Uncle Charlie Tales

................stories about upland game birds, bird dogs, and shotguns but mostly about the man who loves all three

Uncle Charlie and the New Puppy

Looking back on it I can't remember a time when there was a shortage of bird dogs in Uncle Charlie’s pen except when Mac’s only offspring left with Jolene. Ah, she was a cute little thing; Jolene, that is. Five years old, blue eyed, blonde headed – the kind of little girl that every daddy loves more than life itself and the kind that drives a cold dagger of fear right through his heart when he thinks about that day in the future when she'll leave him for another man.

The puppy was cute too. Uncle Charlie had received a request from the kennel in Ohio where Mac had been whelped and they needed his input desperately to reestablish one of their bloodlines.

I got Uncle Charlie's call on an April afternoon in my office.

“Hey!” I heard on the other end when I answered.

“Hey yourself,” I replied.

In his usual immediate manner, Uncle Charlie launched into his instructions. “I need you to do me a favor. I’ll meet you in Macon in front of the Tattnall Square Baptist Church at noon on Thursday. We need to send Mac to Ohio for a spell.”

Now Tattnall Square Baptist Church was the only place in Macon he knew how to get to since he had driven my momma and daddy up there right before the war to get married. Something about how they knew the preacher there and that was what they both wanted to do.

I pulled the details out of him and reluctantly agreed to keep Mac overnight and take him to the air freight terminal early Friday morning. I certainly didn’t regret any time spent with Mac, the best bird dog any of us had ever known, but it was knocking a hole in my schedule that I would have to work doubly hard to overcome the next week.

And of course six months later in early October I had to do it all again when Mac flew back to Atlanta from Ohio after successfully re-establishing his progeny. But this time Mac had company; a little ball of seven week old white and orange fur. She was not a true orange belton as she had almost solid orange ears but boy was she a cutie. My wife named her Madge that night she spent with us. When I told Uncle Charlie the next day he said, “Well, okay, at least I’ll already have my mouth set right when I call her and Mac.”

I got weekly progress reports from Madge for two weeks. “This pup is smarter than any pup I’ve ever owned.” “Madge did this and Madge did that.” I got tired of hearing the phone ring because I just knew it was another Madge report. I must admit to a touch of jealously because she was a darn cute puppy.

And then there was a sudden family gathering down home. A distant cousin, Marlene who lived in of all places, South Dakota, was coming to visit to take care of some family business and Mom called and asked us to come down to see Marlene and her family on Sunday. It had been a while since any of us had seen Marlene so we took off right after the early service on Sunday and made it just in time for the big afternoon meal. There were aunts and uncles, cousins and cousin-in-laws, old family friends there; all the folks that make my life more than interesting and of course Marlene, her husband John Fox and little daughter, Jolene. Marlene had met and married John during the war when she worked at Ft. Benning. After the war she had moved to his home in South Dakota.

I caught Uncle Charlie’s eye about halfway through the meal and I knew something was up. After dessert he walked out on the porch and I followed him. I could hear him muttering under his breath, “I’m a damn ol’ fool. Just a damn ol’ fool.”

I didn’t say anything. I just stood close and waited. He’d tell me what was bothering him soon enough.

And sure enough, it came tumbling out in a torrent. “They came over to the house this morning, the whole lot of ‘em. Your mom was with them. I knew it was a bad idea when I said it but I told the little girl, Jolene, to come with me and I’d show her my new puppy. Bad, bad mistake. She’s cute you know, that little girl. Prettiest blue eyes I’ve seen in our family in a long time. Well we get out to the pen and Madge, She’s a bouncing and yipping and all excited about seeing a little person, so I let her out and Bubba let me tell you, I ain’t never seen the likes of it in my life. That little Jolene she just sat down in the grass and started laughing and that little Madge was all over her. Not nipping, mind you, but licking. I never saw her nip that girl once and you know how puppies are – they nip. She never nipped – just licked and I thought she’d wag her tail plumb off. You never saw instant love before until you saw those two loving on each other right there in the yard.”

I knew what was coming next, I just knew it. He raved on, “I must be getting soft in the head. What was I thinking about? I gave that little girl my puppy!” And when he said it he looked at me like he was confessing to the biggest sin of his life.

I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “Why you lowdown ol’ hypocrite. You’re expect me to listen to your whining about giving your best bird dog prospect in years to the daughter of a woman who is married to a South Dakota farmer who owns and farms over 2000 acres in prime pheasant territory?”

He looked at me, winked, and grinned as he said, “Be damned if I didn’t, didn’t I?”

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Blogger Shawn K. Wayment, DVM said...

Jim...I really enjoy your stories! Keep em coming!

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Walter Bruning said...

I just found this through the link at Shawn's blog. You are a master story teller, sir! I intend to read everything on your blog and try to learn from you. This is classic "Americana" I have relatives in Georgia and Uncle Charlie sure fits the mold.

Walter Bruning

6:19 PM  

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