Friday, April 26, 2013

A Skunk-Cabbage By Any Other Name

I have been blessed to meet some very interesting folks on my travels through life, but there are a few with whom I wouldn’t want to share a home. One was a fellow from the mountains of West Virginia who lived “in” a one-room cabin with a couple hounds. Jack had been a professional man with a Master’s Degree when his wife divorced him and took everything he had, and then got a sizeable alimony besides. He quit his job, built a cabin on the property of a friend and told his ex to sue and prosecute for all she was worth; jail would just mean free room and board for him. He literally lived off the land. All year round, he slept on a big wooden plank on the front porch of that cabin, even in sub-zero weather. Wool blankets and a couple good dogs kept him warm he said. Surprisingly, he never smelled like dog when he came to town, but it was obvious that he didn’t use deodorant. He’d hitch a ride with a friend, all the way from the mountains to the muzzle-loader shop by the Ohio River, where I worked at the time. That friend must have had no olfactory senses left, is all I can say.

Now Ed, another memorable fellow, lived in nearby Salzburg, and I met him while I was working a stint at a feed store downtown. He was as friendly and talkative a guy as you’d ever meet, but he was also the single most odiferous fellow that I’ve encountered during my nearly six decades on this earth. You see, he dearly loved coon dogs and coon hunting. Naturally, he also tended to enjoy the company of other coon hunters. Sadly, many of those coon hunters were married to women that didn’t seem to appreciate the finer things in life, like the sound of a pack of hounds howling in the back yard when they were getting impatient to be on the trail (or if the golden retriever next door happened to be “in season.”) As a result, many of them sought an individual with enough patience and room to board their dogs for them.

Enter the Ed. He was just past retirement age, so he had the time to fool with dogs. His wife had left him years earlier for some strange reason, plus he had a double lot in the middle of a quiet bedroom area of Salzburg. To say that he didn’t smell like a hound himself would be understandably false, since he hugged and petted each dog at feeding time to keep them friendly. (For those who don’t know, hounds have a smell totally unlike the long-haired breeds.) He paid no attention to his high-falutin neighbors when they complained about the smell, or about the noise that 28 hounds could make when they took a notion. UNTIL the city came by and wrote him a ticket for running a kennel without a permit, that is. It turned out that no zoning laws were broken, though, so he got a kennel permit and happily kept the hounds. By the time the neighbors got their wishes incorporated into the city zoning laws, the old fellow was grandfathered in.

He told me all about it one day while standing on the loading dock at the feed store, when he’d come to get his monthly pick-up load of dog food. I stood upwind from him, of course. Even then, I don’t think I fully realized the strength of his “presence” until he’d been gone for about a half-hour one day. I’d spent most of the time since his farewell in the sales office. When I walked back into the warehouse, all three of the 10x10 freight doors were open on the windward side, plus the man door. On the leeward side, a 10x12 freight door was open, plus a man door. Yet, his presence still lingered on. Now THAT’S staying power!

I liked both of these fellows, and you know, I don’t think they will ever fade from my memory. They both simply had an unforgettable air about them. © 2013

Read about Skunk-Cabbage HERE!


Le Loup said...

A very enjoyable read Gorges, thank you.

Pumice said...

And my wife complains when I have been to the Mongolian Barbeque.

Grace and peace.

Gorges Smythe said...

Glad you liked it, Keith.

No-one ever said life was fair, Pumice. ;-)

MuddyValley said...

Gorges: One of the best you've posted. Very well written and an enjoyable read.
Best regards.

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks, MV!