GOING TO LIVE IN THE COUNTRY. My column last week prompted a number of you to share your memories of the creatures that came home with you from the cages at Katz Drug Store. My friend Bill Haltom, attorney and storyteller, sent me this:
“For Easter one year, Mom and Dad took me to Katz and bought me two ducks and a chicken. The chicken didn’t last a week. In the words of the great Jerry Clower, the Lord called the poor thing home. But the ducks lived in our backyard for years, swimming in a plastic kiddie pool that became a permanent ecosystem in Frayser. The Clampetts had a cement pond. The Haltoms had a plastic one.”
Easter used to be a crapshoot for chicks, ducklings and bunnies. For some reason – less about resurrection and more about martyrdom, less about life everlasting and more about just surviving Easter Sunday – our parents thought it was a good idea to put the lives of these fluffy, furry little fledglings in the hands of children and dogs.
The combination of the dog looking through the holes in the bunny’s box and the sound of a huge thunderbolt scared my bunny to death Easter night. Literally.
My father-in-law’s leaping attempt on Easter morning to save Nora’s baby chick from the dog merely served to assure the chick’s rapid end in the swinging kitchen door. The chick was buried beneath Nora’s window. When she attempted to dig it up and show it to a friend, she couldn’t find it. “I don’t understand,” she told the friend, “it was right there last week when I dug it up and showed to somebody else.” Kids.
But some make it. Bill’s ducks made it. Several of my rabbits that turned into a lot of rabbits made it. A duck Nora won at the Mid-South Fair made it, thriving in the guest room bathtub, and given the name Willy Quack, Good Citizen from a character in the Weekly Reader. While the tub was never the same, Willy grew up and went “to live in the country.”
With apologies to C.S. Lewis, it wasn’t “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” that gave me pause as a city boy; it was more like the duck, the dog and the farm.
Ducks too big for the tub, dogs unable to run anymore or see anymore or too set in their ways to put up with new babies or stay out of the street or out of the neighbor’s garbage, rabbits who had become too many rabbits, all went “to live in the country,” all to be much better off, much happier “out on the farm” we were told.
And I believed. I came to know, and probably knew even then, that where they were going was a final stage, but I believed, then and now, that there is something better out there.
I’m a Memphian, and when I go to live in the country, out on the farm, I’m planning on seeing all my old dogs.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.