We moved from Bullmarket in October of 1961. My grandmother and the mother of my father, helped us move. I know that sounds strange to you. But, she did so because she loved us. At least, that is what I have always tried to believe. In 1961, I had just turned 10 years old in September. It was strange going from the deep wooded area of southern Mississippi to the city life of a mid-sized town like Mobile. Even though Mobile was the city of my birth, my hometown, I hated the place. I despised it. I hated my 5th grade teacher, Miss Martin, even more. She was a fiery red head and was mean as hell. To make matters even worse, there were two of her. She had a fraternal twin sister, also a fiery red head, who became my teacher in the 6th grade. They both played the piano and played in “general assemblies” in schools all across the gulf coast. They even visited my school in Satsuma, after we moved from that area, years later. I wanted to go up to them and tell them what I really thought of them. But, thought better of it.
But, after we moved from Bullmarket, things were quite tough for us as you probably can imagine. Money was tight on what little my old man sent to Mama. We had enough to eat. But, Mister was not getting as many food scraps as he did in Bullmarket. I had to do something. What I did was go to different houses, people that we had become friendly with, and asked them to save whatever food scraps they had for my poor dog, Mister. Amazingly, one woman gave me half of her dog food that she was giving to her collie. Mister had never eaten dog food before to my knowledge. At first, he refused to even sniff at it. But, then I had another one of my “talks” with Mister. After a couple of days of putting that dog food (it was dry dog food as I recall) in front of him, he started eating it. I couldn’t thank that woman enough. Any little bit of help we received, whether it be financial or just dog food for Mister, was greatly appreciated by us.
I eventually settled in to life in Mobile. School was another matter. The school I was attending in Mobile was very tough academically. Miss Martin (one was shorter than the other, I had the shorter of the two in the 5th grade). was extremely hard on me. One day she caught me talking in class. I was just answering a question from someone. “I don’t know how things were done in Mississippi, but you don’t speak in this classroom unless spoken to. Do you understand, Jim (my nickname was not then nor has it ever been Jim even though my first name is James)” Said the red-head from hell. I didn’t answer because I did not know I had to answer. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” she screamed at me. I responded angrily YES I DO! I got a one hour detention after school for that outburst. But, things eventually got better. I settled in and made friends. One of the best friends I had was Bobby Moore. Bobby was a great guy and the girls were all attracted to him. Bobby loved Mister also. So, we became great friends. Bobby also would bring food scraps for Mister. Eventually, it became too much and we had to stop taking the scraps off dinner tables from folks. But, back in those days, people helped one another. Bobby, myself and Mister would often go into the woods nearby and stay for hours. Mister would bark at every bird and squirrel that dared to get close to us. It was on one such trip to the neighborhood woodlands that Mister saved our lives. I mean that quite literally as well.
It was a Saturday morning that Bobby and I went off to the “Woodlands” for lack of a better name. It was basically a small wooded area in the suburbs. So, it was Bobby, me and my #1 buddy, Mister. As all beagles are known to do, Mister was sniffing everything. Sticks, leaves, trees and even frogs, nothing was not worthy enough for Mister’s nose to investigate. I asked Bobby to help me move a dead tree log to see if we could find some worms to sell at the local fish and bait shop. The dead tree was heavier than I thought. So, Bobby helped me push the tree from it’s resting spot. The next thing I remember is a brown, black and white blur rush past me to the log. Mister had a grabbed a rattlesnake that was about to strike me. Mister grabbed the snake mid-body, unfortunately. So, the snake was able to turn around and bite Mister on the neck. Mister immediately howled in pain. He dropped the snake and Bobby beat the snake with a stick, killing the serpent. We turned our attention to Mister. Mister was trembling and he was “huffing” as if he was having a tough time breathing. The snake bite must have pumped a full dose of the venom from the rattler. We examined Mister and decided we had to carry him to my home. But, we didn’t know what to do with him. I know we didn’t have money for a veterinarian. We had to do something. Mister had just saved our lives. As we entered the driveway of my home, Mister started having convulsions. He was going to die if we didn’t do something quick.