I can remember the day as if it was yesterday. It was a long time ago though, circa 1960. My Dad rolled up in the yard in his 1954 Ford. Riding shotgun was the biggest, slobbering Boxer bulldog anyone could imagine. Three beaming, excited kids fell all over ourselves getting out the front door to meet him.
"Daddy! Daddy! What's his name?"
"Well, they call him John, " He said, "But his registered name is Big Bad John. Just get him some water for now, and I'll bring food for him when I get back from town...and leave him tied up until he gets used to the place or he might run off."
He spoke as he chained him to the tree in the side yard and never looked back as he jumped in his car and sped off toward the poker house...and the firewater. He never heard my brother's question, "Is he OURS?"
The answer came from an angry voice on the porch. "No, HELL NO! He's NOT OURS!" Mother yelled. "That dog is not living here!"
She ordered us in the house and dared us to touch the dog. We couldn't get him water and much less food. He'd never leave if we fed him. She spent the next hour in a tirade mumbling about him "always bringing her more work to do" while he "went off and got drunk," and "no sirree Bob" it wasn't gonna work this time. That dog would be gone when he got back just as soon as she figured out a way to be rid of him. Being the oldest child and about fourteen at the time, I knew what she was ranting about. Dad was famous for going off to play poker (and drink) with other farmers. Sometimes they had poker money, and sometimes they didn't. Lack of money didn't stop them...farm animals were legal tender, and they played for them too. Mother had her fill of bucket feeding his poker winnings of 3-day old calves. It gets worse. She would raise them to healthy yearlings and he would haul them off to the cattle sale. He pocketed the money himself...or just as likely, pitched a two-week drunk on it. The fruits of her labor never made it home. By that age, I could easily understand her anger.
But...I wanted that dog!
About the time I realized how bad I wanted him, Mother had decided how she was going to get rid of him. She marched outside, took him off the chain and commenced to throwing gravel out of the driveway at him, trying to run him off. John had other ideas. He thought he'd like living on the farm, and decided to stick around in spite of having to dance around dodging rocks. The fact that he wouldn't run away just frustrated her more. She was picking up gravel by the handsful and chucking them at him to no avail. John just danced and dodged on the outer perimeters of the yard until she finally wore herself out and came back in the house. I doubt she hit him with the first rock. If she did, John was none the worse for the wear. He sneaked up on the porch, checked all his perimeters, yawned, and settled in for a nap. He was home. He just had to convince HER!
John seized his golden opportunity to worm his way into my mother's cold heart about 3 AM when Pop came home...quite inebriated. He didn't smell like he did earlier in the day, and John wouldn't let him out of the car. He tried several times, but each time he opened the door, John lunged at him. The door shut quickly. He was trapped in his car and my mother was falling in love. Finally, he resorted to blowing the car horn until she opened the door to see what he wanted. He yelled through an inch wide crack in the car window, "Tell this SOB who I am!"
"YOU tell him!" She yelled back as she slammed the door. The next thing I knew, she was pulling slabs of bacon, sausage, and eggs from the fridge. She put on a pot of grits and made homemade biscuits and gravy like there was a dozen or more coming for breakfast. I looked at the clock and had to ask, "Mama, why are you making all this food in the middle of the night?"
"For me and MY dog," she said, "And anybody else who wants to eat."
Indeed, John was ours.