Uncle Mort has a way of showing up at the most unexpected times. When he skids to a stop with golf cart smoking and takes porch steps two at a time, it usually means one or all of the following:
1) Aunt Maude has had enough, and has suggested, if only in body language, that he might want to go to town for a while,
2) The fish aren’t biting, or
3) Anger has reached a boiling point, and he’s ready to ingest tin foil and spit out roofing nails….
Saturday morning, it was “all of the above.” Maude was busy with spring planting, an annual project too detailed to interest Mort.
“She’s the only woman in the thicket who turns cucumber seeds inside out before planting, hoping to get pickles with dimples instead of warts,” Mort laughed.
His sentences came out in gasps. Within seconds, he was venting on state legislators, folks he thinks may be distant relatives of Will Rogers. “They never met a tangent they didn’t like,” Mort fumed, feeling that this time, they’ve taken things too far….
Mort paused to make coffee, filling the pot to the 10-cup line, so I knew I’d best settle in for some listening. “It don’t take much water to make good coffee,” Mort reminded.
He concedes that many of the legislators had good raisin’, but “when they get down to the capitol, they look past pressing issues.” Instead, they plunge “full bore” into “minutiae that doesn’t need laws, just common sense.”
On this day, he was in a snit about new laws aimed at dog owners….
Law-makers’ priorities are rarely impeccable, and giving dogs a bad time at this point in history may be “about as ‘peccable’ as it gets.”
My uncle figures canines are now under siege, and probably weren’t even consulted when the “man’s best friend” line was coined.
“One of these days, dogs are going to demand a re-count, and folks will know that this friendship thing is a one-sided deal,” Mort snorted. “If canines vote, we’ll be lucky if they consider us mere acquaintances….”
“Why wouldn’t dogs be peeved?” Mort questioned. “They’re being served tainted food, and they’re all tangled up in leash laws. And don’t get me started on dog pounds. A lot of ‘em shouldn’t happen to a dog.”
Mort wasn’t through; his litany of front-burner issues had many verses.
He mentioned topics of poverty, immigration, environment, energy, school finance and the like. But taking center stage was legislation underscoring that dogs’ bites are always worse than their barks….
Mort unfurled stacks of proposed legislation aimed at dog owners. It shined light into the darkest corners, including “what they knew and when they knew it.” Severity of punishment would no longer hang on “first-bite” details. It would now include detailed historical information, such as the date of each dog’s first fang-showing.
“Could be that some dog owners will be so scared, they’ll muzzle their pets all the time instead of risk litigation and the possibility of a felony, hefty fines and even jail time,” he said.
He paused to stroke Ole Bullet, his hound dog who’d accompanied him on the golf cart….
“I really love dogs,” Mort said. “And they’re due a fair shake. Bullet helps me a bunch and is smart as a whip.”
He told about a heated argument a few days earlier with a farmer who maintains that pigs are smarter than dogs.
“Ain’t no way,” Mort responded. “I ain’t never heard of no seeing-eye pig.” (Bullet nudged me, making sure that I knew when to laugh.)
Mort shifted gears, opting for reflection on bygone years instead of blistering the government. He recalled the depression era, when neighbors got rid of their dogs because food was so scarce. Mort urged them to simply feed them turnip greens.
When his friends protested that their dogs wouldn’t eat turnip greens, he responded, “Mine wouldn’t either for the first three weeks….”
As he poured his final cup of coffee, I asked Mort if he’d heard about the new Internet contest called American Idol, Dog Version. I told him it is for dogs across the nation.
He wanted to know if it has cleared the legislature.
I glanced at Bullet. He was flossing his teeth. Then, he started howling a tune that sounded a lot like How Much Is That Doggie in the Window….
Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.