Tales from 6-toe country - Part 1

Image of banjo playing kid from Deliverance Deliverance, the widely acclaimed 1972 feature film often cited for its "squeal like a pig" male rape scene, was deemed to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 2008 by the United States' Library of Congress. The film's subject matter, though evocative and avant garde, has served to reinforce the widely held negative stereotype and erroneous misconception that country folk are slack-jawed, inbred, banjo-picking bumpkins. As a consequence, the reiteration of such myths can often be found in risque' humour: Relative humidity is the amount of sweat on a hillbilly's brow when he's boffing his sister or At Halloween, hillbillies pump kin.

Certainly, I've crossed paths with a few webfooters over the past thirty years near my rural property in Eastern Ontario's Frontenac County. But I've encountered a far greater number of individuals who appear to be swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool in Ottawa. Of course one's use or reliance on public transit likely increases one's exposure to Wal-Martians exponentially but, I suspect, the distribution of webfooters is proportional across the urban and rural landscape. That is, of course, not to say that, generally speaking, there aren't significant differences between country folk and city slickers. In the city, if several shots ring out, chances are someone is dead. In the country, if several shots ring out, chances are Bambi is dead. In the city, if someone's blowing their car horn at you, they're calling you a fucktard. In the country, if someone's blowing their horn at you, they're saying hello. If you smell smoke in the city, someone's house is on fire. If you smell smoke in the country, someone is heating their house, cooking or burning brush. And finally, on a Saturday night in the city, you're apt to hear sirens. On a Saturday night in the country, you're apt to hear your neighbour's Ford rusting.

Since my rural property has, from time to time, served as my principle residence, this missive impinges on the rural mindset and introduces a small number of local characters. Welcome to 6-toe country:

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I had the pleasure of making Edna's acquaintance in the summer of '97. The local branch of the Legion was hosting a hootenanny: an open stage country music show in an effort to raise funds and bolster attendance. Having spent my formative years in the Ottawa Valley, growing up in a family in which every member played a musical instrument, I was no stranger to music. Or, to be more accurate, I was no stranger to old country music. As I performed my best rendition of Good Hearted Woman, a Waylon Jennings standard, Edna's unique brand of foot stompin' caught my attention. Whereas most people might tap their foot on the floor to the beat of the music, Edna preferred stomping hers on the table. This was a matter of pragmatism for Edna, one should understand, as she had a prosthetic leg. While some people might have found Edna to be low brow, I found her unreserved nature refreshing and struck up a conversation with her which, as it turns out, developed into a friendship which has spanned two decades.

A couple of years, after the passing of her beagle Korker, Edna regaled me with a story from Korker's past. Gary Watson, one of Edna's neighbours, owned a small farm just up the road and, as one would expect to find on a farm, old man Watson had a half dozen head of beef cattle. Inasmuch as old man Watson admired his beef cattle, Korker admired them too. So much so that Korker would visit them on a regular basis and play "Chase the Big Furry Moo-things" with them. And while Korker seemed to enjoy chasing old man Watson's big furry moo-things, both the cows and old man Watson weren't quite as keen on the concept as Korker was.

"You're dog's here again," old man Watson said curtly after Edna answered the phone, "and he's chasing my cows again!" Old man Watson added, emphasizing the second 'again'.

"Don't worry," Edna replied in an attempt to reassure old man Watson, "he'll come home when he's tired." This was how Edna dealt with old man Watson. Every time he phoned to complain about Korker, she'd minimize the import of his concerns. She had a wealth of one-line responses from which to choose. "He wouldn't know what to do with one if he caught it.", "Well they need their exercise too.", or, my personal favourite, the reason for which will soon become apparent: "It's not my fucking dog. My dog's right here with me."

It was inevitable that old man Watson, frustrated with Edna's lackadaisical attitude, would be forced to take matters into his own hands. Finally, one day Edna answered the phone to the voice of an irate old man Watson. "I'm gonna shoot that fucking dog of yours," he exclaimed, convinced the threat would be the fait accomplie to his problem. An unconcerned Edna, on the other end of the phone, remained apathetic. "Then just fucking shoot him then," she quipped, hanging up the phone. I have little doubt that many farmers would have shot Korker but old man Watson wasn't one of them. He did call the municipal office though and they, in turn, summoned the on-call dog catcher who was promptly dispatched to the Watson farm. One hour later, Korker was caged, in the back of a van, and on his way to doggie prison.

The municipality's dogs at large protocol, particularly when there are no tags and they have no knowledge of the animal's vaccination status, is to bathe the animal, administer the requisite shots and place them in a segregated kennel cage for thirty days. After thirty days, if the animal is neither claimed nor adopted, it is euthanized. The municipality, operating under the information they received from old man Watson, believed that the dog they had in lock-up belonged to Edna. As a consequence, the municipality phoned Edna, not only to inform her that Korker was in doggie-prison, but also to let her know there was an outstanding bill of $278 associated with his captivity and maintenance. Edna's response was predicatable. "It's not my fucking dog. My dog's sitting right here beside me." From what I gather, there was a short silence on the phone before the dog catcher apologized for troubling her and hung up the phone. The brief conversation sealed Korker's fate placing him on death row. Korker died, I'm sorry to say, but not at the hands of the township's Kevorkian. He died some eight years later of old age and dementia. It is the story of how Korker thwarted the icy cold hands of prison death that's of import here.

Edna's son, Raymond, stopped in the following afternoon and, immediately noticing Korker's absence, asked his mother, "Where's the dog?" Edna, with patented nonchalance, responded, "The little fucker's in jail."

Edna became a Rowe when she married her second husband Dan. She was a Thomas by birth and subsequently a Kiness when she married her first husband, Allan. Though Edna & Allan had a son named Raymond, Edna and Raymond no longer shared the same family name after Edna remarried. When Raymond learned that Korker had been apprehended by the local dog-catcher and, thanks to Edna's deception, was now being held as a stray on death row, Raymond jumped in his truck and headed for the doggie-detention centre with every intention of posting Korker's bail.

As Raymond entered the facility, he quickly noted that strays, on death row scheduled for euthanasia, could be adopted for thirty dollars. That was a far cry from the $278 bill that the municipality had quoted Edna when they believed it was her dog Korker they had in custody. You can probably guess what happened next. As Raymond entered the kennel area, wherein three dogs were incarcerated for various crimes, Korker immediately recognized him and began scurrying about the cage, tail wagging excitedly. Raymond did take the time to examine all three dogs so as to maintain his credibility but, he conceded when examining Korker, "This little fella seems pretty friendly. Do you know how old he is?" The attendant indicated they had no information on the dog as it was apparently a stray, likely lost by a hunter, but that it had been a nuisance to a local farmer so was picked up. The staff were unaware of Raymond Kiness's ties to Edna Rowe. Raymond paid the $30 administration fee and was issued dog tags and a vaccination record for the dog. One hour later, Korker was back home.

When Edna learned that it only cost $30 to retrieve Korker and that Korker had been bathed, had his nails trimmed, was vaccinated and was issued new municipal dog tags, she asserted, "That's a real bargain. When it comes time to get his shots next year, we'll have to drop him off at Watson's."

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 31 August 2013