.  I pulled the snake out, popped it into the mason jar, screwed the lid down tight and ran home to show my mom my new prize.  After freaking out and thoroughly checking me all over for snake bites (after all, all I had on was shorts), she scolded me forever (my mom always repeated the 'lesson' at least 5 times to make sure I 'got it'), forbid me to EVER go near the ditch again, and then hugged me and we had a big slice of watermelon.

All of these memories were before TV.  I remember wanting a TV, because friends at school had one.  One summer we were eating watermelon on the picnic table on our side yard.  I kept throwing watermelon seeds on the roof.  My mom asked me why I was doing that.  My answer was that I was hoping the seeds would sprout and grow a vine that looked like a TV antennae and then every one would think we had a TV.

Those truly were the good old days.


1 comment:

ChuckB said...

Fascinating story, Bob. I grew up in Wichita, KS, not too far from you. Had many similar experiences as we lived between the little and big Arkansas rivers at the north edge of town. I also had a dog named Suzie when I was about 10 yrs old. A Heinz 57 for sure. Chuck