Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"X" Marks the Spot

When I was growing up, not that the process was ever completed, we had a Hobo’s “X” marked on our front door. You couldn’t see it; but all the same it was there. Stray animals wandering the neighborhood would recognize the mark and know they were welcome to stop in for a meal and safe lodgings for as long as needed. Some of them became members of our extended family.

One time there was a lonely “hound mix” waiting for us to open the front door. He looked like he was on his last leg so my parents invited him in for a meal and a bowl of water. He didn’t venture very far into the house; content to be in out of the elements, he stayed in the entry way.

At the time we already had two pets, a large rust colored dog named Gritz and a feisty old grey cat, Topsey. Gritz was easy going and saw no problem letting the stranger in; Topsey, on the other paw, drew an imaginary line on the floor letting the interloper know he was on thin ice.

This was the Sixties and a popular television show in our house was Bonanza. One of the episodes had a hound sleeping on the porch of a back woods friend. Now and then the hound would move in its sleep. The dog shook its head when a fly landed on its ear and the owner remarked, “Walter’s getting excited”, as the dog went back to his slumbers.

We observed the “energy challenged” dog in our entry way the rest of the evening. The hound was so tired he fell asleep while leaning against the wall; his loose fitting frame sliding slowly down the wall and into a heap on the floor. We knew right away; his name must be Walter.

When it was time for bed it was decided the dog was to stay inside, something which everyone except Topsey thought was a good idea. Later in the night we awoke to the hound’s plea for help. Topsey had taken it upon herself to corner Walter and chastise him for trespassing.

Walter was indeed cornered; Topsey had a low growling threat escaping her mouth as her ears fixated on the cowering dog in the corner. Every now and then Walter would look to the heavens and let go with a mournful howl as if it were his last breath on this earth. Topsey would have been satisfied with that; but Walter was saved from eminent destruction that day and eventually become part of the family.

Walter wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box and never figured out Topsey hadn’t signed the family contract adopting him. Topsey would set traps for Walter from time to time and enjoyed taking a piece of Walter’s nose when the poor dolt would fall into those traps.

Topsey would lie upside down on the floor pretending to be asleep. Walter would study the situation for a while and cautiously approach to see if she was in deed asleep. He would inch closer and observe no discernable movement until he was directly over her. At precisely the right moment Topsey’s front paws would surround Walter’s nose, claws extended, as she’d bite him. There would be a yelp as Walter retreated and a quite moment of satisfaction from Topsey as she marked her score card. Walter never learned from experience and fell for the ploy numerous times.

That was then and this is now, isn’t that how the line goes. The Hobo’s X that was on my parent’s home somehow managed to find my own home regardless of where we’ve lived. In reality, that Hobo’s X isn’t on the house, at least not the structure; it’s on our hearts. These wandering creatures are able to see into our hearts and recognize a gentle spirit, one who will graciously offer a meal or safe haven without expecting much, if anything in return.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.


David said...

Need to change your name to "Old Softie" eh? ;-)

T. F. Stern said...

David, You got me there...