Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Coon Hunt on Isle of Dauphine

The moon shone high reflecting off the glistening waters of the Gulf. The sea breeze had picked up sending salty vapor over the island clearing my sinuses. My cotton shirt and pants stuck to me from the gathering of moisture and streaming sweat. If Grandma Emma knew that I wore pants she would faint from embarrassment. I could hear her high shrill screeching voice, “ A ‘Lady’ should never be seen wearing mans clothing it is ungodly.” She had absolutely no inkling of my other secret but Grandpa did and would smile everytime she went into her unladylike rants concerning me. He and I both knew that she would absolutely die of embarrassment to know that our family held such a secret, not only about me but also my brother and my father (her son-in-law). I was thankful that I was here on the island with Nicholas (my older brother) and not in Mobile attending the tea parties and dinner engagements that Sophie (my twin sister) was having to attend,atleast she enjoyed those things.
In the distance I could hear the baying of Jake and Speck they must have treed a coon. Reluctantly, I turned from the shore and made my way through palmettos and thick green foliage of the inner most parts of the island. Uncle Max, my mother’s older brother, could be heard blowing on his old cow horn the thick moist night air vibrated with low deep sound of horn. I picked up my pace afraid Uncle Max would get winded form his excited blowing and passes out from lack of oxygen. Following the horn I arrived at a small clearing to find that Jake had climbed half way up a low growing scrub oak and was trying to pick his way up toward the thin upper branches.
“Bought’ time,” Nicholas growled at me.
“Your dog keeps tryin' to climb up after the stupid thing. It was all I could do not to him. He is lucky I only brought three shells with me.”
“Well I am sure he is grateful,” I replied with a hint of sarcasm. “but he would have been more grateful if you were a better shot.” He snarled at me this time. A hint of anger flashed across is indigo eyes.
“Jake, Speck come!”, Jake sailed out of the tree to land at my feet. Speck laid down continuing to stare intently toward the tree top of the neighboring water oak.
I smiled at Nicholas with satisfaction. Uncle Max hollered “Boy shoot!” with that Nicholas pulled the trigger and the coon jumped to a larger water oak scurrying to the higher upper branches. When the gun smoke finally desipated two round eyes peered down at us from a fork in the tree. I think he was laughing. Uncle Max let out a grunt, “I think you might have hit a few hairs son.” I could hear Nicholas swearing under his breath. “Get him Jake!” I whispered and the hunt was back on. Both dogs took off for the oak and Jake once again tried to climb up the tree after the black eyed bandit. The coon realizing his best chance of survival would be to skeedaddle away from the glowering eyes and nashing teeth of the crazy dog trying to climb up and get him, sailed to the outstretched limbs of a neighboring white oak, with Jake and Speck still hot on his trail.
Uncle Max looked at Nicholas, “Boy would you like for me to try this time? You missed him by a foot. I thought you Savants were good shots, boy you might need to break the rust out, your aim is stuck?”
“Very funny Uncle Max!” Nicolas angrily growled as he stomped off in the direction the dogs following their baying. I shrugged innocently at Uncle Max and followed Nicholas. Uncle Max brought up the rear laughing silently under his breath. Nicholas’s next shot was true, sending the old male coon flopping through the branches to land in a quiet thud at his feet. Nicholas smiled with satisfaction. “Bought time, I thought I was gonna have to let Old Jake catch him if you had missed again.” Nicholas rolled his eyes and grabbed the coon before Speck took a bite.
Nicholas and Uncle Max had set up camp on the freshwater lake located on the east end of the island near the fort. Uncle Max had left some oyster stew on the fire and the smell drifted toward us as we approached. My stomach growled with a menace, the blue crabs we had eaten for lunch earlier had worn off leaving me starving. I quickly set to getting the bowls, spoons and cups out. I truly enjoyed my time spent on the island.

It was early September and the weather was still extremely warm which was fine with me. With the summer coming to an end I dreaded the up and coming debutant ball. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy going to balls it was the meaning that this particular ball held, getting married and having lots of children. Sophie and I had finished up our last semester at Marshall Institute in Springhill. The we studied music, French, reading, etiquette, how to be a good wife/mother …etc.; Many of the girls I had gone to school with would be returning for the ball as well. This I did look forward to, spending time going to the many plays, picnics and parties with them.

Nicholas would be stating in the city to attend Alabama School of Medicine located in Mobile. I am not sure what I would do if he had decided to move far away in October. I watched him as he built the fire and wondered what this next year held for us. I felt as if something was about to happen that was going to change everything about who we are and what we are destined to become.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Morning on the Farm

“Bugs,” I mumbled. “Get off my face!” He continued purring and rubbing his long fuzzy orange fur across my cheek. Aagh! There is nothing like cat fur stuck up your nose first thing in the morning. Grabbing a pillow I rolled over and covered my face. Unfortunately this did not stop his constant pestering. Thump. Muffled by the pillow I hollered at him again, “Bugs, get off my head!” He didn’t even budge and I knew he wouldn’t until I tried to get up. “Fine.” I grumbled. “I’ll get up.” Tossing the pillow off my head I hoped it had tossed him too. Unfortunatelu he gracefully landed on all four feet right smack in the middle of my pink rose rug. “Darn, I was hoping you would get mad and leave.” He just returned my comment with the ‘cat stare’. Unbleaking, as if he was innocently being accused of irritating me. He sat on my rug patiently as I fumbled around for my pink slippers and white iolet robe. “Nellie!” I croaked. Oh, were is she? She knows I can’t find anything early in the morning. “Nellie!” I croaked a little louder. Then it hits me, Oh yeah I forgot that I had given her the day off. She had wanted to go with Mary our cook to take some food to Anna May Turner over on the river. With three young kids and a new baby she was having a hard time since her husbands sudden disappearance a month ago.

Finally finding my robe and slippers I turn and look at that adorable cat of mine, “OK, Bugs come on lets go get somethin to eat.” He lead the way happily and I shuffled behind him, it had been only a month since my riverboat accident and I still had many aches and pains – especially in the morning time. Making our way down the stairs to the kitchen I hoped that something had been left to eat on the table for me. 'I love my Mary, our cook,' I thought to myself as I entered the kitchen. Laying on the table were several sweet rolls and a glass of warm milk. “Look a here Bugs we are loved.” Grabbing a saucer from the cabinet, I poured a small amount of my warm milk into it for the ungrateful thing. He almost spilt the milk on the floor as he grabbed for the saucer with his white furry paws, nearly spilling the milk all over his gigantic biscuit size head.

“Bugs. Show some patience, if you are that hungry why don’t you go kill a mouse or somethin. Earn your keep like a respectable cat.” As I sat eating my breakfast the events of the last few days began to unfold in my mind. Bringing back the horrible scenes from the riverboat explosion. I was grateful to not have been hurt more than what I had, bruised ribs and a concussion will heal.

The house echoed of quiet, everyone had left. Dad and Nicholas were in Montgomery; Mama, Sophie and Phillip were in Mobile. Grandma Birdie must have gone home, she only lived a mile away across the pasture.

My thoughts wondered to the local talks and news. Which had escalated concerning Alabama and other southern territories succeeding from the Union, but most of the concern (atleast to me) are the talks of possibly a war between the states. I really hoped it didn’t come to that. I was waiting for Papa and Nicholas, hopefully with good news. We had plans of riding together to Mobile for the ball season.

A soring howl belowed through the door breaking my chain of thought, Jet had heard me in the kitchen. Bugs instantly fuzzed up staring at the door hissing daring Jet to come through the door. “You two! will you ever get along? Ok Jet just a minute and you too Bugs.” Picking up my dishes along with the saucer from the floor, I placed them in the sink. I would wash them later.

‘Maybe Nicolas left an old pair of breaches in his room?’I thought to myself. I dug through his closet and found a pair that looked about my size. Removing my robe, nightgown and slippers, I slide on the pants. They were a little big in the waist but the length was fine. ‘Good’I thought. Looking through his shirts I found one that he couldn’t wear anymore and quickly slid it over my head. Grabbing my boots from beside the door I walked out onto the porch. Jet made a bee-line for Bugs as he dashed out the door and ran up a nearby cotton wood tree. “Boys, can we just try to get along!” Huffing in disgust of my animal friends I sat down on the porch and slid my boots on tieing them snuggly. “Come on Jet let’s go! Bugs get down out of that tree and earn your keep.” Bugs hissed in reply warning me and Jet. I smiled at my cranky biscuit headed orange cat. Jet gave a low growl in the direction of Bugs then turned with his head held as if he had accomplished something.
The sun hung high over the barnyard along with the smells of smoke and hot iron. Ole’ Joe had his smithy going and seem deep in concentration when I approached. “Hey, Joe how’s it goin this morning?” I asked. Joe was our stable hand who helped my father manage the horses and take care of the farm. Mary his wife was our cook and a glorious one at that too.

I listened to his heavy Negro drawl deep and low when it reached my ears.

“Ole’ Dude throwd a shoe lastnight and hurtzs his fron hoov. Yous wuzn’t plannin on ridin hims todays was ya?” he replied.

“Well, actually I was but I guess Jet will just go for a long walk instead.”

“Werz ya gonna walk to?” he asked.

“Probably down toward the creek and maybe over to see Grandma Birdie. Why?” I replied alittle irritated that he was asking me it was none of his business where I was going.

“Naws don go get madz wit me Miz Claire. I jus tolz ya Pa thats I’d look afta ya wilz he wuz gon.” He replied. I shouldn’t have snapped at him like that he had a good reason to ask. Joe was one of our best workers and one of my favorites. Him and Mary made a great pair.

“Is Dude OK?” I asked.

“Yez, Miz Claire, jus a lil banged up wit a few scratches. But hed be fine. Don’t ya worry.” He replied.

“Will he be ok to go to Mobile in two days?”

“oh sur.”

“Good. Thanks Joe” I smiled at him and walked in the barn to check on Dude. Jet stopped to say Hello to Joe and get a biscuit from his pocket.

Dude was behind the barn in the paddock with his old head stuck in a feed bucket. “Hey Dude, I hear you had a wild night last night! How ya’ feelin’?” I asked him. A low rumble vibrated from the bucket.

Lifting the wood latch on the gate I entered the paddock. I Started by his whithers and made my may down his back, I enjoyed doing this and liked to watch his skin jump and shiver when I hit particular tickle spots. Apparently he liked it too, because he never seemed to complain. His rump and all four legs had a few scratches but nothing to get worried about , nothing seemed to be tender to the touch. In checking his stomach I could feel its juices rumbling, this was a good sign that everything was working properly. Horses can be very sensitive to undue stress which can cause them to colic then die. I’d have to hurry because following the rumble of the stomach was horrendous gas. Reaching his neck I checked for any puncture wounds or bite marks and found none. Relieved I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a huge hug. He stopped eating and layed his big head on my back hugging me in return. After giving him a kiss on his cheek I turned and left the paddock satisfied that he was going to be alright.

“Come on Jet we have work to do. Bye Dude, try and be good for Ole’ Joe.” I received a nicker in response. Smiling I turned with Jet at my heels and walked toward the pasture.

Speck, my little brother Phillipe’s hound, met us at the gate, “So you decided to join us, huh.” An exuberant tale wag and toothy smile was my answer. “Well come on then. Jet leave those poor squirrels alone.” I hollered. Realizing we were fixing to leave him he raced for the gate before I closed it. Jet and Speck took to hunting for critters has I waded through the tall stalks of brown saw grass. I smiled taking in the wild, musty smells of the world around me thanking God that I lived another day. Wondering if the rabbits running in the opposite direction from the dogs and I where thinking the same thing.