Digging Up Memories

The she-dawg digs constantly, and for no apparent reason other than to dig.  It isn’t so hot outside so as to need a mud hole to roll in.  Besides, it isn’t even raining right this minute.

I understand that large African mammals like elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippos will put on a mud-pack as sort of a dual purpose sun screen and insect repellent.  But it is February in Georgia, and the only animals around these parts that would be so engaged are pigs.

Nothing sane short of a pig would be doing such a thing.  Again, my observation of Ashley Cooper’s pig-like attitude is not a judgment should any of you who might be sensitive about pigs be offended.

Looking through the smoke-like fog, and back and forth across the yard the other morning, I had a brief shiver like the ones folks say is caused by a rabbit running over your grave.  There was no rabbit and no grave, but only a ghost of a memory I try hard to keep entombed in an inaccessible region of my mind.  It was about twenty years ago that I came out of a kind of Hell so unlike all of the romantic movies and stories about it.  That particular morning, I thought of it again.

There were places in Vietnam similar to my back yard with unsightly holes in the ground where there shouldn’t be any.  Thanks to dawgs, grass was worn as if helicopters had landed dumping infantry and equipment, and the dirt graded for a base camp.  Further, the winter trees without foliage do strike a chord of an earlier time in a different place when napalm and agent orange took a toll on surrounding forests and landscape, and everything in it.

Regardless of whose side you were on or how you felt about it, valor, courage and honor were no shields against that stuff any more than if circumstance placed you in the direct path of a mortar or rocket.  It just wasn’t personal, and had no bearing that was the result of character.  It was not a time of chivalry.  There was no happy marching song on the lips of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines back then, but  one tune was extremely popular among all of us:

“We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do…”(Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; recorded in 1965 by The Animals).  For some, it was the last thing they ever did; some others never got out at all.

My mind wandered in and out of a time machine.  I’d sat down on the patio out back, and came to the conscious present rubbing Ashley Cooper’s head.  I felt some little bumps that looked like they should itch.  What was it?  Ringworm?  I don’t know a thing about ringworm, but figured our veterinarian would (for a fee) determine what those little places were.

I looked at my fingers that had just been touching the dawg, and a zillion questions came to mind like:  Had I touched my face?  My hair?  Is this contagious?  Is it a fungus, or is it really a worm?  Does it eat rings or just form them?  What’s the incubation period?  What about the cat and the other dawg?  Will they get it, or have they already got it?  What about the children?

I really only had two choices: I could pray about it and hope it would go away, although that method worked poorly for the aboriginal American people when they saw the Europeans coming; or I could ask Brenda to take a look at it.  She has a special radar (neatly tucked away in some mitochondrial DNA) for anything afoot that could cause harm to her sons.  It is instinctive, and men only have a pathetically small amount of it to use if a threat is big enough and loud enough to scare the Be-Jesus out of something mean and ornery, and subtleties won’t do.

Then, I got analytical.  The other dawg, Cosmo Topper never comes down with anything: he never gets sick.  It’s just not his job, and it has never occurred to him that he should volunteer for illness as long as Ashley was willing to attempt a go at practically any disease, and even seems to have an affection for that sort of thing.

Nope, if the incubation period was the issue, I had to accept that Topper had no intention of incubating anything.  If I wanted it incubated, I’d have to do it myself.  But, I decided to wash my hands of the matter: I had psychosomatic itchy spots popping up all over, and washing my hands in some warm, soapy water wouldn’t hurt.  Until that was accomplished, I dared not touch myself.

It was my intention to keep calm about it while I did some research.  In the meantime, I shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag and cause a panic.  Ah!  I’d have to inspect the cat, who at that particular moment wasn’t in a bag.

We rarely ever put her in one, but I did pull a sock over Penny Lane’s head one time (in the spirit of scientific experiment).  Observations were mechanical: the cat’s transmission came out of “park” and went into “reverse”–throttle wide open.

Would you do that?  I mean, if you were in your car, and had no visibility outside in any direction, would you shove it in reverse and go as fast as possible?  Of course not!

Humans (over the age of thirty) don’t behave that way, or at least until they’ve had at least one term in the General Assembly.  After that, a sensible direction with or without any visualization of the outcome of actions taken, no longer makes any difference (discounting the source of campaign contributions and corporate perks).  Our cat, like a congressman, is very affectionate at feeding time.  I reckon there are other similarities.

Y’know what?  I’ll bet those places on Ashley’s head are from scratches received from the bottom of our chain-linked fence during escape maneuvers, or perhaps from blackberry thorns that are so prevalent in this neck of the woods.  About the time these little sores appeared corresponds with about the time she has quit digging at the fence.

Oh, she still digs, but primarily in two places: any place that will be harmed or devalued in some way by the digging; any place without regard to value otherwise, will receive no benefit from having been dug up.  Sometimes, I feel the latter is parallel to some of the things I dig up out of the past, but I suppose we all do that now and then, don’t we?

My back yard is a mess.  Moles and ground hogs point, smile and applaud.  But the squirrels aren’t happy.  Their stash of seeds and nuts set aside in little subterranean pockets have been picked, and their wealth scattered and exposed to the birds.

There is no uniformity in the digging: these dawgs are not civil engineers.  Otherwise, I’d have a swimming pool or a golf course in progress.  Well, maybe it is a golf course…for the blind: if you toss a golf ball indiscriminately into my back yard, it will either go into a hole right away, or the dawgs will eat it.  A blind person could play this entire course with a putter, and have a perfect score of eighteen.

I close now to feed the dawgs.  As it turns out, there is no infestation of ringworm yet, but we shouldn’t become smug about it.  Right now, The puppies (a gross exaggeration) seem engrossed in some kind of a game that involves holding each other by the back leg with teeth, and going around in circles while growling.  It is a shame to interrupt their play, but nourishment is necessary.  It would be a pity to have to tell the rest of the family that the dawgs ate each other for supper.

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