Monthly Archives: September 2021

More Paws, More Smiles, Some Tears


Just after I published last week’s blog another paw smile arrived in the form of a two-week-old baby squirrel. When my two young grands and I piled out of the car after school there was a scrap of gray fur huddled against a wall of our carport. I thought he was dead, that one of the cats had wounded him and them left him for us as a gift. They have been known to do that. But when Charli picked him up, he went from lethargy to full speed climbing in her hair, around her neck and dipping into her shirt for a warm cozy spot. Of course giggles and squeals erupted from all three of us.

Granddaddy brought home a syringe from the office for feeding the little guy warm milk. The children squabbled over who would feed him but Charli won because, as she put it, she had picked him up first. She named him Cuddles because he loved to nestle against her neck. But later, after he was installed as the newest baby in the Evans household, Daddy Jared renamed him Scrappy. His claws were too sharp for a Cuddles, he said.

Scrappy gave hours of pleasure to the Evans family, especially Charli who faithfully fed her little charge. Sunday afternoon, after the Wednesday adoption, I asked how Scrappy was doing. Charli reported that he wasn’t eating that day. Within a couple of hours Scrappy died while Charli held him and talked to him. With crocodile tears tracing down her cheeks Charli assisted big sister Candi in burying the baby. Today, three days later, Charli and brother Kaison said mournfully they miss Scrappy so much. I asked Charli if she would rather not have had Scrappy and she quickly replied that she wouldn’t trade the time with Scrappy for a million dollars. “I gave him a good life,” she said sagely.

One Very Blessed Hen

When I told my sister, Suzanne, about this latest wildlife adventure, she remembered some of her times helping little orphaned wild babies, like the possum that grew up in their house, and others. But one of the most memorable, she told me, was the chicken. The chicken! I didn’t remember that story. She said she was on her way from her to house to our mother’s when she came upon a chicken flapping and writhing on the pavement. She stopped and picked it up and took it to Mamma’s yard where she placed it under a shady tree to die in peace. But it didn’t die. She eventually took it home and nurtured it back to health. It was crippled but it hopped around her yard for months, even years, happy as a prisoner set free, which it was. She’s sure the hen had fallen from a loaded chicken truck to what seemed certain death but was rescued to a new life.

One Not So Golden Goose

Suzanne’s story reminded me of our goose refugee. Many years ago Charles came home from the animal hospital with a one-legged goose. Owners didn’t want her but he thought maybe we could give her a good life. Which we did. Charles sank an empty paint can into the ground making a ground-level watering trough for the poor thing and we all rallied around the odd goose in our already interesting menagerie. Then, one day, we came home to find the goose upside down in her watering trough, cold and dead. She’s fallen in and, with only one leg, couldn’t get herself out. A sad ending to our not so golden goose!

One Special Cow

Some of our little animal friends are with us such a short time but they add much joy to our lives and we hope we’ve given them a good life, even if brief. But some pets stay around for a very long time. Such was the case with my friend Cheryl Gravenstein’s mother’s cow. A cow is not usually considered a pet but this one was. Cheryl said when her mother was born someone gave her a heifer as a birth gift. She grew up taking care of that heifer. When she married she took her cow with her and added more cows to keep that one company. Cheryl remembers milking, feeding the cows, and herding them back in when they broke out of their fence. I asked her how old the “birth cow” was when she died, but I don’t remember what Cheryl said.

However long we have them, let’s treasure our creatures large and small.

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Paws for a Smile

My son sent me the above picture last week. It made me smile, so I thought it might also give you a welcome reprieve from all the heavy seriousness of our national and international problems. A smile relaxes your face. You can feel yourself getting younger! It is healthy and it is free. God’s creatures large and small are really good at bringing out a smile even when we’re feeling dismal.

Will was at Blue Ridge Animal Clinic in Montgomery troubleshooting dental equipment. As a sales rep for Covetrus Veterinary Supply, Will calls on veterinarians in central and southern Alabama. He was deep into solving a problem when this cat casually climbed up on his shoulder as if to help him find a solution. One of the techs snapped the picture. Miss Kitty, the tech told Will, owns that particular area in the clinic and anyone who lights there is subject to her climbing all over them. This hairless Siamese with her long tail, dressed in a tu-tu, is at home in her surroundings and expects everyone else to be also. Will took time to play with her and said her hairless skin really felt odd.

Calf on the Loose

This week’s news from the Cairo Animal Hospital includes the escape of a 150-pound calf. Apparently dead set on avoiding his impending surgery, the calf suddenly rebelled and squeezed through an incredibly narrow opening to run with the speed of an antelope across Highway 84, over to Tired Creek Country Club, through parking lots and well kept yards. Numerous people called in to report seeing him before he was finally caught several days later. Can you imagine glancing out your kitchen window and seeing a cow eating your lilies?

Sam and the Turtle

This tale is about our Irish setter named Sam. Unlike the Irish setter Blake who later took his place in our household, Sam was quite reliable, knew his boundaries, and was an excellent companion for me on my three-mile walks. He did investigate a lot of territory along the way, probably running six miles for my three. He liked to swim across every pond and he liked to give turtles a scenic ride. The first time he picked up a box turtle in a neighbor’s yard I tried to take it from him but he was very possessive and loped on ahead of me. I thought he would lay the turtle down somewhere but he carried it the whole way. The amazing thing was that he deposited that turtle in exactly the same place he had found him. That was only the first turtle who received a free Sam trip!

Persimmons and Possums

This time of year I think about wild persimmons and possums. Ripe persimmons are a beautiful orangey peach color, or maybe the color of a flamingo. When they drop from high limbs they plunk into the grass and look like tiny pumpkins with black fringed hats. Ripe persimmons (don’t by any circumstances pluck one from the tree before it’s ripe!) are squishy, full of seeds, sweet and wonderful. Possums like them too.

Fall was a good time to catch a possum to fatten under an overturned tub for what some thought made a delicious dinner. My brothers went to the meadow one night hunting for a possum. We heard the dogs barking and knew they had one treed but the wait was long. We all got sleepy and went to bed before the boys returned.

Next morning Mamma was mystified by an empty burlap sack with an odd hole hanging on the milk pail hook above the flour bin. When the boys came down for breakfast they were eager to check on their possum. But there was no possum, much to their dismay. Their dismay hardly compared to Mamma’s consternation. We looked everywhere for that possum to no avail. Mamma herself found him a couple of days later when a hissing growl arrested her hand as she reached into the dark interior of a potato barrel.

Recently when I picked up the kids from school, Charli was anything but her usual merry self. She said though her sniffles that she had had a very bad day. I asked what had made it so bad and she said that a friend had thoroughly annoyed her and that her teacher had “yelled at us all day.” I suggested that maybe she could turn a bad day into a good day. Her reply: “I can’t change my friend or my teacher.” To which I said, “You can change you.” Then as I heard more sniffles from the back, I said, “Let’s go home and see if we can turn this bad day into a good day.”

I had no idea what we might do until I remembered seeing so many butterflies in our yard hovering over lantana and impatiens, flitting everywhere. “You could probably catch a butterfly,” I said, knowing that, even with our butterfly nets, it’s quite tricky to do that.

As we drove into our driveway there, right in front of us, was a beautiful monarch. Charli, inspired, quickly grabbed a net and immediately caught, not the monarch, but another black and blue beauty. We put it in a fruit jar with holes in the lid and admired it, even taking its picture. We identified it as a spicebush swallowtail. When Charli let it fly all her dismal feelings went with it. I was so thankful the Lord sent that swallowtail our way!

I hope we brought a smile to your face with these snippets about a cat, a calf, a dog and turtle, a possum, and a butterfly. I always contend that God must surely have a sense of humor because He made such amazing creatures. And He gave us a sense of humor too to buoy us over the turbulent waves.

Genesis 1:21, 24, 25: And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth…and every winged fowl after his kind…cattle and creeping thing, and beast of the earth…and God saw that it was good.

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The Woman at the Wake

When my father died in 1959 it was the custom in our neck of the woods to hold a wake for the deceased. Somebody was designated to sit up all night, never to leave the coffin unattended. As was often the case back then, my father’s coffin was in our living room from the time the mortician finished his job until the funeral two days later. All that time someone, usually family members, would be expected to stay close by, taking turns, two or three at a time talking quietly, maybe making coffee in the middle of the night.

As a sixteen-year-old I didn’t really question why we did this. It was simply the way things were done. It was no problem for us since our family was so big and, in fact, it was an honor to be part of a group who “sat up” with my Dad. It was a way of showing him respect even though he was gone from his body.

As I said, our family was large, not only Mom and Dad’s own ten children but the extended family of relatives some of whom we young ones didn’t even know. Neighbors were in and out of the house bringing gorgeous casseroles, cakes, stuffed eggs and salads. We never seemed to be alone which was sometimes frustrating to me. I hungered for the intimacy of our very own family. It didn’t seem right to cry in front of people I hardly knew.

With so many people coming and going, no one at first noticed this one little wiry woman who simply sat quietly with her hands in her lap except for occasions when food was set on the table. Though others came and went she stayed in the corner she’d chosen from the beginning. We began to question each other about which relative this might be. She was very solemn, speaking only when spoken to. All day and night she kept her vigil, always partaking of cake or anything that was available, otherwise just sitting there.

Mamma realized we were puzzling about the identity of this woman. She, who was wise from many years of wakes and funerals, already knew who the stranger was. It seemed she had been talking to her when none of us noticed.

Mamma told us this woman was a mourner, no relation to any of us, not a member of our church, not a neighbor, just a self-appointed mourner. In fact, she lived ten or fifteen miles away in an abandoned cabin. Mamma didn’t know how she’d gotten to our house.

“Be kind to her,” Mamma told us. “She has little to eat at home and she goes to wakes to help people mourn and to get food.”

As I remember it, the little woman left before the funeral. I was too caught up in my grief to notice her slip away and start her long walk back to her cabin.

We have sometimes laughed about the interesting little woman at the wake. Did she have her ear to the ground to learn whenever there was a death and head towards the wake? Was this all she did, help people mourn so she could enjoy the abundance of food?

I’ve always remembered, along with the curiosity about the little woman, Mamma’s words about her. “Be kind to her,” she said. Even in her grief, it was of paramount importance to Mamma that we practice hospitality.

Use hospitality one to another without grudging. I Peter 4:9

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Water Angel

The sun shone brightly, a beautiful afternoon in Fort Meade, Maryland. A perfect afternoon for a swim. I couldn’t wait. I was visiting my older sister, Jackie, and her husband, Fred, a second lieutenant in the army. At thirteen, I was all long legs, a bundle of shyness but eager to take in everything. This visit had been full of adventure already–a tour of Washington, a boat ride on the Potomac River to enjoy a concert at Watergate (before it was famous), a trip to Fred’s home in Virginia. And now this. Swimming in the officers’ pool.

“A little different from our old muddy pond at home in Georgia, isn’t it?” my sister stated rather than asked. We were standing at the deep end of the Olympic size pool considering our next move.

“It’s so full of people,” I said, a little anxious.

“We’ll just be two more,” said Jackie. “Come on, let’s swim to the other end!”

She jumped in and I was right behind her.

It definitely wasn’t like our muddy Georgia pond. Almost immediately I was in trouble. Someone splashed water right in my face and I strangled. Instinctively, I tried to touch the bottom, to stand up, but of course I couldn’t. I tried to swim faster to get out of the crowd but the crowd was everywhere. I panicked. My flailing arms and legs turned to pudding. I gave a gasping call for help as I went under.

Rather than the beautiful bright afternoon, it was dark to me down in the water. I was desperate to breathe but couldn’t find my way up. I heard someone yelling “Help!” It seemed as if it was my voice but of course I couldn’t yell. I couldn’t even breathe. It was Jackie.

I surfaced but only for one panicky moment. It was when I went under the third time that Jackie took hold of me. I gripped arms and legs around her until she couldn’t move. We were both drowning surrounded by happy splashing swimmers who didn’t notice these two girls locked in each others’ arms.

It was so dark. And so deep. For months, it seemed, we were fighting to surface, our lungs ready to burst. Then, we felt it. The bottom of the pool, the grainy hard concrete floor of the pool. There were voices in the distance, happy voices, everyone still splashing and playing tricks on each other.

In a stupor we found ourselves with feet still on the bottom but with heads above water. We couldn’t even speak as we staggered and stumbled to the edge of the pool, then stood there so weak we couldn’t pull ourselves up the steps.

What had just happened? We had been drowning somewhere in the middle of the deep end of an Olympic size pool. Jackie, with absolutely no training in lifesaving measures, had allowed me to take a death grip on her so she, too, was immobilized.

Yet here we were. Neither of us had felt an extra hand on us but both of us knew there was no way we had walked out of that pool without help. The lifeguard was sitting beside his chair playing cards with some giggling girls. God had sent a water angel to save us that day and we have never forgotten.

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