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Grinning Tiger likes his okra

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By W.B. Evans

One thought crossed my mind when Mr. Charlie Caskey wheeled that big Ford into our driveway.

I didn’t know why a police officer was at my house. But if I was involved, I’d probably get it as soon as Daddy gets home.

Mr. Charlie opened the back door of the sedan and out jumped good old Tiger, my beloved bulldog.

There was no such thing as a leash law. Nobody needed one, seeing how just about everybody in the neighborhood had a big old dog that ran loose. That’s why Mr. Charlie knew exactly where Tiger lived.

Shucks, everybody knew Tiger, just like they did “Old Betsy,” our big black Dodge or that green ’37 Ford coupe with the spare on the back.

Now, Tiger had a heart of gold, However, he was know for causing an occasional stir along Chesterfield Avenue.

He was really very friendly, although folks got concerned that time he ran off covered in soap suds after a cat got his attention. It took some real diplomacy to convince the neighbors the soap suds in his mouth were caused by Rinso, not rabies.

Plus, a couple of winters earlier, Tiger caught distemper and ended up with Saint Vitus’s Dance.

Tiger didn’t frighten  the fellas, but a big old shaking bulldog with a foaming mouth was enough to scare the socks off some of the young pretend tea party hostesses in the neighborhood.

To be honest, until Mr. Charlie opened his door, I didn’t even know Tiger had gone for his first ride in a police car.

Me and a buddy were camping out in the yard under a pup tent and old Tiger was there with us every step of the way.

Faithful and true, I knew Tiger would stay right there with us until all the Vienna sausages were gone. He didn’t have a taste for marshmallows or vanilla wafers.

We had pushed all our good stuff inside the tent and had gotten bored.

With nothing better to do, we decided to walk uptown to check out what was happening at the Western Auto store.

We were broke, but they always have plenty of good stuff for us to ooh and aah about. Besides, it was something to do.

To keep anybody from stealing our stuff from the pup tent, I decided to tie Tiger to one of the tent pegs. He would be enough to keep the bad guys away.

Time sorta got away from us. When we got back, Tiger and the tent had both disappeared.

I was just about to call the police to report a missing dog and tent when, like a miracle, Mr. Charlie appeared. He also had what looked very much like my pup tent in the car trunk.

Mr. Charlie, who lived down in the Elgin community, knew me and my dog. He also knew my daddy.

Oh Lord, my daddy will certainly kill me now.

Funny thing, though, Mr. Charley was laughing.

“I got a urgent call from Mrs. Laney,” he said, referring to the grandmother of the late Sen. Frank L. “Son” Roddey. Mrs. Laney lived at the corner of South Market and Chesterfield Avenue.

She also owned the Main Street building where Pierce Horton operated the J.F. Mackey “Corner Drug Store.”

“Son, she’s pretty riled up,” Mr. Charlie said, as he pulled my tent from the trunk of his car and handed it to me.

Mr. Charlie was grinning, but he was serious, too. 

“Seems that something or other wearing in a large tan cape just tore up her almost grown okra patch,” he said, looking straight at me.  “Whatever it was, she said it was jumping up and down the whole time like it was nervous all over.”

If the Roddey girls – Teen and Lib – had been home, everything would have been smoothed over without having the police involved.

I dropped my head and looked at Old Tiger. I swear, he’s grinning, too, I thought.

Tiger looked me over as if to say, “you know, none of this would’ve happened if you hadn’t tied me to that darned tent.” 

The only one not smiling was me.

Things were finally settling down, when, just my luck, Daddy drove up.

After a couple of handshakes, Mr. Charlie and Daddy talked a bit.

Actually it was more pointing and laughing than anything else.

I felt a little relieved, until the laughing stopped.

Daddy glanced my way.

“Come here,” he said, before giving me a few choice words.

Mr. Charlie left and Daddy sent me to see Mrs. Laney.

She was sitting on her front porch when I walked up. I told her who I was, while staring at my shoe tops.

“I already know who you are,” she said. “I think I have something for you to see.”

I followed her out to the almost grown okra patch.

It didn’t look too bad. I staked up some big stalks and shoveled a little dirt here and there without looking up. I accepted her stern lecture with as much grace as I could muster.

By nightfall, peace had returned to Chesterfield Avenue. Tiger was still grinning and our camp out went on as planned.