Life in southern Mississippi was hard. Sometimes it was just too hard to deal with as we discovered in the years ahead. Mister was the one true constant, the one purpose I had to get up each morning. Now, I would be remiss if I were to not say Mister was not what you call a “friendly dog.” He was far from it. In fact, he would only allow me to feed him. That angered my father very much. He wanted to get rid of him for daring to snap at him. No way that was going to happen, at least, in my mind. I told my old man to let me work with him, to give Mister a chance. He told me he would give me three days to change Mister’s disposition toward him and the rest of the family. Well, he really meant himself. My old man just added “family” to give himself some leeway in deciding whether to get rid of him. The pressure was really on my young shoulders.
I started with my little brother. That worked fairly quickly. Then it was time for my sister. This is when we ran into trouble. Mister snapped at her and actually lunged for her. She was going to “go tell daddy” what Mister had done. I begged her not to, that “daddy” would shoot Mister if she told him. I had to make a deal with her that she could have my slice of apple pie after dinner if she would keep quiet. She agreed to the offer. But, the problem was that Mister was still having problems getting along with family members. I know this is silly and you may stop reading my story after I state this. But, I had a “talk” with Mister as the deadline approached for Mister to take food from my father. Mister was still refusing to allow my sister to feed him. I told Mister that if he didn’t take food from my old man, he would most likely get a bullet in the back of the head. That is how people disposed of dogs who couldn’t pull their weight back in the day. I “talked” long and hard to Mister. I told him how much I loved him, that maybe I was the only person on earth that truly loved and understood him. I didn’t want Mister to die, not as young as he was at the moment. I did not know if my talk did any good. But, I decided it would not hurt. My father would be coming home at the end of the day. He made it known to me not to feed Mister. My old man would attempt to feed Mister one last time. I had done all I could do.
My father’s ’58 Oldsmobile pulled up to the dirt driveway and parked. He slowly got out of the car and looked at me and Mister. “You better not have fed that dog after me telling you not to, boy,” Said my father. God, how I hated that man. “I haven’t. We have been waiting on you,” I said. It was now or never for Mister. His fate would be decided in the next couple of minutes as my father got a few food scraps at the table. As he walked toward us, I heard Mister let out a low, but ominous growl. “No Mister! No! Not now,” I thought. I also thought that Mister hated him as much as I did….and with good reason. “Now, let’s see what this dog has learned in the past three days,” my father said loudly and with effect. I just closed my eyes. I couldn’t look. I just knew Mister was not only ready to snap at my old man, but possibly bite him. That would have been the end for Mister with 100% certainty. My father held a few rib bones in his hand to see what Mister would do. He was daring Mister to bite him. I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling at my old man and telling him this wasn’t fair. He was setting Mister up for failure. Mister sniffed his hand, and gave my old man a “I-wish-I-could-bite-the-hell-out-of-you” look. Unbelievably, Mister gently took the rib bones out of the my father’s hands, walked back to his little shed and started munching down on the ribs. I was shocked. Shocked beyond words. Call it a miracle from God, call it whatever you wish. But, Mister just ensured himself at least one more day of life and possibly many more. My father said, “I guess you did a good job with him. Go in the house and get the rest of the scraps.” I went in and saw his shotgun by the kitchen door. He had already made plans to kill Mister. Was it possible to hate him even more? Well, I managed to do it.
My old man never attempted to feed Mister again. Perhaps he didn’t want to push his luck either. What I didn’t know was that my mother had warned him, before he left the house out to feed Mister, that if he killed Mister, out of spite because I loved Mister, she would take us and leave him. I didn’t know how we would make it without my father’s paycheck back in those days. But, my mother was ready to leave if he killed my beloved beagle, Mister. As it turns out, my mother, brave soul that she was, left my old man anyway. We left BullMarket in 1960 and moved to Mobile, Alabama. There Mister would prove to be not only my protector, but the protector of all of us during those dark days.