During that first summer in Woolmarket, we found out what heat and humidity were all about. In the late fifties, air conditioning was a luxury few could afford, especially in rural Mississippi. In fact, I don’t believe even the supermarkets had air conditioning during this time. We didn’t even know what A/C was until we got in my grandmother’s old Mercury. It was like jumping into a pool of cold water for us. We didn’t want to leave the car to go into the supermarket, which was the one big thrill we had in those days.
As I said in the last installment, there were dangers ever present of which we had to constantly be on the lookout. We had lost Blackie (a mutt that had taken up residence at our home) to a snake bite just a couple of months after he decided to live at our doorstep. Mama was going to make sure none of us would share in Blackie’s fate. We were “daresome” to leave beyond where Mama could lay eyes on us. The worst punishment we could receive would be told “stay in the house”. Today I think it’s called “grounded”.
Blackie was like a large number of pets that we saw around in Woolmarket. People would abandon their pets and leave them to either become adopted by the few residents there or go wild. It is the latter that brought us in contact with a dog we simply called “The White Dog.” This dog had been one of those dogs abandoned. At night you could hear him howl for his owners. You would only rarely ever see him and it would always be at night. My siblings and I were scared to death of him. We thought he was a ghost dog sent straight from hell (come to think of it now, that couldn’t be right…we were already in hell living in Woolmarket). I can’t imagine people just leaving pets they had cared for to fend for themselves in the densely wooded area of Woolmarket. They either learned to move on to more populated areas or went wild. The White Dog had gone completely wild and most likely had gone mad (no, not rabid type mad, just mad). He started to become a problem for us. We had become accustomed to his howling at night. He started getting closer to our home. That meant he was a threat to the chickens in the fence pen.
One Saturday night, my father was not home (which was the norm for him on weekends) and about midnight, The White Dog was howling in the backyard very near the chicken house. You could hear the chickens squawking and flapping around in fear. The dog somehow made it over the chicken pen and grabbed one of the hens. He had his meal for the night. Sunday morning, my father said he was going to wait up for him with his .12 gauge shotgun. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this dog. He had probably been a great family pet at one time. This dog had been someone’s friend and someone had loved him. It was only by some quirk of fate he found himself in this circumstance of going after an easy meal.
About 11 PM Sunday night, we heard the chickens squawking again. In what had to be an act of suicide, “The White Dog” started howling again. It was the most haunted howl I had heard from him yet. It was as if he had given up on the world. It was as if he were ready to leave a cruel existence where man would indiscriminately determine how he lived and how he died. I asked my father if there was just any way we could get the animal control people in Biloxi to come get him and maybe someone would give him a home. I said this knowing this dog was too far gone. I just had as much pity for him as a 7 year old could muster. My father told me to get back in the house and stay. The dog kept howling another two or three minutes when I heard the shotgun blast. And then…silence.
Father took him off early the next morning. Where he was buried, I have no idea. I felt remorse for that poor dog. I felt anger toward the people who had abandoned him to his fate. But, at least his lonely existence on this earth was over. It was an existence that had most likely started out with great hope and joy. For it to end so tragically was just heartbreaking.
This was just another event that first summer in Woolmarket. There would be many more incidents that year. But, none filled with more profound sadness than the night the little White Dog ‘s life came to an abrupt end.