As I said in the opening, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the little stop in the road called Woolmarket, MS. As previously noted, they had a drag strip that we were never able to get inside up close (“too much money”). But, we were able to sneak around the gate and watch everything in the tall grass. Come to think of it, it was probably more fun that way since we felt were getting away with something. There was a lot of wildlife in this area since we lived so far out in the country. At night, you could hear the bobcats howl an unworldly scream that chilled me and my siblings to the bone. There were wild dogs (at latter series entry will be on “The White Dog”) in the area that were a danger to our chickens. Of course, wolves were a constant threat. Our next door neighbor told us he had seen Florida Panthers in the area and had killed one several years prior. All in all, Woolmarket was a pretty wild place in the respect there were ever present dangers that you had to be aware of on a daily basis. Mama always warned us not to stray from the house to where she couldn’t see us out the back window. But, at that age, that was nearly impossible for us to obey. This was a new and strange world we had found ourselves.
In those days, there no such thing as Nintendo, Wi, or any of the other gadgets of today to entertain kids. Heck, we didn’t have much in the way of toys since we were so poor. Thing about it, we didn’t even know we were poor. We thought everybody lived like this. Well, everyone except our grandma. She had A/C at her house and a new car. To us, she was the richest person on earth. So, we had to invent our own “games”. We had these “pretend” games where we pretended we were “lost kids in the woods” and had to subsist on little or nothing in order to survive. Of course, the fact we were in eyesight of our house never took away from the fun of the game.
The most fun we had with this game was at “The Bridge”. The Bridge was a very short span of about 20 feet over a 10 foot wide creek, which was called, quite naturally, “The Creek.” During the summers we spent most our time right here. Again, we were within eye shot of our house. This creek was always cold, even on the hottest days of summer. I have no idea why. It sure didn’t run down from any mountains since Mississippi isn’t noted for mountainous terrain. But, the thing I remember most about The Bridge/The Creek was the smell of scupanines. A berry that is found only in the South to my knowledge. Some people made them into wines. Some used them to make pies. They had a very sweet smell. They also seemed to attract rattlesnakes. I have no idea why. But, we saw rattlesnakes all the time down at The Bridge. It was one such time at The Bridge that Blackie, an old mutt that took up at our house and basically adopted us, probably saved my brother’s life.
My brother was wading in the creek, having himself a good old time. My sister and I were throwing scupanines at him and he threw them back. I was about to throw another handful of scupanines when I noticed movement in the creek edge where he was picking his scupanines. It was a rattler at least four feet long. Before I could speak, Blackie was all over the rattler and actually grabbed the snake with his mouth. My brother jumped about 10 feet in the air and Blackie took the rattler into the water to drown him. And drown him Blackie did.
Unfortunately, the rattler got a good bite on Blackie. That dog suffered most of the rest of the day and most of that night. I felt so sorry for him. We didn’t even have money to go to the doctor ourselves, much less take a dog to a vet. After hearing him suffer up until about 9PM that night, my next door neighbor came over and offered to end Blackie’s suffering with his rifle. One shot to the back of poor Blackie’s head ended his life. My father, in one of his rare moments of humanity (his rifle had the firing pin sheared off and had no shells for the shotgun), took Blackie out in the woods the next morning to bury him. That probably was one of the few times I ever saw my father actually cry. In fact, we all cried that morning about Blackie. Until the day we moved from that house, my mother would take sunflowers (they were all over the place) and laid them at Blackie’s marker about once or twice a week.
That happened our first summer in Woolmarket. It was significant in that we realized, first hand, there were dangers prevalent in the area. We knew now, we had to watch ourselves so we didn’t end up like Blackie. We knew we weren’t in the city any longer. We didn’t get to go to The Bridge for about three weeks after that. And only after my 14 year old cousin from Moss Point moved in with us were we allowed to go back. It just wasn’t the same with him there with us at The Bridge. And it sure wasn’t the same without Blackie.