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MOSTLY MEMORIES
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 • Posted March 31, 2010

The House By the Side of the Road - Part Two

(Concluding the visit with Wayne Spiller)

While sitting in Wayne’s study I noticed a picture of a cat, a kitten and a baby skunk.

"Is that mama cat nursing that little skunk?" I asked.

"It surely is," replied Wayne. "She nursed that one and two more."

And from that beginning unfolded the following story:

Wayne had found three baby skunks with their eyes not yet opened whose mother had been killed and were starving to death. He told his two sons, Edward and Rodger, about his discovery and they jumped at once to the rescue of those babies. They knew of a neighbor’s cat who had just had three kittens and wondered if the mother cat might nurse the three baby skunks. Not knowing for sure what might happen they secured the permission of the cat’s owner to bring the mother cat and her three kittens to the Spiller home.

Edward and Roger then located the three baby skunks, put them with the three kittens nursing their mother and were overjoyed to find that the mother cat would allow the baby skunks to nurse.

The story continues with two of the baby kittens being killed (by means which will not be told in this story) and mother cat nursed these three skunks and one kitten through childhood and into early adulthood.

After the skunks reached the age where in their excitement of playful fun they would accidently spray the foul product of their nature on surrounding objects or persons Wayne took them in to Steve King (Veterinarian) and had them deodorized.

NOTE: I am very familiar with this act of playful baby skunks, having endured their frolics and excretions through one winter, years ago, when a mother skunk raised a family underneath our house. We were fortunate to end their tenure when I was finally able to close up the entrance to their winter home while they were gallivanting in a neighboring pasture.

Those who are fortunate enough never to have gone through such an experience can in no way know the frustrated agony of a home owner who is forced to share his dwelling with a family of skunks. One might well ask "Why didn’t you close up their entrance earlier, Bill?" My answer is: "I was afraid to close it. I closed that entrance once when an opossum was under the house. Now a dead opossum under the house is bad enough—but a family of dead skunks—no thanks."

In continuing the story Wayne said that wherever the mama cat went the baby skunks followed, and true to their nature followed one behind the other with their white striped tails held straight up in the air. However there were times when Pokey, the runt of the litter, would forget the flag signal and fail to raise his tail in skunk fashion.

After giving two of the baby skunks away the cat/skunk family continued to live together with the baby skunk growing larger and stronger than the baby kitten. Although they played together in apparent fun the skunk, being larger, proved to be too rough on the kitten who had to rely on his tree climbing ability to escape his rowdy playmate.

Due to the passage of many years this cat/skunk episode became so dim in Wayne’s memory that he was unable to bring it to a definite conclusion therefore we are left without a thrilling end to our story.(Phew!)

FOOTNOTES:

When I let Wayne read the above story he said "Bill, I know the name of the poem from whence your beginning words were taken. The name of the poem is "The House By The Side Of The Road" by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) and no doubt was used quiet often in declamation contests."

Wayne then proceeded to get me a copy of that poem from which I will quote the last stanza:

"Let me live in my house by the side of the road

Where the race of men go by—

They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,

Wise, foolish— so am I.

Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat

Or hurl the cynic’s ban?—

Let me live in my house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man."

************

After reading this poem the "recall" button on my memory was activated and I remembered the many declamation contests held in the High School Auditorium on 11th St. and the Methodist Church back in the 1920’s when "The House by the Side of the Road" was very popular and used quite often by declaimers.

*****

As an afterthought to the story about the (Geeslin) boy using a pair of Nell’s pantyhose as a fan belt I feel that I should have ended that story as follows: "The moral to this story is: if you don’t carry an extra fan belt in your car, be sure that your girlfriend or wife is wearing pantyhose."

*****

The following poem was written by Wayne and expresses the exasperation of a man desirous of being productive yet is ham-strung by the lack of vision which chains him (in most part) to that old rocking chair:

THUMB-TWIDDLE

"Old rockin chair’s got me-

I’m plumb tuckered out-

Can’t see and can’t work and can’t play;

So I rock and I rock

With little to do

But thumb-twiddle all the long day.

I’ve dug holes in the ground

For fencing the range -

A very hard way to earn pay;

But the hardest damn work

I have ever yet done

Is to twiddle my thumbs all the day.

I have chopped and split wood

To keep home fires ablaze -

A worrisome task, I must say;

But the hardest damn work

I have ever yet known

Is to twiddle my thumbs all the day.

I have captured wild swine

In the San Saba hills,

Hog-tied and horsed them a way;

But the hardest damn work

I have ever yet tried

Is to thumb-twiddle all the long day.

I have tilled the soil;

I have ridden the range;

I have broken wild ponies for pay;

But the hardest damn work

I have ever yet done

Is to rock and thumb-twiddle all day!"

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