Category Archives: The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries

Over at Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia – The Spool Block

It’s a new year and the perfect time to move forward on my diary quilt and the chapters I’m writing with each block.

So, today over at Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia I’ve posted Chapter 7: My Sew – Sew Life, or The Spool Block. So, click on over for the latest chapter.

If you’re a quilter, I’ve also included the piecing diagram and rotary cutting instructions.

Spool Block

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Filed under Diary Quilt, Quilt Blocks, quilting, Quilts, The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6–“Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6 – “Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block

And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Mark 10:8 NASB

(*This post can also be seen at my quilt blog Around the Block with the BamaSteelMagnolia™ where I am blogging the whole project.)

Wedding Ring block

I started this chapter in February some time ago and it seemed a fitting month to start writing the latest chapter of The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries. The block for this chapter is called Wedding Ring. It is a single wedding ring and not the double wedding ring we know so well. The block is a simple 6 inch pieced block and it represents the fact that I don’t know many in life who have not been affected by a marriage in some way or another…including me.

Being a genealogist I can see how all the “begats” or unions/marriages in our ancestry make us who we are. When you stop and think about the numbers in the equation of “you” it becomes pretty staggering.

For instance, for each generation you go back the number doubles to how many sets of ancestors, or marriages if you will, it took to trickle down to create the final individual you. Look at it this way…you are the starting point on the road backwards into time and your ancestry. Take those sets and multiply them by two and you have how many people it took to create the one special individual called you.

It works this way; you had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents and so on. As mind boggling as 128 may seem, your heritage and ancestry doesn’t stop there and it continues to double for each generation back. There are so many life lessons just in the formula of who you are and how you were made, but that is for another story. One missing link in that chain and you would not have been you…as a matter of fact you probably wouldn’t have been, well, here on Earth at all.

I would ask you to reflect on the marriages in your life, including your own that have affected you and what they mean to you. I’m sure everyone has different recollections and feelings and experiences.

The most immediate marriage that has affected me all of my life and is actually responsible for me even being here is of course the marriage of my parents. My parents have something that is rare to find in this day and age. That’s a long lasting marriage. For you see, on Feb. 28, 2012 they celebrated 59 years of marriage.

Oakley Hicks and Juanita McGee Early 1950's

Daddy and Momma early 1950s

Momma and Daddy were high school sweethearts. They were 15 and 16 when they met at a church function being conducted by my Momma’s daddy. Yes, Mom was a PK…a Preacher’s Kid. She was the shy quite one with big brown “doe eyes” as Daddy calls them. Momma and Daddy were a couple all through high school, for four years, so for all practical purposes you could say they’ve been together for 63 years and that is the biggest portion of their life. When they laid eyes on each other, there was no one else as far as they were concerned…that was it.

Daddy started the University of Tennessee with intentions on becoming a mechanical engineer. But, Momma and Daddy also had secret plans…yes, in their own quiet non-conforming conforming way they were rebels with a cause. They had plans to get married and I don’t mean a big church wedding with the wedding party, flowers, music and weeping mother of the bride (and in this case weeping mother of the groom, too). Nope, no way, no how. Momma and Daddy were going to make Hicks history…or at least stuff that would go down in family history. For you see, the shy lovely quite preacher’s daughter and the tall good looking guy from the foothills of the Smokies eloped…all the way to Ringgold, GA!

Now, the plan was to get hitched and drive back home. Mom would go back and keep quiet and live at home and Daddy would go back home and live with his parents and continue going to college. The slight hiccup in their little plan happened when Mom told her next oldest sister, Korinne, what she had done and swore her to secrecy…which of course was the very last thing that actually happened. Before you knew it the cat was out of the bag, the cow was out of the barn and the camel’s nose was under the tent or in other words, it was like telling Western Union and everyone found out. As Ricky use to say to Lucy, “There was some `splaining to do.”

Well, of course everyone knows you can’t keep true love apart very long anyway and by the time the parents (my grandparents) had time to wrap their heads around the events Momma let it be known in no uncertain terms she was living where Daddy was. And that was that.

Everything went along pretty good in newlywed life until about three months later. At that time Mom came down with a raging case of flu. Made her sick as a dog. She just could not get well. That was the “Beverly” flu. Yep, eleven months after they married I was born…and Mom’s flu was cured.

Cominghome Day 1-7-1954

Daddy, Momma and Bev – Coming home day

I was an only child for about three and a half years. During that time we moved for a brief time to Texas where Daddy worked as an engineer in the aircraft industry for Chance-Vought Aircraft. I celebrated my second birthday in Fort Worth, Texas which has always left me with a soft spot for Texas and branded me Daddy’s “little Texas girl”. And, as I have always said, some of the most famous and infamous Texans were Tennesseans.

“Oh, really?!” I know you Texans are saying… yep. For instance: remember Davy Crockett…♪born on a mountain top in Tennessee…♪ and also famous for the Alamo. Then there’s Benjamin and Henry McCulloch who both fought in the Texas Revolution and became Texas Rangers; Mack Brown head coach at the University of Texas and oh, yeah some fellow named Sam Houston. I think you might have heard of him, too. Sam’s time in Tennessee included time as a governor of that great state and time spent teaching in the town of my birth…a long time before I was born or course Smile

Being the true East Tennessee mountain boy that Daddy is, the Plains of Texas didn’t do much to lift the Tennessee boy’s spirits and heart. In other words, he got sorely and mightily homesick, especially when those Nor’easters barreled into the Plains faster than a New York minute without any warning. It wasn’t too long before we were packed up and headed back to the lush green climes of Tennessee.

Over the next eight or nine years Momma had two more cases of “flu”. And, two more baby girls followed those cases of “flu”. Pamella was next in line, followed by Yvonne. For a little Hicks trivia here: Mom named her girls Faith, Hope and Charity…in that order. I always teased her and said if we had been born boys we would have been named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

Momma and Daddy’s marriage has mirrored life in general…a road with ups and downs and bumps in the road. Almost every young couple starts out with the bare necessities and grows from there. Daddy was smart and savvy and his engineer career grew. We also moved several times following that career. We landed in Birmingham, AL (for the second and final time I might add) when I was 12 years old and the rest of that is history. That is why I proudly say, ♪…my home is in Alabama…♪ and one of my ringtones on my cell is Sweet Home Alabama…

My baby sister Yvonne, really Charity Yvonne, was born in Greeneville, TN when I was in the third grade. Mom’s delivery with her was fast. Like greased lightening…about 20 minutes. She barely had time to step off the elevator at the hospital before Yvon was born. When Momma & Daddy brought the baby home, they brought home another beautiful baby girl (Momma and Daddy had the reputation of popping out beautiful baby girls with long dark eyelashes and heads of thick dark hair. The nurses in the baby nurseries used us as baby dolls and hated to send us home. Back in those days they had about seven days to get attached to a baby before it went home.)

It seems like from the recollection of my child’s mind that it wasn’t too long after she was born that Yvon seemed to get sick and stay sick. So sick in fact that Mom had to take her all the way to Chattanooga for medical care and stay with family that lived down there. Papaw and Mamaw came to Greeneville to help Daddy take care of Pam and me.

I remember it as a tumultuous time. Yvonnie was sick. We didn’t quite know what was wrong and in the world at large, the Cuban missile was going on.

Over time Yvonne was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and for the last 50 years has lived at home. Do you know what the statistics are for marriages surviving for couples who have disabled children? They’re not very good. The divorce rate is very high and it’s usually the husband who takes his walking papers and goes on to create another worry-free life for himself.

It is a testament to my Daddy’s character that he is right where is started out 59 years ago, disabled child and all, and that is with my Momma and our family. As a matter of fact Daddy is pretty much the rock of the family and the three of us girls are Daddy’s girls. It is also like having a Jewish momma having him around, which is our way of saying he worries over us like a Jewish mom would…he just never learned to cook that chicken soup. Daddy’s remedy is to always take it to prayer…

I heard some place one time that marriage is a marathon not a sprint. My parents’ marriage would certainly qualify for the marathon…

Unfortunately, the first time around, I married a sprinter…

There is a lot I could write about my first marriage. My child is the issue of that marriage. And, sometimes I feel really badly because I feel I provided a poor example…a sprinter if you will as a role model for my child. I do not adhere to the current feel-good philosophy that divorce does not affect children. It does…no matter what their age. I think our society today reflects the side effects and ravages of decades of divorce. On the other hand I also believe that some parents can be toxic and I do not adhere to the theory that having a toxic parent around is better than having no parent around.

But, with that said, there are just times when divorce is unavoidable. Marrying that “marriage sprinter” is certainly one instance. Infidelity usually ends a marriage fairly fast or ends the chance for that marriage marathon partner. Another unavoidable instance is when you marry the type of person who ends up creating the “tragic love” scenario or as I wrote about a few years ago, the type of guy (or gal) that causes love to hurt.

If that is the case, I would beseech you to go back and read a blog I wrote a few years ago that addresses just that subject. Called When Love Hurts I address the rash of tragic stories in which women have chosen to stay and in the end unfortunately paid dearly for that relationship…sometimes with their lives.

The most recent example would be Susan Powell and her precious boys. Susan disappeared one cold December day in 2009 while her husband supposedly had taken their two very young sons camping in a blizzard. On Feb. 5th of this year her

husband blew up himself and those two precious boys as the police drew closer to lowering the hammer on him and his pedophile father. The coward and those poor children died in a burning inferno that should have never happened.

My love hurt story wasn’t like that, but it was traumatic just the same. Had I just opened my eyes and looked at the warning signs early on I could have saved myself sorrow and devastation years later. After 27 years of marriage my ex walked out because he was unfaithful. The summer he left I read my diary from the summer we started dating and as I did it was a real eye opener…he was the same back then…had cheated then and had not changed in 27 years. Leopards as they say do not change their spots. I just could not love him enough for him to change.

Bev & Momma on the Regrettable Day Nov. 1974

Bev & Mom – me as a young bride not paying attention to warning signs

And, unfortunately staying in a bad relationship hoping to make it functional only teaches children dysfunction. What did Susan Powell’s children learn in the end by her hanging on to a bad marriage? It cost her kids their lives. What a tragic shame… There is a saying…”The sins of a father (parent) are visited upon the children…” In other word the kids will learn from the father…from the parents. And, if you close your eyes to alcoholism, addiction, incest, abuse, violence and plunge ahead into that and choose that as a family center for your children…it will trickle down to them and affect them in one way or the other

For me realizing I could not love the ex enough to change who the core of him was, it was, well, the beginning of a new future, hope and moving forward…

So, even though I was scared to death when Gomez the Underwhelming abandoned me I began to have hope. Yes, I was disabled. Yes, he had wiped out the bank accounts. Yes, I had not worked outside the home full time in over 21 year. Yes, at one point he left me without health insurance. Yes, he assaulted me before he left and injured my back. Yes, I had hoped with everything in me that that he would have a change of heart and come home and things would go back to normal.

But, to have normal and a marriage that’s going in the same direction, you have to have two people who want the same thing. Without that, it’s just not going to happen and the only resulting by-product is going to be pain, sorrow, poor health, a bad example for the kids and low self esteem.

In the end the veil was lifted from my eyes and I was able to see there just might be someone out there who not only would help heal my broken heart, but became my marathon runner.

As the Rascal Flats song goes…God blessed the broken road that lead me straight to you…and that you is my Tall & Handsome…my southwestern cowboy.

Our story is unconventional at best. A sign of the times and a sign of what happens when a geek (me) comes into her geekdom and starts to revel in her life and gain self esteem once again. And a lonely, broken hearted southwestern cowboy who had given up on the hope of a loving nurturing relationship begins to hope again. You see we met playing an online MMORPG game. We emailed, talked and instant messaged for almost a year before we met face to face.

When I first laid eyes on my Tall & Handsome he was walking out of the Birmingham Airport. He had on tight blue jeans, a Western cut jacket and a Stetson. I got out of the Lead Sled (what I “affectionately” called my Park Avenue) and walked towards him. He walked toward me, smiled and said, “Hello, darling” and then kissed me under that cowboy hat in front of the Birmingham airport.

I felt 18 again! Wow! It was like living in a movie…a real chick flick. He really had me at “Hello, darling” and that kiss.

The kiss 12-30-03

The Kiss – my favorite of our wedding pictures

I have also learned words are cheap, but actions speak volumes and they do so loudly! Some of Gomez’ parting words were (referring to my illnesses and disabilities), “I didn’t want to take care of you, I hated taking care of you, but I did. So, there!”God help him when his karma comes rolling around.

I have never wanted to be a burden…to anyone. So, I was very up front from the beginning with T & H about the status of my health. The man did not tuck tail and run. He called me his wounded dove…

He knew I saw in him a heart that was larger than large…and he appreciated that.

I never felt secured and truly loved with a man I was married to for 27 years. I never felt “good enough”. I poured myself into him, body and soul. But my self confidence and self esteem was non-existent. There were episodes of suspect cheating from the beginning. He had developed hepatitis before we were married five years and I was so naïve back then I didn’t realize how hepatitis is contracted. Deep down inside though I knew something wasn’t right…

By the time T & H and I married, I felt loved, appreciated, confident and secure. I had found my muse. I wanted to create again. That is a huge gift any man can give to the woman he loves. My T & H does it effortlessly…

It has been the little things that some people would never notice. The time I lay dying in the back of an ambulance in Knoxville, TN my feet were bare. T & H dashed quickly into the house and grabbed a pair of sock and gently put them on my feet before the ambulance doors were closed. At the hospital ER, he refused to be separated from me and was by my side until I stabilized and was released.

When we moved from Alabama to Tennessee I was so sick I had to go through the ER first. When we got to Knoxville I was exhausted and slept quite a bit. I woke up one weekend afternoon to discover T & H had set up the deck furniture like a side walk café, bought flowers and grilled a luscious dinner. All I had to do was eat and enjoy him and the outdoors.

Another time when I was deathly sick and my stomach would hold absolutely nothing down, he cut up corn tortillas and made home-made lime-pepper tortillas chips and they were the only thing I could eat and not get sick.

Life may try to batter us, but we fight back together as a team.

We’ve taken care of a couple of bucket list items together. But, our greatest strength is being there for each other, understanding each other and appreciating each other. I love to see life through my T & H’s eyes. It is seeing life anew sometimes.

In the end, my greatest regret…our greatest regret? That we won’t have more years together and didn’t meet years earlier. If only fate had intervened when we were young…how many times have we had that conversation?

But, in the end, it is what it is…as much as we both hate that saying. We are thankful for what we have and for finding each other. It would have been awful to have never found each other. Neither of us can imagine a life without the other. I cannot imagine a day without his voice and his blue eyes and his sense of humor.

My Tall & Handsome and me at the Survivors Dinner in Savannah, GA (2011) celebrating 29 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (right lung) and 16 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (left lung)

And, in the end we resolve…`til death do us part…with the wedding ring block…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

**The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries is a writing and textile art project I started a few years ago. It’s based on a concept started by Mimi Dietrich and a book she wrote about diary quilts. I was so inspired by the book I started my own and decided to accompany each block with a chapter. Everyone has always said, “Bev, you need to write a book!” Well, here it is…at least part of it!”

If you’re interested in catching up, here are the beginning installments:

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries Begin

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 1 – Cupcake Block or Happy Birthday to Me

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 2: Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle or A House Divide Will Fall…

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 3 – Compass or Where in the World is Bev?

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 4 – Paw Print or To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 5 – How Green is My Thumb? or Grandmother’s Flower Garden Block

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Filed under Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM), Daddy, Divorce, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Life, Marriage, Photography, Quilt Block, Quilts, Susan Powell, Tall & Handsome, The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries, Wedding Ring Quilt block

At Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) – The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries Chap. 5: How Green is My Thumb or Grandmother’s Flower Garden

The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries continue over at Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia with Chapter 5 titled How Green is My Thumb or Grandmother’s Flower Garden.

For those of you not familiar with the project it’s a joint textile/writing project I started in Jan. 2009 after I was inspired by a book written by Mimi Dietrich. When all is done I should have a quilt and a “book” that tells the story (or at least part) of my life.

Chapter 5 begins…

I’m going to tell you a little known fact about me…I am just a few credit hours short of an Associate Degree in Horticulture. So, what happened? Well, in April 1976 while I was in school, Gomez the ex had a car accident and broke his neck at placed called the hangman’s vertebrae…

For more

and this is the block…

Grandmother's Glower Garden

Grandmother’s Flower Garden

© 2010 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

 

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Filed under Grandmother's Flower Garden, Quilt Block, quilting, The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries

The BamaSteelMangolia(TM) Diaries – Chapter 4: Paw Print…or “To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before…”, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 4: Paw Print…or “To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before…”

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I had to include the Paw Print in my diary quilt. It’s a simple little appliqué block, but that isn’t why I had to include it. Animals and dogs in particular have played a very special and important part in my life. And, because they have been so loving and in my life for so many years, this may be a long chapter of The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries…

Paw Prints

Paw Print – easy applique block 

I am unabashedly and without a doubt an unapologetic dog person… A little disclaimer here: I don’t wish to hurt my feline loving friends. Some of my favorite people, including my own Tall & Handsome and my Aunt LaRue have been cat people. Of course, T & H has just about converted to the canine way of thinking thanks mostly to a wonderful proselytizing tool called a Miniature Schnauzer (this is a really cool link to Animal Planets Dogs 101). A Schnauzer in the right situation could literally charm the skin off a skanky old snake, so put a Mini Schnauzer in the same room with a mushy hearted animal person like my T & H and well…poor fellow is toast.

A lot of my distancing from felines has to do with my allergies and the fur. Oh my gosh…it’s like the dust that use to creep into homes during the Dust Bowl Days…YOU JUST CAN NOT GET RID OF THE STUFF!! My frustration with cat hair reached critical mass one particular day because of one particular cat.

When T & H and I got married he had two cats. One was a big, orange furry tabby cat. Think Garfield on steroids. I called this cat the Big Orange Abomination or Big O for short…

Pretty Boy 11-5-2005

The Big Orange Abomination

One sunny fall Tennessee afternoon T & H and I had some errands to run. I had on a pair of black denim slacks. When we arrived at our destination, I got out of the Jeep…unsuspecting, much like a lamb lead to slaughter…and happened to look down.

From the other side of the Jeep, T & H heard me screech, “Oh My Gosh!” It was now his turn to be the proverbial lamb lead to slaughter because I said, “Just come over here and look!”

There glowing in the bright, glorious afternoon sun was the biggest, honking wad of glowing ORANGE cat hair…I mean almost neon…in the most indiscrete place! We’re talking that nether region we gals like to have some modesty about, that area coined by Anais Nin as the Delta of Venus…oh, heck, what I’m saying is right smacked dab on the crotch of my lovely black jeans hovered that glowing wad of orange cat hair! The irony of where the cat hair was did not escape me… T & H thought it was hilarious and guffawed while I grumbled, said some really bad things about the cat and plucked the offending cat hair from…well, that area…

That would never have happen with a Schnauzer…no, never…

I just love the adoration and total love, devotion and commitment a dog gives you…you are their pack and they love you for it. It doesn’t matter if you have a bad hair day or how much weight you gain, your dog will adore you regardless.

If you are sick, they will snuggle up beside you and watch over you…in protective mode and with empathy. And, if in your feverish sleep you should have a bad dream, they will gently nudge you awake to check on you and to let you know everything is ok. Yes, honestly, hand to God, a dog can and will do this. I know this from personal experience.

Sadly, though when I’ve been extremely ill those two aforementioned cats skulked around on the bed, perched on their haunches…and waited. In my fitful sleep it was like being watched by gargoyles that were waiting to pounce so they could siphon the air from my lungs and scavenge my body. Ok, well, maybe it was the meds “talking”, but it wasn’t a warm and fuzzy experience…

No matter what you do for them…clean, scrap, freshen their indoor outhouse called a litter box, feed or pamper them…a cat will at best tolerate you and maybe purr for you if you’re allowed to stroke their egos…errr, I mean fur.

I’ve written…at length about my shaky feline relationships. You can read about these rocky antics (mostly thanks to the big fat 21 pound Amazon felines T & H dragged with him from New Mexico) here, here (especially if you want to know what happens when a cat and a wax warmer tangle also involving the Big Orange Abomination), here and here. I’ll not go into detail about how my treasured furniture and heirlooms became kitty scratching post…and how I considered turning the cats into giant house slippers…or at least wall pelts. Just kidding…

Big O finally had to go…for more than one reason. My eyes were staying red and swollen and breathing was difficult. So, off he went to a better place. No! I don’t mean that…he went to live with a new family. Really!

The highly neurotic tuxedo cat with the sensitive stomach was left. Life just isn’t complete unless you get to hear a cat wretch and hurl at least once a day… Then, in July `09 we had to put the last resident feline down and even I had to admit it was a somber and teary event. I wish I could say I miss him, but…I think there’s a country song in that sentiment somewhere…

Winfield

Winfield – the highly neurotic cat

I grew up around dogs…and to a much lesser degree horses, so that may account for why those are my favorite animals…in that order. And I think it must be generational. My Daddy had a dog when he was a boy named Ole Boss. That dog is rumored to have followed him everywhere…including to my Mom’s when Daddy was courting Momma.

My granddaddy Hicks, Pawpaw, as I called him, had his dogs, too. Pawpaw was a tall, quite East Tennessee mountain man and they do love their dogs in that “neck of the woods”. That might account for Daddy being a bit of a dog person himself, since he was Pawpaw’s son.

Pawpaw had a hunting dog, a blue tick hound, named Thunder. He was Pawpaw’s loyal and best buddy. Pawpaw taught that ol’ dog tricks, including how to roll over by using the down home delicacy of cornbread. (If you’d had my grandmother’s cornbread, you’d probably guess why Pawpaw used it for training treats for poor ole Thunder! Versie was many things, but a cook she was not.) Stashed away in Momma and Daddy’s “archives” are 8mm home movies of Pawpaw and his dog doing tricks. T & H had the privilege of viewing those golden grainy oldies over the holidays. He can vouch for the entertaining and performing Hicks duo of “Jonas Hicks and the Wonder Thunder”.

My grandmother was a one in a kind…and sometimes that kind could remind you of fingernails on a chalkboard. Whenever Pawpaw wanted a little peace and quiet from Versie, he’d grab his old Fedora and shotgun and off Pawpaw and Thunder would head for a good long walk.

So, in keeping with the canine heritage that came before us, when we were little girls, it should have been no surprise Daddy saw to it we had dogs. We didn’t just have dogs…we had dogs. I’m talking Collies, Boxers, German Shepherds…you know the perceived cuddly, toy dogs most little girls have…and we absolutely loved every one of them. They were all loveable gentle beasts that were part of the family. Lassie, of course was the Collie.

Butchie was our female Boxer. Her penchant was a taste for bumble bees and she went around with swollen doggie lips many, many times after one of her chosen treats. Nothing and I mean nothing would stop that dog from eating bumble bees…

Butchie also had a protective instinct and would follow me around the block when I rode my bike. If another dog approached in a threatening way, Butchie lowered her head and gave the offending dog a good head-butt…and sent them rolling… To paraphrase Barbara Mandrel, Butchie was head-butting before head-butting was cool…

When I was in the third grade we moved to a little East Tennessee town called Greeneville. Daddy was working for an engineering firm there. When we moved, Butchie moved with us. Down the street from us was this really sweet and very large Catholic family from Massachusetts. They were the most decent, salt of the earth kind of people…even if they were Yankees…just kidding!!

They were fascinated with our accents, especially Momma’s. I should interject here that Mom should give dialect and accent coaching in Hollywood. If she did there would be no more fake Southern accents in Hollywood…a bone of contention with many of us Southerners I might add… Our Yankee neighbors would call the house just to hear Momma say “hello”…or to paraphrase Kenny Chesney…she had them at hello…

I don’t remember how many kids this family had, but there was a passel…and these kids had a pet chicken. Well, folks, I can tell you right now…pet chickens and bumble-bee-eating Boxer dogs do not mix well. We made that unfortunate discovery one day when we went out into the front yard and there was this big ol’ pile of fluffy chicken feathers…and Butchie nearby. It was a dark day and a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth when the neighbor kids found out that was all that was left of their pet chicken. Poor Butchie had to go live on a farm after that. Later I often wondered if she thought she had received some kind of reward because you just know she had to have run into more chickens along the way on a farm…

After we moved to Alabama we added a German Shepherd to the family and a little fury bundle that was part Maltese and Lhasa Apso name Gidget. Gidget was a “tomboy”. She just didn’t want any part of being a house dog…she wanted to roam the big back yard with Major our German Shepherd. We had gotten Major from Daddy’s uncle (Versie’s brother) in Tennessee. Uncle Lum raised Shepherds from stock he had brought over from Germany after the war.

Gidget had two litters of the cutest puppies you could imagine. I even got to be mid-wife at one delivery…an eye-popping experience let me tell you for a young lass yet to give birth herself. Momma kept the runt of the last litter and named her Tori. Tori almost didn’t make it and had to be bottle fed. She was so tiny she looked like a little wind up toy and was one of the sweetest little dogs…gentle and sweet like her mother. But, also like her Momma she loved the great outdoors and being around that big ol’ German Shepherd. She wanted to run with the big dog…and be a yard dog…

When I got married I added dogs to my new family. We had Snoopy, a dog that I swear to this day was mentally challenged or at least severely directionally challenged, but a good natured fellow none the less. He was part Beagle, Basset Hound and Collie. He was the oddest looking dog. Short and long like a Basset, colored like a beagle and the coat, nose and tail of the Collie. I called him our Bagle, a new kind of Heinz 57…and the dog LOVED popsicles!

Bev with Snoopy puppy

Bev with puppy Snoopy

Snoopy got lost once about 2 blocks from the house. He was gone for months…and he just could never find his way home. We thought he was gone for good. Like dutiful doggie parents we searched high and low for ol’ Snoop but couldn’t find him. Just by happenstance, one day on the way to the store we saw him running wild-eyed in a yard 2 blocks from the house. Poor fellow just never seemed right after that…but, we loved him and took care of him anyway.

We had an Irish Setter named Rusty who was stunningly beautiful, but crazy as a loon. He was our “blond” dog…no offense intended to our fair haired friends…but he just was… Mostly high strung, but also clueless. That dog loved to dig…I mean really LOVED to dig and our back yard looked like a bombed out war zone while we had him. He also bullied poor old Snoopy around and somehow managed to break one of Snoop’s legs. We knew Rusty needed a bigger roaming space than our suburban yard and found a nice country home for him to live happily ever after in. I often thought he would have been happy digging foxholes for the military…

We adopted an English Setter from the Human Society. She was my first “Lady”. She was 3 days away from being put down. Lady was sweet spirited, loving, beautiful…and adventurous. She could scale our fence like Spiderman and then out she’d go. Once again we knew we had a dog that needed “land, lots of land…don’t fence me in…” And, she found a lovely new home with acres to roam on.

1st Lady

My first Lady an English Setter…she did have a head!

So, for a while it looked like I was adopting and fostering dogs until the right place came along…and that was ok as long as they were ok…

Then, when my son reach grade school…about first or second grade, my Daddy decided it was time for Jared to have a real dog…and when daddy does something…he does it big. For a while he had his heart set on getting Jared a Great Dane! I went around with my heart in my throat because I could just imagine the food bill for a Great Dane…combined with the food bill of a growing boy…and well, it would have been the grocery budget to feed the people of China… I also told Daddy that just a regular DOG and not a small pony would be fine with us.

Eventually Jared ended up with his own German Shepherd…kind of a Hicks tradition I guess. We named him Bruno and he was a hulking big dog and one of the most beautiful Shepherds I’ve ever seen which should have been no surprise since he came from championship bloodline. I was delusional when I took a box with us to bring him home in…he was that big. He took one look at that box and it was like, “Woman, are you crazy? There’s no way this puppy is fitting in there!” His paws were huge, about the size of a man’s fist, and we were told he would grow into them…and he did, eventually reaching 100 pounds.

 

Bruno & Bev

Bev with Bruno – he was just a few months old…and huge!

 

Bruno was a big ole playful puppy and he would wrestle with Jared…they were buds. Sometimes I would hear Jared yell, “Mom!” from the backyard just to look out the window and see Jared prone on the ground and Bruno standing over him wagging his big ol’ puppy dog tail.

I think Bruno thought we were his toys. Many times when I was in the back yard he turned me into his own personal push toy by pushing me around the yard by inserting his big ol’ nose in the center of my bum. You haven’t seen the world until you’ve been steered around by your German Shepherd…no wonder they’re in the “working group” at dog shows…

But, Bruno’s playfulness belied his protective nature and we saw it kick in more than once. When we sold our first house the buyers requested a home inspection. When the inspector arrived on the scene, Bruno was not happy to see him. I had to go out there (at the time I was a strapping 115 lbs.) and try and keep the almost 100 pounds dog off the inspector’s throat. Bruno made sure he kept his body between mine and the offending interloper. The hair was standing straight up on the back of his neck. I knew then he thought I was more than just a toy to him. I was his mistress to protect.

In the early and mid 1990s I was stalked…an experience I will never forget. The specter of the ordeal haunts me to this day and is in part why I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic and Anxiety Disorder. I still take precautions that are throwbacks to that episode. My home was vandalized on occasions and the stalker would lurk outside my home in the shadows late at night. Once he shot the back window out of Gomez’ pickup truck. A heartbreaking and devastating outcome from the ordeal was the cold hard fact that our noble and protective Bruno was murdered by this beast…this man has a judgment day coming. He finally left me alone when I got word to him I was toting a .38 and had no compunction of pulling the trigger if need be…

One of my favorite saying is “all dogs go to heaven”…please no theological debate here…it’s just my way of saying they are special, special critters, but I do believe in my heart they have a special place in God’s kingdom.

Shortly after Bruno went on to his Great Bone Reward in the Beyond, a special little angel was sent in exchange. Her name was Lady and she was a roan English Cocker Spaniel…

Lady came to us quite by accident. We had been out of state for one of Gomez’ work related job field assignments. One of his co-workers had asked Jared to walk the little dog he had with him while he was at work. They lived across the breezeway from where we were staying and he was offering to pay ten bucks a week. Kind of a no brainer for a growing boy…forty easy bucks a month.

During that time Jared would bring Lady over and that’s how I was introduced to this little eager, “I’m-ready-to-love-you” bundle of joy. She was a doppelganger for Lady from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”. We heard her story from her current owner. He had gotten Lady from someone else…who had found her…so she had been orphaned many times over in her young life it appeared.

When he found her she had been chained outside. That could account for her lifelong fear of thunderstorms. Whenever a good thunderstorm would blow up Lady would tremble like a leaf in a mighty wind. She woke me up many a night standing over me in the bed, terrified and trembling. Only when she became older and began to lose her hearing did that “fear” subside…and I suspect it was just because she couldn’t hear the thunder any more. I guess there are small blessings in aging…

When Lady was rescued by the kind hearted person we got her from he discovered a sad and life-threatening problem for her. Little Lady had heartworms! Please, people, treat you loyal, loving canines for this terrible problem! Mr. B made sure Lady received the treatment to remove heartworms. This treatment usually proceeds with a medication that contains arsenic and involves a certain amount of risk to the pet.

Well, the little Trooper sailed through with flying colors. I’m sure her youth worked to her advantage and it wasn’t long before Mr. B discovered why the former people who had found Lady had chained her (in frustration I’m sure) outside. Lady had wanderlust and as the Dixie Chicks used to say was “ready to run”!

You see in England English Cocker Spaniels are still actually used for what they were bred for…as working dogs…for the hunt. So, anytime Lady saw something that triggered that “hunt” instinct, off she’d go…almost without thought. Mr. B told us he’d let Lady out on his deck and if she saw something she thought she should chase down, she was out of the gate in a flash. That presented a problem for a single guy…that and the fact that she was also just a face in the crowd at his place. He had a veritable menagerie at his place…many, many, many furry friends.

He had brought her with him on this field assignment because he knew she need someone with her most of the time…companion dogs are just like that…that’s part of their job. He knew she needed to be somewhere where she could get that. But, he also had a big ol’ mushy heart when it came to animals and sometimes that doesn’t equal common sense. Her diet consisted of fried chicken livers from Mrs. Winner’s Fried Chicken and other such people food.

End result? Well, one day Jared came back from walking Lady and said, “Mom, something’s wrong with Lady. She acts like she doesn’t feel well and if I just touch her she whimpers.” Of course we told Mr. B who in turn took her to the vet. Little Lady had an old fashion case of pancreatitis. Luckily for her, she once again responded to the prescribed treatment.

By the time we were ready to return home after this field assignment I think Mr. B was beginning to see the handwriting on the wall. He asked if we would mind taking Lady home with us. That would give him time to see if he wanted to adopt her out and give us time to see if we were ready to adopt her in. I wasn’t quite sure at the time I was ready for an indoor pet…most of my pets had been predominately outdoor pets. But, I just couldn’t turn away that sweet little face.

As it was, Lady came home with us just a couple of weeks before the Blizzard of `93. Yes, folks I’m talking about an honest to goodness white-out, howling blizzard. I had 24 inch snow drifts in my back yard. We were some of the lucky ones. We only lost power about 12 hours. We were able to keep salvaged food from the fridge by setting it out on the deck in the snow and cold in coolers. Most of the rest of central Alabama and the South lost their power for a very long time. In some cases it took weeks to restore it.

Mr. B had gotten cold feet about giving up Lady and had decided to come and pick her up. I, on the other hand wasn’t ready to give her up so easily. I was really beginning to get attach to little “Red Dog” as I called her sometimes. As fate would have it, Mr. B scheduled the weekend the blizzard happened to hit and therefore was unable to get her. There weren’t any sled dog teams working in Alabama at the time and Lady was snow bound with us. After that it was a moot point…Mr. B decided Lady was better off where she was at…and the rest was history as they say. I must say though, she wasn’t too fond of that white stuff the blizzard left behind. We finally figured out that before she would potty she had to have a spot shoveled all the way down to the ground…through all 18-24 inches…it made for a very interesting few days…

I’ve often described Lady…or Ladybug as I sometime called her…as “love on four legs”. She was the gentlest, sweetest little bundle I had ever seen. Love just oozed out of her. She was playful and smart. She loved playing hide and seek and I could spend hours hiding in the house while she went from place to place looking for me. She was so proud of herself when she did find me. I was always the one who received the reward…usually uncontrollable, convulsive tail wagging and overall joy.

coy girl

Lady’s favorite place to try and not be noticed…

Lady in battle dress

Lady in full battle dress – her and Jared’s idea of “cute”

 

I’ve often heard about dogs that can sense when their owner is about to have a seizure or even able to “sniff” the presence of cancer cells on their loved one. I don’t know if Lady possessed these uncanny abilities but I do know this, when I had my last bout with lung cancer she became my constant little shadow. For months before I even knew cancer was growing in my left lung I was sick and felt lousy. Lady was by my side, even if I was in bed. I would drift off to a fitful sleep just to wake up to the reassuring feeling of this little warm presence curled up against my back. She was my little guardian angel…

After the cancer was found I had to undergo surgery to remove the cancer and a large portion of my left lung. I was in the hospital a week. I will never forget returning home and slowly walking up the sidewalk to my front door. There looking out the glass storm door was my teenage son and a very excited English Cocker Spaniel. It literally took two grown adult men and my teenage son to keep Lady from knocking me down from sheer delight and joy at my return home. After that, she never left my side. She seemed to sense I was still not doing well and was in recovery mode.

It was harder for me to bounce back after my second bout of (NON-smoking) lung cancer than it was the first time around. I was 13 years older for one thing, but in the ensuing years I had also developed autoimmune disorders. I would interject here that when you have this type of surgery you are almost literally cut in half. Well, let me put it this way…an incision is made starting on your back not too far from your spine and brought all the way around your body to under your breast. Your ribs are either cracked open or a section is sawed out of some of your ribs. Then they are pried open so the surgeon can access your lung. So, in addition to getting over thoracic surgery you have to deal with broken ribs. As a result I was more comfortable sleeping semi-sitting up for a while and would sleep in a recliner.

Now, Ladybug was never what I would call a lap dog, but one particular night she must have sensed I was having a particularly had time because she did something highly unusual…she jumped up into my lap, curl up and laid there in my lap until she felt I was ok. If she had been a cat she would have purred…

Lady was with me for many years. She even outlasted my previous marriage and husband proving that dogs can be woman’s best friend, too in the long run. But she also saw the beginning of my new life with Tall & Handsome. I have to say they took to each other rather well. He knew she was my baby and he also could see that age was beginning to take its toll on my little Red Dog. T & H made a lot of special concessions for Lady and I will always be appreciative of that. The day I lost Lady broke my heart. All these years later it still hurts and I still miss her. There are times I still cry when I think about her…

I was “dogless” for about 18 months and lived in the Fellini-like world of felines. After Lady I just didn’t know if I could ever have another dog I could love like I had Lady, but if I ever did have another dog it would be another English Cocker Spaniel…

Well, do you know what it’s like to eat crow?

My crow was served up in the form of a 15 pound Miniature Schnauzer…

I was still in semi-mourning from Lady and dealing with the two Amazon cats. The last thing I thought I needed was another pet. But T & H felt differently and he seized opportunity when it came knocking.

We were living in Tennessee when one day T & H came home from work with a report that a co-worker had a puppy he needed to find a good home for. This puppy was 11 months old and I had actually seen the little fellow with the owner one day in PetSmart when I was there with T & H about eight months earlier.

That depressing trip was to load up on my “favorite” pet supplies…cat food (in bulk for the hulking 42 pounds worth cat flesh sulking and prowling around back at the house) and for a large bucket of clumping cat litter. If PetSmart had a people pharmacy, I would have ordered a Prozac the size of a handball after that shopping order. My days was filled with listening to these cats fight. (They were like cartoon cats that fight and end up in a rolling, tumbling, screeching ball of flying fur and claws.) Their other choice sounds were hurling, scratching cat litter, tearing down window blinds, and then more cat fights.

I was wandering around PetSmart in a zombie like stage, looking at doggie “stuff” like mothers-in-waiting look at baby paraphernalia. It was sad… As I filtered the “white noise” out of the background noise, I became aware that T & H was chatting with someone an aisle or two away. I ambled over to see who he was chatting up…

As I approached I began to see a tiny little furry head…and my heart skipped a beat. It was a puppy…a tiny puppy at that…and I swear the puppy almost had a little halo glow over his head…it had to be a sign!

T & H introduced me to the young fellow (who later became like an adopted son) and I raved about the puppy. I was told he was a Miniature Schnauzer and his name was Watson. He asked if I wanted to hold him. Do I want to hold him?! Does a wino want cheap wine?!

I gathered up the warm little bundle of fur and began to walk around the store. It was the cutest four legged living thing I had seen in a long time! He was so cute I could have gobbled him up with a spoon. When he licked me on the nose, well, after I put back together my melted heart, I began to see if there was a way I could logically “doggie-nap” this puppy. In my heart I knew I couldn’t because he had an owner who loved him, but it was soooo tempting to tuck him in my coat and head to the car. I was smitten…

I returned the little fellow back to his owner. We chatted a bit and he could tell I was an unabashedly avowed dog person. He remembered that…

About eight months later, T & H came home from work one day and said that Watson needed a new home. His owner had a lot going on at the time and wasn’t able to be home much. Watson is such a “people” dog…he needed someone with him as much as possible. His owner wanted me to have him because he knew how I felt about dogs.

Well, by then I had decided I wouldn’t have another doge for a very long time…at least not until the cats where in “better places”. In my book, dogs and cats just don’t mix… At first I said no. But T & H and Dustin (the former owner) persisted and I finally relented with one condition: he could come on a two week probation period…just to see how he and the cats would work out.

Well, the day he arrived I was deathly sick…and was for about a week. So, I extended that probation period another week. The cats and dogs…well to just put it shortly…they didn’t…they didn’t anything…get along…stop beating up on the puppy, stop eating his food…you name it. I was constantly extending that two week probation. It actually became a joke.

Finally it became obvious that little dog had buried into our family and hearts like a tick on a hound and he wasn’t going anywhere. From that day on, he was my baby…

Babyface 2

Watson at about one year – such a Babyface

After the haircut 3 5-13-2007

Such a cutie…

 

I love my life...

I love my life…

That doesn’t mean every day was an easy day. There was of course the infamous “Willy Wonka Wanna Be” episode. One rainy Saturday Watson decided to gift us with what looked like Toostie Rolls in a most inconvenient place!

Watson has been a 15 pound bundle of joy in our life. Every day is a good day with him. He loves us, adores us, travels with us, makes us laugh, cuddles, plays and clowns with us and of course, belying his diminutive size, he is our watchdog. In his mind that is one of his jobs. He knows us as “Momma” and “Poppa” and my parents are “Granddad” and “Grandmomma”.

He is unconditional love. If one of us is gone and comes back to the house, his little back legs look like they are hooked up to springs of joy, it is hard for him to contain himself.

Some days when I look at him I think two things: “I’m so glad I found you.” And “My heart is going to break when something happens to you.”…just like it did with Lady and other dogs before her…

So, why do we keep doing this? Trust me my friend…the rewards of having a best friend like this far outweigh the tears that follow when they are gone…

© 2010 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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