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Monday, December 2, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Photos by Elodie Pritchartt

Monday, November 11, 2013

To My Father on Veteran's Day

Daddy was in intelligence and reconnaissance in the European theater in World War II.  Although he didn't realize it at the time, he had a pretty dangerous job, going ahead of the troops to scout and report back what was happening towards the front.   And while he never experienced battle, firsthand, he was always within earshot.

"It sounded like thunder," he recalled.

I always enjoyed listening to his memories of the war -- the small, human experiences that stayed with him.

One of my favorite stories was about coming into a small, burned-out village somewhere in France. His company had come into town after a long march.

"Every building had been damaged or destroyed," he said.

He told me that there was this one little shop still untouched, the big picture window still intact.

"I was so tired.  And I sat down outside the shop and leaned against the window and it shattered.  The shop owner came running outside, crying and cursing in French.  Every time I think about it, I feel bad," he said.  "I felt so bad for him."

Another time, he remembered a German woman calling to him, shouting, "Schießen die katze!"

"Nazi?  Where?" he asked.

Then he noticed she was pointing at two cats mating.  She wanted him to shoot the cat that was violating her female katze.

"Nein," he said.  "I couldn't shoot a cat."

He loved animals.  His grandmother wrote to him while he was in bootcamp that his little dog, Tippy, had been hit by a car.

"She shouldn't have told me," he said.  "I went behind the barracks and cried and cried.  I couldn't eat for two weeks.  I lost weight."

When I looked up his army records not long ago, it said he weighed all of a hundred pounds when he shipped for Europe on the Queen Mary.

"The ship zigzagged all the way across the ocean," he said, "…so it would be harder for submarines to fire on us.  It took about 15 minutes for the ship to list to one side, then 15 minutes for it to list to the other.  I've never been so sick in my life.  I took my pack and climbed into a lifeboat to sleep."

My dad loved guns.  And all he wanted to do was collect as many German guns as he could while he was there.  He didn't smoke, so he often traded cigarettes for weapons.  Once when I was home visiting from California, he told me a story about bringing some guns home.  He was somewhere in Germany in a bombed-out castle.  He was trying to find something to wrap up some guns he'd found lying on the ground.

"I saw these two paintings," he said.  "So I took my bayonet and cut them out of the frames."

Then he brought them out.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Here were two large paintings -- one of Himmler and one of Goering.
Liter-size bottle for perspective

Hermann Goering

Heinrich Himmler
Because it was close to the end of the war, he said he never saw any American bodies but plenty of German bodies.

"They'd leave the German bodies for the morale of our troops," he said, and to demoralize the German troops."

He remembered being encamped in a little house one freezing German night.  

"There was the body of a young soldier in a room in back," he recalled.  He couldn't have been more than 17 or 18."  My father was only 18 at the time.

"We came back through about three weeks later.  The body was still there.  It was cold, so it hadn't really started to decompose.  I just remember being struck that he'd just turned green, nothing else.  You know, it didn't bother me at the time.  I guess youth is rather callous.  But I still see him now, and it bothers me a lot.  He was someone's child.  How could I have not been bothered then but so bothered now?  I see him a lot now.  And it bothers me."

My father was a talented artist, though he never really used his talent for much.  But he had a great time making fun of his commander and other officers during training.  He'd draw cartoons of them and pin them on the bulletin board at night when everyone was asleep.  It infuriated the officers.  Everyone else thought they were hilarious.  

They never did find out who the rogue artist was, but he brought those drawings home, and I think he might've missed his calling.

He was just a child, himself, in World War II.  After everything was over, he was assigned to watch some German prisoners.  He got in trouble once for his trusting, naiveté when he asked a German prisoner to hold his gun for him while he tied his shoe.  :)  The prisoner held it for him and returned it.

He remembered the German officers who were prisoners, and always saluted them.  I think he felt bad for them.

"They all carried those little weiner dogs with them," he said.  Daddy liked anyone who liked animals.

I miss you, Daddy.  Thank you for your service on this Veteran's Day.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An Old Book; A New Chapter, Part II

I don't really have time for a long blog post, but this entry was so delicious, I just had to share:

Wed. June 3

I got out of General [Leonidas] Polk the story of his celebrated adventure with the ____Indiana (Northern) regiment, which resulted in the almost total destruction of that corps.  I had often during my travels heard officers and soldiers talking of this extraordinary feat of the "Bishop's."  
Gen. Leonidas Polk

The modest yet graphic manner in which General Polk related this wonderful instance of coolness and bravery was extremely interesting, and I now repeat it, as nearly as I can in his own words.

"Well, sir, it was at the battle of Perryville, late in the evening -- in fact, it was almost dark when Lidell's brigade came into action.  Shortly after its arrival, I observed a body of men, whom I believed to be Confederates, standing at the newly arrived troops.  I said, 'Dear me, this is very sad, and must be stopped;' so I turned 'round, but could find none of my young men who were absent on different messages; so I determined to ride myself and settle the matter.

"Having cantered up to the colonel of the regiment which was firing, I asked him in angry tones what he meant by shooting his own friends, and I desired him to cease doing so at once.  He answered with surprise, 'I don't think there can be any mistake about it; I am sure they are the enemy.' 

"'Enemy! I said,' 'why I have only just left them myself.  Cease firing, sir; what is your name, sir?'

"'My name is Colonel ____, of the ____Indiana; and pray, sir, who are you?'

"Then for the first time I saw, to my astonishment, that he was a Yankee, and that I was in rear of a regiment of Yankees.  Well, I saw that there was no hope but to brazen it out; my dark blouse and the increasing obscurity befriended me, so I approached quite close to him and shook my fist in his face, saying, 'I'll show you who I am, sir; cease firing, sir, at once.'  

"I then turned my horse and cantered slowly down the line, shouting in an authoritative manner to the Yankees to cease firing; at the same time I experienced a disagreeable sensation, like screwing up my back, and calculating how many bullets would be between my shoulders every moment.  I was afraid to increase my pace until I got to a small copse, when I put the spurs in and galloped back to my men.  

"I immediately went up to the nearest colonel, and said to him, 'Colonel, I have reonnoitred [sic.] those fellows pretty closely -- and I find there is no mistake who they are; you may get up and go at them.'  

"And I assure you, sir, that the slaughter of that Indiana regiment was the greatest I have ever seen in the war."

From the book Three Months in the Southern States, April-June, 1863 by Lieut.-Col. Arthur Freemantle, published by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1863

See also Part I - Old Book; New Chapter

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Old Book; A New Chapter

Arthur Freemantle

I'm moving shortly and, as such, have been going through things deciding what to keep and what to leave.  I have a particular love for old books, and there's no shortage of them at the house.  As I enter this new chapter in my life, it's bittersweet finding old family objects.

So yesterday, I was pulling a bunch of old books out of a secretary when I came across a little volume called Three Months in The Southern States by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur James Lyon Freemantle (later known as General Sir Arthur James Lyon Freemantle, an English subject and member of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards.)

The book had belonged to my great-great grandfather's son, Robert Rose, as evidenced by the signature on the front free endpaper.  Like his father, Robert committed suicide.  The suicide was such a family secret that I didn't learn about it until the mid-1980s.  I hear he hanged himself.  No idea why.  I have one painting of him as a child.

Anyway, finding these things that my ancestors read sometimes gives me insight into the ancestors, themselves, so I found my favorite spot in the library, laid down on the sofa and began to read.

The book was published in 1864, and was a diary describing Freemantle's experiences in the South during the Civil War.  The preface reads:

At the outbreak of the American war, in common with many of my countrymen, I felt very indifferent as to which side might win; but if I had any bias, my sympathies were rather in favor of the North, on account of the dislike which an Englishman naturally feels at the idea of slavery.  But soon a sentiment of great admiration for the gallantry and determination of the Southerners, together with the unhappy contrast afforded by the foolish bullying conduct of the Northerners, caused a complete revulsion in my feelings, and I was unable to repress a strong wish to go to America and see something of this wonderful struggle.

Having successfully accomplished my design, I returned to England, and found amongst all my friends an extreme desire to know the truth of what was going on in the South; for, in consequence of the blockade, the truth can with difficulty be arrived at, as intelligence coming mainly through Northern sources is not believed; and, in fact, nowhere is the ignorance of what is passing in the South more profound than it is in the Northern States.

In consequence of a desire often expressed, I now publish the Diary which I endeavored, as well as I could, to keep up day by day during my travels throughout the Confederate States.

I have not attempted to conceal any of the peculiarities or defects of the Southern people.  Many persons will doubtless highly disapprove of some of their customs and habits in the wilder portion of the country; but I think no generous man, whatever may be his political opinions, can do otherwise than admire the courage, energy, and patriotism of the whole population, and the skill of its leaders, in this struggle against great odds.  And I am also of opinion that many will agree with me in thinking that a people in which all ranks and both sexes display a unanimity and a heroism which can never have been surpassed in the history of the world, is destined, sooner or later, to become a great and independent nation.

Well, needless to say he got that last part wrong.  But it's a fascinating read and was a bestseller in its time.

Freemantle left England on March 6, 1863, and after landing in St. Thomas on the 17th and Havana on the 22nd,  arrived at the mouth of the Rio Grande on April 1st where over 70 vessels were anchored awaiting their cotton cargoes. Accompanied by a Mexican who promised to take him by buggy to Brownsville.  On the way to Brownsville, he got his first taste of the wild, lawless West after being introduced to half a dozen Confederate officers sitting 'round a campfire:

The captain was rather a boaster, and kept on remarking, "We've given 'em h___ll on the Mississippi, h___ll on the Sabine and h___ll in various other places."

He explained to me that he couldn't cross the river to see McCarthy, as he with some of his men had made a raid over there three weeks ago, and carried away some "renegades," one of whom, named Montgomery, they had "left" on the road to Brownsville; by the smiles of the other officers, I could easily guess that something very disagreeable must have happened to Montgomery.

Nine miles further down, they met General Bee, the commander at Brownsville, who stated that he regretted the action the others had taken on Montgomery.

Half an hour after parting company with General Bee, we came to the spot where Montgomery had been "left;" and sure enough, about two hundred yards to the left of the road, we found him.

He had been slightly buried, but his head and arms were above the ground, his arms tied together, the rope still round his neck, but part of it still dangling from quite a small mesquite tree.  Dogs or wolves had probably scraped the earth from the body, and there was no flesh on the bones.  I obtained this my first experience of Lynch law within three hours of landing in America.

Freemantle arrived in Matamoros, a Mexican city with a population of about nine thousand.  His description of the people and culture is fascinating.

The Mexicans look very much like their Indian forefathers, their faces being extremely dark, and their hair black and straight.  The wear hats with the most enormous brims, and delight in covering their jackets and leather breeches with embroidery.

Some of the women are rather good-looking, but they plaster their heads with grease, and paint their faces too much.

...At 10 p.m. Mr. Oetling conducted us to the grand fandango given in honor of the reported victory over the French.  

A Mexican fandango resembles a French ducasse, with the additional excitement of gambling.  It commences at 9:30, and continues until daylight.  The scene is lit up by numerous paper lanterns of various colors.

A number of benches are placed so as to form a large quare, in the centre of which the dancing goes on, the men and women gravely smoking all the time.  Outside the benches is the promenade bounded by the gambling tables and drinking booths.  On this occasion there must have been thirty or forty gambling tables, some of the smaller ones presided over by old women, and others by small boys.

Although the number of people at these fandangoes is very great, the whole affair is conducted with an order and regularity not to be equalled in an assembly of a much higher class in Europe.  If there ever is a row, it is invariably caused by Texans from Brownsville.  These turbulent spirits are at once seized and cooled in the caboose.

Freemantle traveled through Texas, speaking to officers, Mexicans and slaves.

I had a long talk with a big mulatto slave woman, who was driving one of Ward's wagons.  She told me she had been raised in Tennessee, and that three years ago she had been taken from her mistress for a bad debt, to their mutual sorrow.  "Both," she said, "cried bitterly at parting."  She doesn't like San Antonio at all, "too much hanging and murdering for me," she said.  She had seen a man hanged in the middle of the day, just in front of her door.

"...In the afternoon I saw many negroes and negresses parading about in their Sunday clothes -- silks and crinolines -- much finer than their mistresses.

"...The general took me out for a drive in his ambulance, and I saw innumerable negroes and negresses parading about the streets in the most outrageously grand costumes -- silks, satins, crinolines, hats with feathers, lace mantles, etc., forming an absurd contrast to the simple dresses of their mistresses.  Many were driving about in their masters' carriages, or riding on horses which are often lent to them on Sunday afternoons; all seemed intensely happy and satisfied with themselves.

He met Sam Houston on a train for Galveston:

In the cars I was introduced to General Samuel Houston, the founder of Texan independence.  He told me he was born in Virginia seventy years ago, that he was a United States senator at thirty, and governor of Tennessee at thirty-six.  He emigrated into Texas in 1832; headed the revolt of Texas, and defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto in 1836.  

He then became President of the Republic of Texas, which he annexed to the United States in 1845.  As Governor of the State in 1860, he had opposed the secession movement, and was deposed.  Though evidently a remarkable and clever man, he is extremely egotistical and vain, and much disappointed at having to subside from his former grandeur.  The town of Houston is named after him.  In apperance he is a tall, handsome old man, much given to chewing tobacco, and blowing his nose with his fingers.

The politics of slavery was much in discussion on the trip.  I'll share what I deem some of the most interesting:

To my surprise all the party were willing to agree that, a few years ago, most educated men in the South regarded slavery as a misfortune and not justifiable, though necessary under the circumstances.  But the meddling, coercive conduct of the detested and despised abolitionists had caused the bonds to be drawn much tighter.

My fellow travellers of all classes are much given to talk to me about their "peculiar institution," and they are most anxious that I should see as much of it as possible, in order that I may be convinced that it is not so bad as has been represented, and that they are not all "Legrees," although they do not attempt to deny that there are many instances of cruelty.  

But they say that a man who is known to ill treat his negroes is hated by all the rest of the community.  They declare that Yankees make the worst masters when they settle in the South; and all seem to be perfectly aware that slavery, which they did not invent, but which they inherited from us (English), is and always will be the great bar to the sympathy of the civilized world.  

There were forty or fifty Yankee deserts here [Monroe, LA] from the army besieging Vicksburg.  These Yankee deserters, on being asked their reasons of deserting, generally reply, "Our government has broken faith with us.  We enlisted to fight for the Union, and not to liberate the G__d d___d niggers."

Our party left Trinity at 6 a.m. in one big yawl and three skiffs.  In my skiff were eight persons, besides a negro oarsman named "Tucker."  We had to take it in turns to row with this worthy, and I soon discovered to my cost the inconvenience of sitting in close proximity with a perspiring darkie.  This negro was a very powerful man, very vain and susceptible of flattery.  I won his heart by asking him if he wasn't worth 6,000 dollars.  We kept him up to the mark throughout the journey by plying him with compliments upon his strength and skill.  One officer declared to him that he should try to marry his mistress (a widow) on purpose to own him.

On May 15, Freemantle arrived in Natchez:

I believe this early Natchez scene was painted by John James Audubon

Natchez is a pretty little town, and ought to contain about 6,000 inhabitants.  It is built on the top of a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi river, which is about three-quarters of a mile broad at this point.

When I reached Natchez, I hired a carriage, and, with a letter of introduction which I had brought from San Antonio, I drove to the house of Mr. Haller Nutt, distant from the town about two miles.
Haller Nutt

The scenery about Natchez is extremely pretty, and the ground is hilly, with plenty of fine trees.  Mr. Nutt's place reminded me very much of an English gentleman's country seat, except that the house itself is rather like a pagoda, but it is beautifully furnished.

Longwood aka Nutt's Folly because it was never finished.

Mr. Nutt was extremely civil, and was most anxious that I should remain at Natchez for a few days; but now that I was thoroughly wound up for travelling, I determined to push on to Vicksburg, as all the late news seemed to show that some great operations must take place there before long.

I'll save the rest for another blog post, which should be interesting as he witnessed the siege at Vicksburg and the Battle at Gettysburg.  Don't forget to check back for more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Teeny Problem

Well, I knew the time would come, and it has.  We've sold my father's house, and now have to cull through a hundred fifty years of family furniture, mementos, photos and memories and decide what to take and what to give up.  It will be painful parting with things I've known all my life but the house I'm moving into is much, much smaller than this one, so I've no choice.  But frankly the older I get, the more zen I become, wanting to pare down and not be owned by possessions.

But the most painful paring of all will be parting with my father's beloved dogs.  The closer my dad got to his death, the more concerned he became for the lives of other creatures sharing our world.  He lived in the country where people often drive up, stop the car, shove a dog out onto the road and drive off.  Inevitably, the dogs would find his house, following some scent or sense that this was a safe haven.  In fact, he liked to refer to his place as "Cur Haven" rather than the stuffy "Grafton" it had been dubbed years ago.  He never turned away a hungry dog.

The dog in this picture was part of a litter of puppies that we found in the field by the front gate.  They were wild and wouldn't let us catch them, but my dad persevered and was finally able to grab this one, tiny pup.  He was starving and frightened and very sick.  We took him to the vet and got medication for him and dubbed him Teeny.

Well, Teeny's not so teeny anymore.  He's grown and healthy and friendly as can be.  He's also BEAUTIFUL! And now with me moving, he also has a not-so-teeny problem.  He needs to find a forever home.  He's been neutered but probably needs his shots again.  I've also got some dogs that have killed cats before, and although Teeny isn't one of them, he's never encountered one, so I can't say how he'd behave.  He'd be great with kids.  He loves everyone.   If anyone would like to give Teeny a forever home, please contact me at  Please also see my posts about Whitey and Brownie.  They are also looking for homes.

Please also see my posts about Whitey and Brownie.  They are also looking for homes.

How to Pick out the Best Oranges

So a few days ago,  I'm at work and the phone rings:

Boyfriend: Dee, I'm at the grocery store. Do you want me to get anything?

Me: Um....hmm....Yes. Can you get some oranges, please?

Boyfriend: Okay. Bye.

Ring, ring! 

Me: Hello?

Boyfriend: What kind of oranges do you want?


Boyfriend: They have two kinds. Navel and Valencia.

Me: I dunno. Get some of both. But make sure you get the ones with the thin skin.

Boyfriend: What?

Me: Get the ones with the thin skin.

Boyfriend: Thin Skin? How am I supposed to know which ones have thin skin?



Me: They're the ones that cry easily.

Boyfriend: What?

Me: They cry easily. When you tease them.

Boyfriend: Click.


Thin-skinned oranges

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Big Brown Baby

One day last year a woman came to the door with a puppy.  My dad answered the door.

"I found this dog in my yard.  I've got three dogs and can't have another."

So, my tenderhearted dad said to leave him.

"$%#@!!  Did you tell her we've got TEN dogs?  Daddy, you've got to stop taking these dogs!"

Lordy I was mad.

And he wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever seen and he looked suspiciously like a pitt bull.  There are fights that take place not far from our place, and I worry about strays that wind up with us, wondering where they came from and what they've been through.

Well, we named him Brownie (because he's brown) and now a year later he's the sweetest, most affectionate dog of the lot.

I can't go outside without Brownie dashing around the corner of the porch and jumping into my lap for snuggles and love.  And I have to find him a loving home where he'll be happy.  We've sold my dad's house and I'm moving into a small cottage in town.

This dog is guaranteed to bring you joy.  Anyone?  Please?  If you're interested, please email me at  He's neutered and has had his shots, but is probably due for more.

Thank you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

This Modern World

Waiting For Answer by Can Atacan
So last night Boyfriend comes in to tell me I have to get the electricity, gas and water turned on at my new house on Wednesday. 

"Temple's turning hers off on Wednesday and you want yours turned on the second hers is turned off so you can move in smoothly, blah, blah, blah. You can do it by phone for the electricity and gas, but you have to go in person for the water. That'll be more trouble."

Okay. So I call them this morning. I get the little recording that says the wait is 45 minutes to an hour, and if I'll leave my phone number and press the pound key, they'll call me back. So I enter the phone number:

"That is not a valid number. Please try again." 

After three tries, I hang up and call back. I learn that if I go to, I can do it all online. I have telephonophobia, so I go online.

I have to create an account with a user name and password. I pick a security question, etc. All good. Click continue.

So I give them my SS number and my driver's license number, my new address, my old address, blah, blah, blah.

Then it asks if I've had an electrical permit and inspection. Well, the inspector came by. So I have to give a permit number. I go look for my inspection. Can't find it anywhere. Get back upstairs and I've been timed out and logged out.

So I try to log back in.

"There is no account associated with that name."

Great. So I'll just start all over. I enter a username, password, confirm password, e-mail address, confirm e-mail address, pick a security question and a hint, and click "continue."

We're sorry. That username is already in use. 

Yes. It's MY username! The one I picked! It doesn't have an account associated with it because I got bumped out of the system before I got finished! Because of that stupid permit thingie!

So now, it's been about 45 minutes of bullshit, and I'm starting to get peeved. So I decide to call again. I have to go through all the stupid menu of:

"If you speak English, press one; If the account associated with this call is the number you're calling from press one; if you're calling about your bill press one; if you're calling about an electrical outage, press two; if you're calling to stop service, press three; if you're calling to check on a start-service call that's already been made, press four; if you're calling to move service, press five; if you're calling to start service, press six; if you're calling to give us your firstborn son, press seven......BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!

So I press about starting service.

"Please wait while we transfer you're call. The wait is between 10 and 20 minutes."

Then I turn on the speakerphone and put it down so I can do other things while I wait and this godawful Muzak cranks out at eardrum rupturing volume on my iphone. About 15 minutes later a woman comes on the phone. I'm so excited to get someone on the phone I accidentally hit End Call. 

Fortunately, I must not've hit it hard enough, because it didn't hang up. So then I start going through all the information I've already put online with the new woman, and we get all the way to, "Will there be a dog on the premises when we send someone over?" when I notice there are two cats on top of my great grandfather's secretary, and they're knocking everything off of it. The picture of the house on the bluff hits the floor. The photo of my-dad-with-Annet-as-a-baby hits the floor.

"Hang on just a second," I say. "The cats are knocking everything off the secretary."

I sure hope she knows a secretary is a piece of furniture.

I hear this little beep. 

I shoo the cats away and say, "No, there won't be any dogs over there."

No reply.

"Hello? You still there?"

No reply.

I look at my phone. "We sorry. Facetime is not available at this time. WTF? I hit "Okay."

"Hello? Are you there?"


Surely she'll call me back. I'd already given her my all my contact numbers. I was mid-sentence when the call got dropped. She'll call me back, right? Wrong.

Then my realtor calls. I just want you to know I've already arranged for the permit and inspection. Oh! Well, good! 

So I've now spent about two hours of premium morning, coffee-drinking, posting-on-the-internet time on NOTHING. Argh!!!!

Boyfriend comes upstairs. 

"What are you doing?"

So I tell him the whole, awful, like-a-bad-dream-where-you're-naked-and-trying-to-get-back-home-and-can't kind of story. I'm out of breath when I finish.

He looks at me.

"Don't forget to call the gas company."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Angel in a Dog Suit

My first dog was a German Shepherd named Shadow.  That was the sweetest, smartest dog I've ever had.  After we'd left for school in the mornings, Shadow would leave our house on Linton Avenue and walk up to my dad's office downtown and scratch on the door, asking to be let in.  At 2:00  p.m., when school let out, she'd walk to the door and howl, asking to be let out.  When we arrived home, there she was on the porch waiting for us.

A year or two later my dad moved his office from Commerce Street to Main Street.  Somehow, she knew the new location and walked up to Main to visit for the day.  My father used to cradle her in his arms and say, "You're just an angel in a dog suit."

We also had a sitter who came to stay with us every Thursday at 2 p.m.  On Thursdays, instead of going to my dad's office, Shadow walked down to the corner of Linton Avenue and Oak Street to wait for Augusta, whom she adored.  Augusta always brought a stick with which to scratch Shadow's rump.  How did Shadow know it was Thursday?  And sometimes, she'd go visit with my great aunt Annet on Clifton Avenue, always asking to be let back out in time for us to get home from school.  She was brilliant.  I couldn't think about Shadow for years after she died without collapsing in tears.

Now I'm looking for a home for another shepherd, this one snow white like an angel.  If you'd like to meet this angel in a dog suit and consider adopting him, please write me at  I don't want to have to take him to the pound.  He's a sweet, affectionate dog.


Whitey just appeared one day a couple of years ago.  I think he's probably a young dog.  He's beautiful, too.  The shape and size of a German Shepherd.  I think of him as a white German Shepherd. I accidentally ran over him in the driveway one day, and he still loves me anyway. He's friendly, he's neutered and he needs a loving, forever home.  I'm moving soon, and if I don't find homes for these dogs, I can't imagine what I'll do.  Please share these stories with your friends.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dog Days of Summer

Well, I knew the time would come, and it has.  We've sold my father's house, and now have to cull through a hundred fifty years of family furniture, mementos, photos and memories and decide what to take and what to give up.  It will be painful parting with things I've known all my life but the house I'm moving into is much, much smaller than this one, so I've no choice.  But frankly the older I get, the more zen I become, wanting to pare down and not be owned by possessions.

But the most painful paring of all will be parting with my father's beloved dogs.  The closer my dad got to his death, the more concerned he became for the lives of other creatures sharing our world.  He lived in the country where people often drive up, stop the car, shove a dog out onto the road and drive off.  Inevitably, the dogs would find his house, following some scent or sense that this was a safe haven.  In fact, he liked to refer to his place as "Cur Haven" rather than the stuffy "Grafton" it had been dubbed years ago.  He never turned away a hungry dog.
Whitey, Hessie, Teeny and Brownie

Every evening he fed the birds around the house.  Every evening he walked out to the pear tree in the side yard and poured corn for the deer, which congregated in huge numbers under its branches.  He would sit on the porch and watch the deer, his sense of amazement and magic never diminishing through all the years.

During droughts, he'd even pour water into the ruts in the road where tiny frogs hatched from tadpoles, spawned during spring showers.

He fed a couple of colonies of cats around town, never missing a day regardless of the weather. He also brought many of them home. And once in awhile, a cat would emerge from the woods, sensing that same safe haven.
The late, great Tommy Feral snuggling up to Versace.
Fully feral cats learned his voice, came when he called and eventually submitted to his gentle stroke, grateful that life was not so brutal as it had once been.

So now I have 10 dogs and seven cats, and while I can take the cats and one small dog with me, I can't accommodate 9 large dogs in a small house in downtown Natchez.  So I'm asking my readers to help me find homes for the other dogs, who deserve nothing more than to live out their lives in comfort  I'll post one dog per day  Today's dog is Tick Tick:

August 18, 2013 - Tick-Tick found a forever home today with a sweet family with three boys who have another Blue Tick hound, a female.  Tick-Tick should be very happy there!


I found Tick-Tick (a Blue Tick Hound) in the front field one day gnawing on a deer carcass.  It was strange because I've never seen a dead deer just lying out in the open, especially since it wasn't deer season.  At first I thought it was Blue, another of Daddy's Blue Tick's.  The dog saw me driving down the driveway and jumped up and started trying to run after me.  You could almost hear him yelling, "Wait!  Help me!"

Suddenly I realized this wasn't Blue.  This dog was emaciated and limping badly.  So I stopped.  He was so happy to see me.  His front right paw was badly mangled.  His ears were shredded as well as his nose and mouth.  We later decided he'd been caught in a steel trap with a raccoon and had been trapped for weeks until his toes finally fell off and he was able to escape.  Those traps should be illegal.

I opened my car door and Tick-Tick jumped right in.  We took him to the vet where it was learned he had heartworms.  After amputating his leg and neutering him, he stayed at the vet for two months and was treated for the heartworms.  $2,000 later we had one of the sweetest dogs you've ever seen.   He's content to lie on the porch, eating dog food and getting love from anyone who cares to give it.  He's a big, goofy dog and would be wonderful with children.  I have no idea how old he is.

Please write me at if you'd like to meet this dog.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Planting Trees

My father planted these oak and pecan trees in 1973.  He bought 425 acres, built a lake on it, a house on it and lined the drive with oaks and dotted the fields with pecan trees, each bearing a birdhouse.  It's a hopeful thing to do, to plant a tree you know you won't see at its peak.  These trees (the oaks, anyway) will, hopefully, be here 300 years from now, majestic and beautiful. In that way, he left the world a better place than he found it.  One of many things he did.
The front gate

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Something to Remember You By

I bought my father's grave marker yesterday.  Nearly four months after he died.  I don't know what took me so long -- for awhile there I actually forgot about it.  I'm not big on visiting dead relatives, although I love cemeteries.   My loved ones aren't really there. But it's a testament that someone has been here, made their mark on the world and left.   I'd made big plans to put his Natchez poem on the stone, but in the end I decided it wasn't appropriate.

So I drove out to Natchez Monument Company and looked through their catalogue.  It's amazing the array of stones and benches available.  You can have pictures put on them.  Lazer etchings that look three dimensional.  You can add a photo of your loved one if you like.  You can get black, white and pink granite, polished or unpolished.  Slanted markers, straight markers.  But they all look so new.

I love the Natchez Cemetery.  The old grave markers are works of art.  Marble angels, obelisks, broken obelisks with ivy carved on them, pedastals, lambs, cradles, tree trunks, mausoleums, all softened with the patina of hundreds of years.  Some have elaborate wrought iron fences around them.  Some only have the gate left or part of the fence, all nestled under the moss-laden branches of ancient, giant oaks.  It makes the shining new monuments look almost garish in comparison.

In the end I decided an obelisk would be the closest I would come to an old-fashioned monument.  I wondered what to put on it.  Finally, I simply decided on this:

William Howard Pritchartt, Jr.

April 14, 1926 - March 5, 2013

Beloved Father

Veni, Vidi, Vici

When we said our prayers as children at night, we always ended with, "Veni, Vidi, Vici."  I came, I saw, I conquered.  And my father did that.  He was a self-made man who grabbed life by the horns and rode it for all it was worth.

I drove to the cemetery in the evening and looked at our family plot.  There's room left for one more.  I'd like to be buried there when my time comes.  The grave is settling, the mound a little lower than before.  The remains of some peacock feathers were strewn about, put there by a dear friend who knew how much my father loved the peacock she tends at a crumbling old mansion in the country with its own ancient cemetery.  Some of my own ancestors are interred there.  Ancestors I didn't even know about until recently.  Some of the stones are so old, it's hard to see the names, like many at the Natchez City Cemetery.

I thought back to a day I spent with Daddy in the country when he was feeling his mortality.  He talked about people dying:  

"You know, when people die," he said, " really doesn't matter who they were or what they did.  Theyre only remembered by the few people who knew them.  And once those people are gone, you're forgotten.  It's like you were never here at all."

He couldn't imagine not being remembered.  It reminded me of a novel I once read called The Brief History of the Dead.   In the story whenever someone died they went to the realm of the dead, which was very similar to the realm of the living.  As long as someone remembers the person who died and the world they lived in, they lived an alternate existence.  It wasn't until the last person died who remembered you that your own little universe -- and you -- truly ceased to exist.  There was a plague and everyone was dying.  Universes expanded and winked out of existence until the last person on earth had died.  And I guess that's kind of how it is.

Sleep well, Daddy.  You are not forgotten.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Hollow Space


A Hollow Space

A Hollow Space 
By Elodie Pritchartt

"The big sweetgum by the front gate finally died." 

Every death affected him these days, animal or vegetable. 

"Oh, really?" I answered, still unaware of its significance in the scheme of things.

"I took the tractor and went down to the gate to cut it down the
 other day." 

He crushed a pecan with a hammer. Shells skittered across the counter and spilled onto the floor.

"I hooked a cable onto it, up high so I could pull it down, you know?"

I nodded, having seen it done many times before. "

And then I went to cut a vee out so it'd fall the way I wanted it to. It's a big tree."

I shuddered. He had no business pulling down trees like that sweetgum. He was eighty-two, and still doing the work of a younger man. But to tell him otherwise would be cruel. Better to let him die quick and violent than to take away his power.

I remembered the time we brought the pony into town in the back of
 the Scout. The pony wouldn't budge. He was a stubborn brute with a mean streak. Finally, he reached down and picked up its front hooves and put them on the tailgate. Then he squatted down behind its hindquarters and lifted while we children watched, astonished, as muscles strained and bulged and 600 pounds of horse was heaved bodily into the truck bed.

Those boys are men now. They still talk about it in tones of marvel and wonder.

"Well, when I started making the cut, I got about six inches in, and realized it was hollow. So I worried that it might not fall
 the way I wanted. I called Power & Light and told them they’d better send some people out to cut it down. It could fall the other way and bring down those lines out on the road. You know?"

I nodded, quiet.
"It was the weekend. So I left it hooked to the tractor 'til they came out on Monday. They brought a crane and cut it off at the top, got it down to a manageable size. Then they said, 'Let's go ahead and pull it down with the tractor.' So we pulled it over. It broke about halfway up the trunk. And you know? It was the strangest thing." 

"What was?"
"When it broke, the front half of the trunk fell off, but left the rest of the tree standing. And inside the trunk, about six feet up, was a horseshoe hanging on a nail."

"You're kidding." 

"No. You should've seen the look on the faces of those men. That tree had to be over a hundred years old. And it was solid, all the way around. No knotholes, nothing. And six inches thick.

I had to see. Before we left the house, he put the cat outside. 

“Oh, no,” he said as he opened the door. “There’s a dead chipmunk out here. One of the cats probably killed it.”

“He's brought you a present.”

I smiled.
 He didn't. 

“I wish they wouldn’t. They’re cute little things and I hate to see them dead.”

It surprised me to see him so upset over a chipmunk. I could remember when we were little, and he’d come home with a deer he’d killed. He’d hang it from the rafters in the barn, make a cut all the way around its neck and set a hook into the skin. He’d attach a chain to the hook and attach the other end to the bumper of the Scout. Then he’d back the Scout up, pulling the skin clean off the deer. It was quick and bloody with a thick, coppery smell that hung in the air. He didn’t give it a second thought.

Now he spent his days putting out salt licks and corn, and chasing off anyone who dared try to poach a deer, in season or no.
 It was late afternoon and the light was slanting at sharper angles, sending shadows out across the field. We stopped by the workshop in the woods.

"See that metal post right there?"


"Okay, now look over there."

He pointed to another post some distance away.

“Those two posts are forty feet apart. If you take a string and tie it between the posts and measure 20 feet, that's where you'll find the water line for the house. I know because it broke one time and I had a heck of a time trying to find it. When I did, I made sure to mark it. I couldn't mark the exact point because it's in the roadbed, but you measure, and that's where it is.
 I'm probably the only person who knows that."

He sighed and his shoulders seemed to sag.

"You’re going to need to know these things when I’m gone.”

I nodded but couldn’t speak. 

“You know, when people die, it really doesn't matter who they were or what they did. They're only remembered by the few people who knew them, and once those people are gone, you’re forgotten. It's like you were never here at all."

I knew he was right. I’d thought it, myself, on occasion.
 We spied two deer eating acorns under the oaks before they saw us and fled for the woods. 
"Brandon died day before yesterday."

“Oh, no. ”

Brandon was the golden retriever he’d rescued a couple of years ago. He couldn’t stand seeing a dog without a home and he now had a pack of about 14 dogs. At least two or three times a day, they’d gather in the front yard. One would begin with short, high yips and within a moment the others would join in, howling and yipping at ghosts.

Brandon had been a steady quiet, companion who never complained. 

“Remember how he chased after the car the last time you were here? A few days later he just lay down and died. He seemed just fine, and then he died.”
I wondered how old he'd been.
We stopped beneath the oaks from which the deer had fled. He showed me how to tell the difference between a buck and a doe.

“The scat the doe leaves looks like little round balls, like pebbles. See?” 

I looked.

“Now, look over here. This is a buck.”

Several mounds of scat, larger than the first, like little mushrooms bloomed beneath the tree among the acorns and the leaves. I thought about all the lessons I’d missed by moving so far away. 

By the gate, the trunk still stood as he'd left it. I looked down into the hollow. Twisted through the trunk was some ancient barbed wire that emerged again on the outside of the tree.

"Only thing I can figure," he said, "is somebody hung that shoe on that fence a hundred or more years ago, and the tree just grew around it." 

He reached in and pulled out the shoe where he'd hung it.

"Well, I'll be," I said, shaking my head.
 I wondered why the shoe hadn't become embedded in the tree. Who had put that shoe on the nail? How long had they been gone? Does anyone remember them? I tried to remember when barbed wire was invented. How many people had come and gone since that day? 

I remembered the arrowheads we'd found in the lakebed a few years before, just feet from that spot.

"I'm tired," he said. "I don't know why I'm always tired lately."

We started back to the house so he could lie down for awhile 
in the cool of the evening.