EDITOR'S NOTE: A former Sullivan and Charleston resident, Jerry Ginther writes a column the first Tuesday of each month in the JG-TC with his remembrances of years gone by in Charleston, Sullivan and the area.
I remember a funny story a famous comedian told about how his dad tried to impress him with the hard-working and industrious attitude he possessed as a boy. The story goes that he would arise at 4:00 AM each morning and milk 120 cows by hand before he went to school. To make it more difficult, the fellow he worked for didn’t own a bucket, so he had to milk the cows in his hand and carry the milk five miles through waist high snowdrifts to get it to its destination -- without spilling a drop.
Now most of us have heard this type of story from our elders, but probably they were not as ridiculous or humorous. That is to say they were more believable. However, I had a few of those deep snow encounters of my own as a boy. I walked the 10 blocks to school every day from the very first day of the first grade. When you are not much over three feet tall, a two-foot snowdrift looks pretty colossal. I plowed through them on foot until the third grade.
I was fortunate enough to have been given a bicycle for transportation that year. Make no mistake about it -- bicycles are not ideal for negotiating snowdrifts. They were, however, ideal for attracting every loose dog along the route to school. In those days there must not have been a leash law and many folks allowed their dogs to run loose. It seemed as though every route I chose to avoid a possible encounter had a dog lying in wait. Bear in mind that my first wheeled transportation was a small 20-inch bike and no match for a fleet-footed 24-inch dog. I found it amazing that when I walked, the dogs paid me little attention. Conversely, riding a bicycle was fraught with peril! I was bitten, wrecked and skinned up while fleeing, had my pant legs torn off and once had to get a tetanus shot after a dog bite. Still, I continued to ride the bike and some way managed to survive to tell this story.
Now the principal and the teachers were not very sympathetic to my predicament. They were not convinced that I was doing my best to avoid the dogs and didn’t appreciate the terror I braved each and every day to attend school. When I arrived late, the teacher would ask, “Dogs again, right Jerry? Go on down to the office and tell the principal.”
As the years passed, the county employed a “dog catcher,” now referred to with the more sophisticated title of “animal control officer.” However, by that time I had acquired a 26-inch bike, stronger legs and the challenge of outrunning an occasional dog was a bit more fun; I was winning more of those races. Now that I was capable of outrunning most of them, they were being kept off the streets. That’s not really a complaint. Even though I was getting better at escaping the bites and wrecks of the previous years, I was learning to enjoy a peaceful ride on the streets without having to pedal for my life.
Having obtained the ripe old age of 72 years, I still enjoy an occasional bicycle ride. Fortunately, I have neither loose dogs nor snowdrifts to contend with here. Now that I’m living in central Texas, seeing a snowflake is a rare occurrence and loose dogs are usually not a bother. The only impediment to bike riding here is the long and very hot summer days, but sometimes we must give up one thing to gain another. Truly, I miss having snow for Christmas, but as long as we have air conditioning I’m bound to remain in the sunny south. Now we enjoy mild winters and hot, but air-conditioned summers. Not such a hard-to-believe story.