Here Puppy... Want Some Beer, Puppy?

June 9, 2014

My Granddaddy was a general surgeon, and probably one of the best ones in the Southeast.  He worked in New York at Ellis Island in the thirties for a short time and did part of his residency at a prison in Hazard, Kentucky that led to an obsession with the Dukes of Hazard. 

Beyond his medical training, my grandfather was an amateur veterinarian, meaning- he killed almost every pet that we ever had. My mom once went to South Carolina to bring back a horse for me named Trigger.  I don't think Trigger made it a week before Mother was digging a horse-sized grave and crying uncontrollably.   

Granddaddy's nemesis in town was Dr. Phillippi. They once got into an argument during surgery because a patient was coding and Phillippi couldn't figure out why.  Granddaddy moved over to where he was standing and said "Well, if you'd get your feet off of the oxygen supply, you son of a bitch, he might live." Granddaddy saved the patient and from that day forward, they were archrivals. Phillippi had first been a veterinarian and then went on to become an M.D.  Granddaddy was an M.D. who thought he was a veterinarian.  We would often tease Granddaddy about the two of them wanting to switch roles and Granddaddy would say "I killed a horse; that SOB was killing people."

Imagine a cross between C. Everett Coop, Otis from The Andy Griffith Show, The Nutty Professor, a dash of Billy Graham for good measure, and you will sort of get an idea about who my Granddaddy was at his core.  He was a magical creature put here to save lives, entertain small children by removing his false teeth, fervently share his love of Jesus, and make wine for rednecks.  

Granddaddy studied gardening with a scientific enthusiasm and was constantly grafting dogwood trees to create half white, half pink trees that were magical.  On the edge of the ten-acre yard at his house, he had a small vineyard of grapes that we tended together, and, every fall, we made scuppernong wine.  We harvested the grapes, ran them through the wooden press that separated the juice from the pulp and hulls, strained the juice with cheesecloth, and put the juice and sugar and yeast in five-gallon plastic containers with aerators on top.

Of all the people that I have ever known on this earth, he was my very favorite and there isn't a day that passes that he isn't with me in some way- whether it's my work ethic, my ability to solve problems, or my inability to sugar coat anything- I credit him with all of my better attributes.  He was patient and he was kind, he didn't boast, he was not proud, he didn't dishonor others, he wasn't self-seeking or easily angered, and he kept no record of wrongs- if they got it right in Corinthians, he was pure love.  

He called me "Boy" and I answered to that until he took his last breath.  Granddaddy called my dates names at the front door under his breath, he walked me down the aisle when I was married the first time, and he was there when I gave birth to my daughter, but to him I was still just "Boy".  

Most people called Granddaddy "Doc" or just "Doctor", as if Doctor was his first name and not a title he had earned. My cousins called him Uncle Doctor, which I always found hilarious.  Doc loved junk and motors and tractors.  He could ruin a practically brand-new Cadillac in three months flat trying to "work on it" with his pal Lawrence (pronounced Larnce) Lucas.  Grandmother would give him a two-year-old Cadillac, in mint condition, and within a few days there would be batteries in the back seat, tools, greasy rags, watering cans, pliers, hot cans of Country Club Beer (in case of an emergency), candy wrappers, and usually an old Mobile Press Register or two.

One of Granddaddy's favorite things to do was to go to the Army auction and bring home Willis Jeeps. The first one that he bought was in the late fifties or early sixties when our family still occupied the front apartment at his hospital, which later became Holley House.  He brought the Jeep home and my mother and Aunt Charlotte decided to paint it. They wanted a red Jeep, not a green Jeep.  To remedy this, they procured red house paint from the local hardware store and some large bristle brushes.

In front of the thirty-two-foot front porch at the entrance to the house, they, with brushes, painted the Willis Jeep fire engine red.  Mother was probably around 9 or 10 and Charlotte was 15 or 16.  The stories I have heard recount that it looked like massacre had occurred!  The ole Willis had brush strokes on it and worse, the ground was covered in red paint.  So there, in front of the hospital, after the Jeep was moved, was a spattering of red paint that looked like blood.  Calls came in from all over town wondering who had bled out in front of the hospital.  It was the news of the week, and I am surprised that it didn't make the weekly Brewton Standard.

Fast Forward about 20 years and a new Army Jeep made its way to the farm.  Itching to take it into the woods, Granddaddy, my stepdad Jim (Daddy), my mother, and I set out on adventure. We were heading down the road to the lake when we decided to go off-roading. Let me get the story straight. Granddaddy, who'd had one or six beers, decided we would go off-roading.  In case you didn't know, protesting against drunk drivers is a fairly new thing; we thought that everyone rode in an open vehicle in bogs of mud with no seat belts with their drunk relatives. It didn't really do much good to argue with Granddaddy, so...

Once we were off-road, we got stuck in a mud bog.  Granddaddy getting stuck in the mud and needing to be pulled out was a fairly regular occurrence and it usually involved cows or beer and sometimes both- usually Miller ponies or Country Clubs.   Getting stuck wasn't enough; he proceeded to flood the engine and stall us there for what seemed to be three days.

There we were, stuck a long way from anywhere- pre-cell phones, with no radio- and suddenly appeared a bulldog.  A big, upset, mean bulldog.  Granddaddy said "Looky there, I think that must be Larnce's old dog that went missing."  We couldn't tell if he was just hot or foaming at the mouth from rabies, but the bulldog's lips were covered with white slobber.  Great, I had just heard about the shots that they give kids who have rabies, you know, the ones in the stomach. The urban legend in my neighborhood was that it took over one hundred shots in the stomach to survive a rabid dog attack.  I wanted to be afraid of the shots, but I was laughing too hard at Granddaddy trying to ward off our attacker.

Granddaddy, against our judgment, decided to get out of the car and engage the dog.   In a voice that one might usually use to talk to a baby, or a kitten, Granddaddy proceeded to talk to the dog ever so slowly. "Heeeeyyy puppy.  How are you puppy?"  The dog responded with razor-like gritting teeth and a fairly scary growl, while working his way over to hem my Granddaddy up against the jeep.  Literally, backed into a corner,  Granddaddy responded by pouring out part of his beer on the ground for the dog while saying "Here puppy, niiiiice puppy, don't you want some beeer puppy?  Good puppies love beer. Sweeeet puppy, here puppy, have some more beer puppy." Granddaddy had this grin that only graced his face when he was being sarcastic. He would nod his head side to side while talking and smiling and doing that sarcastic "sweet" voice of his.

While Granddaddy was imbibing with the strange dog, Daddy had somehow figured out how for us to push the Jeep out of the bog.  He started the Jeep while mother and I pushed. Granddaddy was still holding the dog at bay with a hot Busch beer while we pushed. When we finally rolled by him, my Humpty Dumpty shaped Granddaddy jumped into the moving Jeep while running like his ass was on fire from what was most likely a rabid bulldog, who chased us out of the woods.

I would give anything to be stuck in the mud again with my best friend and a six back of cheap beer one more time. I think that I would even be willing to go up against a rabid bulldog.

Celebrate your fathers and grandfathers this week.
Love Y'all.

1 comment:

  1. OMG I can "see" this in my head! Doc was a mess but everyone that met him loved him. Every time I hear a Dr say there's no cure for the common cold, I always think of Dr Holley. Cause he has sure cured mine more than once. Sure wish I could remember what those shots of them sure made my hip sore. :)


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