August 13, 2003, 11:35 am
Filed under: uncategorized

More on Oklahoma . . .

I think I once heard a country song about wide open spaces. To my city-boy eyes, it was a stark contrast . . . and I live in some of the widest openest spaces in San Diego. As the airplane descended just before my arrival at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, I saw something that triggered memories of childhood vacations to this place – the red clay earth. I remember riding in the backseat of the family car with my sister (it’s a looooong road trip for a kid from California to Oklahoma), and it seemed as though right at the spot where you cross the border from the Texas panhandle into Oklahoma, the ground turns red. I remember going to my cousin Christopher’s little league game and seeing the red dirt clinging to the uniforms. I have no idea why that’s such a big deal in my brain, but it sticks, and so I write about it.

As promised, here’s the story my dad told at Uncle Carl’s funeral. I write this in his honor, knowing that laughter was a major part of his life. I have many witnesses to the truth of it.

The Leopard Hunt

In 1950 or 1951, my dad and Uncle Carl were kids of about 5 and 7, living on their grandparent’s chicken farm outside of Oklahoma City. They had been to the local zoo and seen all the animals before. So when the radio news came out about a leopard or cougar or some big cat having escaped, it was a big deal. A few days went by, and the cat hadn’t been found yet. The area farmers became nervous about the cat coming onto their land and killing some of their livestock, so a group of them grabbed their shotguns one day to go hunting – my dad’s grandfather included. The boys would have gone, too, except they were too young.

But boys will be boys, and they decided that they’d make up their own leopard hunt. Of course, they didn’t have a real leopard, so they had to use the next best thing . . . the family dog . . . nobody seems to remember the dog’s name. After enjoying the hunt, the boys had the success of capturing their “leopard”, fortunately without killing it, so they had the task of taking it back to the “zoo” and putting it back safely into its enclosure. From having seen the zoo themselves, they knew that the enclosures were just large pits, with fences around them. Again, the boys lacked the real thing, so they had to use the next best “pit” they could find, and the poor dog was placed down the family outhouse pit. Unfortunately, it was a lot easier putting the dog into the pit than getting the dog out of the pit. They weren’t able to do it. They didn’t bother telling anyone about it.

After dark, and an unsuccessful hunting expedition, grandad returned home. They had dinner together, and grandad went to the outhouse to take care of business. As he sat down, the dog raised up and touched grandad’s rear end with his moist nose, causing gradad to think he had found the leopard in a most unfortunate way!

My dad and Uncle Carl’s cousin Lloyd was tasked with the chore of getting the dog out and cleaning him off with a broom and a bucket of water. Nobody seems to remember the dog’s real name, but thereafter, he was known as “Stinky.”


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