GARDENING BY RONELLA: Growing up with many different animals
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jul 24, 2013 | 78 78 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The next few weeks will be spent weeding, watering and spraying to just keep flowerbeds and shrubs alive. So it seems an appropriate time to write about my favorite subjects, animals that I have known and loved, both as a child and as an adult.

A father who loved animals, all animals, raised my two sisters and me along with a mother who loved a few animals but mostly loved them best when they were outside. Mama was a farm girl whose parents rarely let dogs inside and never had cats.

My sisters and I were allowed to have any animal we wanted, no strings attached, and that made for some bizarre situations. We had a pet groundhog, a squirrel, rabbits, Banty chickens, kittens galore, dogs, a whole family of mice, and more. I became quite good at raising little wild critters. I once found a bed of tiny mice, so little they didn’t have their eyes open, whose mother had been killed. I took them home, put them in a lard can and fed them with a medicine dropper and raised them. When they got big enough to jump out of the lard can, Mama said, “Out they go” so Daddy and I took them all to a flour mill and turned them loose. Pretty sneaky way to get rid of my mice family.

There are too many stories about our pets to write about in just a few articles so this article will be about an unusual dog. In past articles, I have mentioned our dog, Red Buck about whom a whole book could be written. In trying to think of a word that best describes Red Buck, I thought of the word “noble”. Buck was a combination of several breeds, among them might be German shepherd, bull terrier, and boxer just to name a few possibilities. He was a large dog with short red fur and a beautiful face. He was not a handsome dog but all of my family loved him, as did my grandparents who lived about two miles from us. Now, Buck claimed both families as his families. He would walk the two miles to my grandparents’ home, visit them, check out the stable and the mules and after a good visit, he trotted off to go to our home. When he first got to Ma and Pa’s, he greeted Ma and she would say, “Well, there is my Buck. Do you wand a buttered biscuit, Buck?” He would show his teeth in a big grin and eat his treat. He had no competition at either house because Pa’s last dog had died and Daddy didn’t have a dog at the time, either.

Buck was very protective of his families. A man who lived on our farm and worked for Daddy was very afraid of Buck and for good reason. Daddy had to go on a business trip and left Buck in charge. The man was supposed to bring in wood for Mama’s stove at night and Buck met him at the gate and wouldn’t let him in. Mama went to the door to call Buck and the man said, “I’m going to get my rifle and come back and kill that dog”. When he came back, Mama was standing at the door with her rifle aimed at that man and she said, “If you shoot my dog, I’ll shoot you dead”. He left and didn’t come back since it would have been a big mistake to shoot Buck with a crack rifle shot staring him down. It was kind of like O K Corral.

When I was just a baby of 1 or 2 years, Mama would spread a quilt near the clothesline and tell Buck to watch the baby. He lay down beside me and every few minutes, he would make a trip all around the area of the quilt and then go back and lie down. He was patrolling for snakes, his most hated enemies. Once, as a toddler, I reached for a pretty rose and Buck ran in front of me and grabbed a copperhead before he could strike. Mama thought for a minute that he was attacking me until she saw him snap that snake and kill it.

One night Pa heard a terrible racket on the front porch. He looked out and could barely see in the dark that Buck was fighting with another big dog. He told Ma to keep me in the hall where there were no windows and he said, “Don’t open that door until I yell at you to do so” and then he stepped out on the porch with a shotgun. He could never get a clear shot for fear of killing Buck. Finally the dog ran out to the road and left. Buck dragged himself the two miles to our house. Pa called Daddy on the neighborhood telephone to say that Buck had been fighting what appeared to be a rabid dog and was on his way home. Daddy took him to the nearest vet to get a rabies shot but the vet told him to keep Buck fastened up for 40 days. Daddy cut a little window in a bedroom door and every morning, he would look at Buck who would be wagging his tail and alive and well; Daddy would then let him out to run and eat and then put him back in the room till night when he would do the same routine. He never had rabies and lived to be an old dog. There are so many more stories about Buck, some funny and some sad but none who knew big Red Buck ever forgot that wonderful brave, loyal, loving and funny dog. More stories of Buck to follow.

Thank you for allowing me to reminisce in this column. Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with suggestions, questions or complaints. I will always have time to talk to you.
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