A Bird Dog Named Toby

In 1950 we lived on the corner of Barbour Street and S. Broadway Street. I was nine and in the third grade. School was just down the street a few blocks next to the railroad tracks. Across the tracks were the barber shop, gas station and the hill up to the center of town with one lone traffic light. Providence, Kentucky was a great place to grow up. My father’s parents lived only a short distance in the other direction on Leeper Lane, which ran along the side of an abandoned railroad bed. My Mother’s father and her sister lived only two miles out of town to the west. I could ride my bike or walk to visit my grand parents on ether side anytime I wanted. As a matter of fact I was free to explore the whole town if I liked.

Quite often on Saturdays I would ride down past the school and along the access road that ran along the tracks to the Ice House and the out Hwy. 293 to the Clark Farm. The old farm house was on a hill overlooking the rolling farm land of west Kentucky. Grandpa Clark loved the house because of the breeze that always blew across the large front porch where he had his favorite chair. My Uncle Paul and Aunt Pauline lived with Grandpa and took care of him. Uncle Paul had a Bird Dog named Toby and he was trained very well. Whenever anyone would come up to the house Toby, would run out to greet them and stick out his paw. He would continue to stick out his paw until you shook it, then leave you alone.

Toby was my best friend, we ran through the fields and played all day. Aunt Pauline had told me that Toby was not allow to come into the house, but one day I was determined to bring Toby inside. I struggled with him and finely managed to get him through the back screen door and when I let go, he crashed through the screen to get out. He had been trained well and knew that he was not allowed in the house.

Aunt Pauline love to make work into play and she always had some project that we could work on. She sold Stanley products around the county and we would unpack the boxes and stock the shelves in the small house that was down near the road in front of the main house. They always had a hammock or two in the yard to play in and a barn to climb through. My Uncle Paul let me drive the tractor and help him build a new barn.

They loved to swim and each year they would find a new spot for a pond and build a dock for swimming at each new pond. I can remember at least four ponds that we swam and hunted frogs in and each had a dock. I loved to watch Aunt Pauline cook the frog legs and when she put salt on them in the frying pan they would jump. Aunt Pauline, was the oldest girl in the family of four girls and one boy, and their mother died at an early age, so she raised the younger girls. They had horses, a couple of cows, goats and chickens. Cherry trees lined one side of the house and the large lawn had two tapioca trees with plenty of caterpillars on the large leaves for fishing. I loved to climb up into the cherry trees and eat the cherries with the birds. On the other side of the house was a large garden which always provided more fun work. Grandpa Clark taught me to play crazy eights and we would play for hours. He would set on his porch and smoke his pipe, throwing the spent matches over the side. We would pick up the matches and build forts in the dirt with them. Each year during vacation time the families would return to Providence to visit and we would have a great time with all the cousins.

I would go for long walks with Grandpa Clark in the woods and he would show me how to make all kinds of things from the branches and bark. He could take a green stick about the size of your thumb and make a whistle by cutting the bark so that it would slide. Then cutting a flat on the stick followed by a notch. Then you would slide the bark back on the stick and you had a great whistle. He also showed me how to plaid strips of bark or binding cords used for bailing hay, into a whip. If you tied a strip of leather on the end, you could make the whip pop with a loud crack.

When Toby died a few years later it was just not quite the same, to visit the farm and not have that bird dog come out to shake your hand.

Source by Hubert Clark Crowell