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Chicken gravy works wonders

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By W.B. Evans

A bunch of us were sitting around on the back porch steps.To tell the truth, there was only three of us.I had just returned from visiting Uncle Ira and Aunt Cora in Tampa and I had a secret I was just busting to tell.Uncle Ira had slipped off and taken me to the dog races. Whew! I was glad to get that out of my system.What a sight; there were Greyhounds running around an oval track chasing an artificial rabbit run by some kind of motor.On that day, despite their best efforts, none of those dogs caught that fake rabbit.However, Uncle Ira caught a new, crisp $20 bills by betting on one of the participants.Uncle Ira made me promise to never tell Aunt Cora about our dog track adventure.Given that, I sorta fibbed and told her that we went over to St. Petersburg and spent the afternoon at Del Webb’s “World's Most Unusual Drug Store.”At the time, Uncle Ira seemed impressed with how well I could think on my feet.After telling the story on the steps that morning, Reddy Kilowatt flicked the light on the dark side of my brain.If folks in Florida would pay good money to watch dogs run after a fake rabbit, they would probably do the same thing on Chesterfield Avenue.We launched a plan right on the spot. I figured my bulldog would outrun anything, especially those rangy mutts my buddies would enter.We came up with a field of three; one bulldog, a lanky old bird dog and an Eskimo Spitz.Now, all we needed was a fake rabbit.Bobby said his little brother had a white stuffed rabbit, so we were well on our way.Admission tickets to the Tampa dog track were $5 apiece. We doubted we could get that much in our neighborhood, so we cut the price to a dime.I spent the rest of the afternoon making homemade tickets from yellow construction paper that Momma had left over from Vacation Bible School.The next morning, we started knocking on doors, to sell tickets to what we billed as the “Great Dog Race of 1943.”The ones I approached were a little gun-shy. Most folks still remembered the bum deal I had given them on some flower seeds. They didn’t see any reason to buy tickets to a dog race, of all things.Thank goodness there were some sportsmen still around.Within two days time, we had sold about $3 worth of tickets, which meant we had $1 apiece.But there was one thing we didn’t have; a motor to make the rabbit run.Old Reddy showed up, “so full of spark to light up the dark,” to bail us out again.I remembered the boy from down the street who had an old bicycle.Now my brain was working overtime.“All we have to do is tie that artificial rabbit on the back fender of that bike and we’re in business,” I said.Indeed we were.It took some backtracking, but we got the word out that the Great Dog Race of 1943 would be held at 9 o’clock the next morning.In the meantime, I got the boy with the bicycle lined up so he would be ready to lead those three thoroughbred dogs on a fast-paced race.We met at 8 a.m. sharp on race day and got the dogs together for the first time.That wasn’t an easy task. You know, dogs have to smell each other over and sorta get used to one another, which took more time than we figured.To be on the safe side, I started rubbing the artificial rabbit in front of them but it didn’t raise a single yelp.Bobby said his momma had some chicken gravy left over from supper that might help.He high-tailed home to get the gravy bowl. We dipped that rabbit in gravy and it set them dogs to sniffing.Hot dog!Folks were lining the sidewalk as race time was fast approaching.Just as we were getting set to turn the dogs loose, we realized that we needed a whistle or a pistol to start the race.My neighbor offered to blow his car horn.Thank goodness for sports-minded neighbors.Bless Pete, I was stuck there holding all three dogs while my buddies were taking bets.Then, as the car horn blew, the boy started peddling his bike, and I turned the dogs loose.Everything was going according to plan, or so we thought.It was a pretty good race until Mrs. Allison came to her door and let her old tom cat out. Once those blooming dogs spied that old tom, they lost all interest in a stuffed rabbit doused in chicken gravy.Race fans scrambled to get out of the way as the three dogs set sail for a cat who got caught up in something not of his own making.He lighted out of there faster than the motorized rabbit at the dog track.Then, to make matters worse, Bobby’s mother showed up looking for her baby’s stuffed bunny.Yes sir, things went downhill pretty fast, making for a long day that we had to do a lot of explaining about.After some stern lectures and refunds to die-hard dog racing fans, the three of us ended up with about 40 cents, which wasn’t a very good gate for all the planning and effort put into the Great Dog Race of 1943.I decided to use my share of the profits for a Main Street shopping spree.But first things first.Right now, I have to go find my bulldog.