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I could probably write many stories and books from the first ten years of my life, but this one is the most memorable of all.
Ole Bounce's Dignity
(A true story)
Death was no more than a make-believe ghost story such as grandma often told. I was born, I was alive, and I would live forever. I was a spectator seeing life and death going on all around me, but it could not touch me—or so I thought—until the cherished family dog got bitten by a rattlesnake and I watched his sad eyes reflecting the message of death.
Ole Bounce was his name.
His hind shank swelled up as he lay on a bed of dry pine straw where my older brother laid him. I sat next to him, gently caressing his head. His big pleading eyes looked at me while he pitifully whimpered and tried to reach out his paw.
My mom sent my brother to the cornfield to get daddy, and when he walked into the yard, he took one look at Ole Bounce and shook his head, his eyes turning sad. He gathered my two brothers, my sister and me in the circle of his arms.
Each of us had a turn to express our feelings, as tears dripped from our eyes.
"Daddy, what's wrong with Ole Bounce?" My baby brother whimpered, wiping at his tears.
"Daddy, Ole Bounce is going to die, ain't he?” My older brother whispered, knowing that if not for Ole Bounce nearly knocking him down and charging the snake just in front of him, he would have been bitten by the rattlesnake.
"He's hurting bad, daddy," my older sister cried.
"Can't we help him, daddy? Can't we make him well?” I wept.
Daddy hugged us close to him, trying to impart strength, while trying to find his own to do what he must do.
"Kids," daddy said, pausing to clear his throat, "Ole Bounce is sick. He's never going to get well again.”
Daddy's voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat a second time. "Ole Bounce," he continued, "is in pain. He's hurting bad. The only way Ole Bounce will stop hurting is for him to go to sleep."
"But, daddy,” I cried, pulling myself from his embrace to fall down on the ground next to my dear friend, "he hurts too much to sleep. Can't we keep him from hurting?” I nuzzled my head gently against his neck, my tears rolling off on his brown coat.
I turned my head just in time to see daddy wipe his bright blue eyes, and then he turned his back on us for a few seconds, looking at the sky and taking deep breaths. I could not know then that daddy had triple pain to bear; the pity felt for an old dog's suffering, remorse from the loss of a friend who was a member of his family, and the empathy for his children’s misery over the loss of their pet and friend.
Daddy turned toward us and said, "We all love Ole Bounce, but now we must love him more than we've ever loved him before. We must love him enough to let him go to sleep forever and find peace from his pain and suffering."
"Ole Bounce doesn’t like to sleep until we go to sleep. I don't want him to go to sleep, daddy," I wept, remembering one of the kittens who went to sleep, and then disappeared.
Mama came outdoors to join us. Gently, she knelt by Ole Bounce and me. She put one arm about my shoulders and reached down to touch Ole Bounce's head.
"Mama, I don’t want Ole Bounce to go to sleep," I implored through sobs.
Mama looked at daddy, and daddy looked back at her with a sad shake of his head. Mama picked me up, her gentle arms cradling me against her soft breasts, and took me inside. She rocked me in her old rocking chair until I cried myself to sleep.
Later, while I lay on the bed where mama put me, my body suddenly tensed, and I struggled up from sleep. My eyes blinked open heavily to a sound I had heard before---my daddy's rifle.
I knew Ole Bounce was sleeping.
I jumped from my bed and ran through the house to the kitchen to find my mom, my brothers, and my sister. They were sitting around the table, much the way we sit when it's time to eat, but they weren't eating now. They were all just sitting there kind of staring at something on the table that wasn't there.
Then my little brother looked at everybody rather strangely as if he didn't know what was going on, and his baby-fat legs wouldn't be still any longer. He climbed down from the chair, found his rubber ball beneath the table and threw it against the wall. When it rolled away from the wall, he chased it, caught it, and then threw it against the wall again. We aimlessly watched him.
We kept glancing toward the door. I wanted to forget about that door, but every time I looked away, my eyes wandered back to it. I divided my attention between the door and the two hooks on the wall where daddy always kept his rifle. The rifle wasn't there. I knew it wouldn't be, for I had heard that sharp cracking sound that left a choking pain inside my chest. Tears started again.
"Mama, where does the water come from when it makes so many tears? I only drank a glass of milk today," I said.
Mama smiled gently, touched my cheek, and said, "God made a well inside you that will never go dry. He wants us to have tears because it washes away pain.”
After mama said that, I didn't swallow the tears anymore. I just let them fill my eyes and slide down my cheeks, often counting them just to see how many it would take to wash away my pain.
I kept looking at the door. Daddy was a long time getting there. I was sure all my pain would wash away by the time he came through that door.
Mama put food on the table and made us all wash up for supper. All of us kids, even my little brother, tried to eat just to make mama happy. Her face had begun to look pale and sad and the gentle smile had disappeared, and she, too, began to look anxiously toward the door. We looked at mama with concern, and followed her gaze.
Where was daddy? Why was he taking so long? Why didn't he come home? Did daddy hurt, too? Was he waiting for the tears to wash away his pain?
Mama told us it was time for bed, but we put it off as long as we could. We wanted to wait for daddy. When mama told us again to go to bed, we heard that familiar scrape on the doorstep as daddy brushed the dirt from his shoes. A surge of something passed through me like warmth and love and tears of happiness all mixed with tears of pain, and I wasn't sure exactly what my feelings were. I know my first inclination was to run to daddy and fling myself into his arms, but something about him held me back, just as it did my mom, brothers, and sister.
He didn't look at any of us. He purposely turned his face aside as he walked over to the wall and placed the rifle on the hooks. Without a word, he walked from the kitchen to his and mama's room. None of us said a word. We could sense what daddy was feeling.
Mama didn't need to tell us to go to bed anymore. On silent feet, we softly marched away to our rooms.
I learned that grief was a private matter for men like my daddy. I also learned that it is many days and many tears later before the pain washes away.
“Does Ole Bounce know we cry for him?” I asked daddy the following day when daddy seemed more like his usual self.
“He knows, but he would be happier if we thought good memories about him that make us smile instead of cry. He wants us to celebrate his life not his death, and only in that way can we show honor for our old friend who lived and died with dignity.
“What is dignity, Daddy?"
“Dignity is a special honor usually earned by putting another’s needs ahead of oneself, such as Ole Bounce did for your brother Tommy.”
I took my daddy’s hand, and thoughtfully said, “Ole Bounce’s dignity kept the rattlesnake from biting Tommy, didn’t it? I’m glad we don’t have to cry for Tommy, Daddy, but I wish the rattlesnake hadn’t bit Ole Bounce.”
I wiped the back of my hand across my eyes, straightening my shoulders, and wanting to have dignity like Ole Bounce.
© 2006 Jeanette Cooper--All Rights Reserved
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|Reviewed by Janice Scott
|Great story. I'm off to peek at all your ebooks now.|
|Reviewed by JMS Bell
|WHAT A GREAT WRITE...SO ENJOYED. COMBINING TRAGEDY AND PAIN WITH LEARNING AND GROWING. BEAUTIFULLY DONE. THANKS FOR SHARING AND GOD BLESS YOU. JOYCE * HIS INSPIRATIONS|
|Reviewed by Mary Grace Patterson
|What a heart wrenching story Jeanette! Its a wonderfully sad sharing of a small part of your life. You have taken me there . I could see and feel what you wrote. I hope you'll write more. It would also be a great treasure to write more stories to share with other family members.......M|
|Reviewed by Sheila Roy
So sad. You told this story beautifully. I like the ending. The imagery there shows a glimpse of the strong Jeanette we all know today. Have a Merry Christmas:) Love and Hugs,
|Reviewed by E. P. Ned Burke
|A touching tale. Reminded me of my own childhood dog, Ole Daisy,
Take care, Ned
|Reviewed by Richard Orey
|My dear Jeanette,
Always in your writing you offer us love and understanding and tenderness. And it's not in the abstract because what you share with us is yourself: your love, your understanding, your tenderness.
In my senior years I'm beginning to acquire some understanding about life. I know for certain that love and tenderness are inseparable parts of my being, and for this reason I cried as I read your poignant story, Ole Bounce's Dignity.
You are a marvelous teller of tales, Jeanette, truly one of the best writers I have read in a long, long time. It only makes me feel my sadness even more knowing that Ole Bounce wasn't a figment of your imagination but was a real-life, lovable creature of God given to us to love and to be loved in return.
Once, again, I share the wisdom of Khalil Gibran: "And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.
Love to you, my friend.
|Reviewed by Joyce Bowling
|Oh Jeanette this is a treasure my friend. Ole Bounce...reminds me of an old friend I had growing up. It is so hard to understand death, and a pet that has to be put to sleep...but the fond memories of our pets and joys that we shared last a lifetime. Great write and a very touching write...loved it!
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado