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  Texas : Features : Columns : N. Ray Maxie :

Encountering
an East Texas Mad Dog

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie
"Get in the house, quick", dad shouted loudly as he drove up in the yard and jumped out of his old 1939 Chevrolet pickup. We kids were all playing in the front yard and dad hurriedly ushered us to the front porch and into the house as he repeated, "Get in the house quick, there's a mad dog coming up the road and he's headed this way. I've got to get my shotgun and go see if I can kill him."

Believe me, we were all very well aware of what dad meant. This had happened a time or two before in recent months, mostly while we kids were away at school. We had heard dad tell some horrifying stories before about having to kill rabid mad dogs. He had described to us just how vicious and dangerous those dogs could be. He had instructed his whole family to be aware and never go close to a dog acting so very strangely, slobbering and foaming profusely from the mouth. He said a dog in that condition will usually set his pace in a "dead" trot, not looking right or left, only moving straight ahead. Dad said the dog would sometimes go about in large circles too, incoherently moving about, totally oblivious to its surroundings. Called "Hydrophobia" it is the result of the rabies virus and it is characterized by the excessive "hydro" flow of mucus from an animal's drooling mouth.

To nail down his stern warning given to a bunch of often-inattentive kids, dad would say, "You'll probably die if you ever get bitten by a mad dog." And that DID get our attention. Dad knew that an animal being rabid had somehow contacted the dreaded and deadly infectious rabies virus. It could be transmitted to humans by the bite of that animal. The animal often became extremely violent and erratic. If anyone was ever bitten far out there in the extremely rural Northeast Texas backwoods, it was a long distance to obtain medical attention.

It was about 1946 or maybe '47, a hot Texas summer morning in the middle of August. As my dad grabbed his big 12 gauge pump shotgun from behind the back bedroom door, we kids knew to lay low until we had further instructions from him. So we stayed right there in the living room listening to the old 6 volt car battery powered radio always tuned to 1130 AM, KWKH radio station in Shreveport, Louisiana. We could read some old comic books, or maybe "Blondie and Dagwood" in the newspaper comic strips, or just lie around staring up at the ceiling, daydreaming. I always enjoyed looking at those "funny papers" though. Mother kept a subscription to the Sunday edition of the Shreveport Journal newspaper. That Sunday paper had no problem lasting us all week.

We lived in the Rodessa Oilfield on the Rambo lease about 4 miles west of McLeod in Cass County. Dad was a pumper/gauger there in the oilfield and had left the house for work around 7 that morning. He worked around the area fairly close by and when possible, came home for lunch.

During his rounds that morning, he had encountered the mad dog as it trotted along an old oilfield road. Slowly following the dog in his pickup truck for awhile, dad decided it had taken a path towards our house. Quickly he drove past the dog and hurried home to get his shotgun. By the time dad made sure all his family was safe inside, the dog had come pretty close to the house and then suddenly took a turn across an old abandoned cornfield just north of our house toward the graveled county road.

Seeing the route the dog had taken, dad decided he did not need his pickup and set out on foot to pursue the rabid animal. He disappeared over the hill and behind the trees into the old cornfield. It wasn't long until we heard a far away, distant gunshot and we knew then dad had located the vicious dog. It had taken only one shot of his double aught "buck shot" to blow that hopeless varmint away.

Within a few minutes dad returned to the house. Coming inside he told us, "I got him. Everything's OK now." He put away his shotgun and as he stepped off the front porch towards his pickup, he told my mother, "I'm going back to work. I'll see you for lunch after awhile."
N. Ray Maxie
piddlinacres@consolidated.net
"Ramblin' Ray"
March 14 , 2006 Column

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