Of Buckeyes, Batteries and Broken Blades

It’s a short walk from our front door to the end of the driveway. Once there, we have a decision to make … go left or go right. I suppose I could turn this into a deep, heavy, political discussion, but I’m just walking a dog and I’m kind of over politics. I let Zsa-Zsa make the decision. I figure it could be the most important decision of her day and who knows, maybe it gave her a sense of empowerment. A pug-power kind of thing. Not that she needed any encouragement in that area. She was always chock full of attitude and vinegar.

Mimsy will occasionally look back at me as we walk, as if seeking my approval. Zsa-Zsa had no such compulsion. I believe she thought she was walking me, probably sized me up and figured I needed the exercise.

If we head right it only takes us a few steps before we enter the complex of the Catholic Church next to our house. In the narrow green space between the sidewalk and the street are a couple of old horse-chestnut trees. These are not great specimen trees. They are Tim Burtonesque bonsai versions of horse chestnuts. The green space they are living in runs parallel to the power lines above them. Left unattended their limbs would surround the telephone and power lines, but the electric company does not leave them unattended, they are pruned almost beyond recognition, but they still produce fruit. Large spiny pods that contain brown nuts resembling the eye of a deer, hence the name “buckeyes.”

As Zsa-Zsa and I walked past  the trees during late summer into autumn, I couldn’t resist picking up one of the “buckeyes” as we went past. The pods that hold them are sharp and unpleasant, but the nuts contained inside are smooth, pleasant to the touch and roll easily between the forefinger and the thumb in a comforting sort of way. They eventually ended up in my pocket as a temporary holding device until they landed in a variety of locations. Zsa-Zsa is no longer with us, but years of walking past these trees have resulted in my finding these buckeyes in many unexpected places. I can be rummaging through the drawers of my office desk in search of a paperclip, only to find an old petrified buckeye.

If I’m honest with myself, I know exactly why I pick them up, and it goes back decades. The grade-school I attended in the early 60’s was 2 miles from our house. At some point when I was 8 or 9 my parents agreed to let me walk to school with my friends. Bus service was provided, but as an 8 year-old boy, it was not cool to ride the bus. Parents today would not dream of letting their children walk 2 miles along a road with no sidewalks and across railroad tracks unsupervised. It was a different time, a more innocent time. The cold war was heating up, we had had the Cuban missile crisis, and satellites were starting to appear in the night skies, but a 2 mile walk to school with your neighborhood pals was considered perfectly normal.

Bragging rights in young boys of that era were established in many ways. How far you could throw a ball, how fast could you run, how good you were at arm wrestling, how many speeds your bike had, did your family own a color television, and the contents of your pockets. Girls had not yet come into the equation.

I was above average at arm wrestling, below average at how far I could throw a ball, and we didn’t own a television set, let alone a color one. My bike was a one speed coaster bike. The contents of my pockets benefited from my walks to school.

Our school commutes had two speeds, the all-out-run or the amble. The all-out-run was employed when we spent too much time on the amble, or were just plain running late. Ambling allowed for time to kick anything down the road that wasn’t firmly attached to the terra firma. It allowed for the discovery and collection of found objects along our route. Anything with gears was a given to be collected. Discarded batteries  even if completely discharged, were picked up. They had the right size and heft to make them ideal for throwing at anything that needed throwing at.

Nine-volt batteries were very common then because they powered the transistor radios that everyone had. These batteries were particularly easy to test for charge. A quick touch of the terminals to the tongue let you know immediately if there was any charge left. Mind you, we were not without our hygienic principles. It’s not like we just picked something off the ground and put it to our tongue, we wiped it on our shirt sleeve first.

It was a time when almost all men carried 2 things in their pockets: a cloth handkerchief and a pocket knife. So occasionally we found a pocket knife. Usually with a broken blade, but it was still a great find. A broken blade could also serve as a screwdriver. Of course there was always the chance that the blade could snap shut during that maneuver and cut your finger. It was a risk worth taking.

Then there were the nuts. Acorns and hickory nuts weren’t worth picking up. Walnuts, like batteries were made for throwing. But a buckeye, a buckeye was a rare find. Worthy of pulling out at recess and showing off.

“Cool, let me see it. Where’d ya find it?”

Of course it didn’t take long for the teacher on recess duty to come over and confiscate the object of attention and we would never see that buckeye again.

Mimsy and I still walk that path that I walked with Zsa-Zsa. I will still pick up a buckeye and run my thumb around it’s smooth skin. It still brings a smile to my face and a remembrance of a simpler time. I still put the buckeye in my pocket.


Because I’ve got a buckeye and you don’t. Bragging rights!


Old Dogs: The Solution for World Peace?


It is generally acknowledged that dogs are therapeutic.  Notice I didn’t say, owning a dog is therapeutic, because I’m not sure who owns whom. Dogs of any age are a blessing, long after your kids no longer get excited about you coming home, a dog will always view you as hot property.

A word about cats and dogs.

Poppy has been blessed to have been owned by both dogs and cats, and both are great. But cats and dogs are different (see how smart Poppy is)? Perhaps the best explanation between the two that I have read is this: Dogs think; they love me, they feed me, they take care of me … they must be Gods. Cats think; they love me, they feed me, they take care of me … I must be a God.

Puppies, as cute as they might be, are exhausting. Perhaps it’s because my muzzle is also grizzled, that I feel a connection with old dogs. Old dogs seem  at peace with themselves, a virtue that is often hard to attain as a human. Years spent with a dog creates a bond unlike anything else.

On November the 8th, 2016 we said goodbye to Zsa-Zsa, our beloved pug of thirteen plus years. Yes, November the 8th was also election day (I choose not to read anything into the coincidence). Like most pugs, Zsa-Zsa was blessed with an excess of personality. She was fiercely loyal to her family, her pack. We may have failed at her training because I’m pretty sure Zsa-Zsa thought she ran the family. She also assumed the role of family protector. The family was outside once when she spotted intruders encroaching upon our property. Before I could stop her she was off. The matched pair of Rottweilers looked up, alerted by her barking, to the fast closing 25 lbs. of pure pug fury bearing down on them. Fortunately the dog’s owners were friends of ours. Even more fortunate, the Rottweilers had more sense than, Zsa-Zsa, our intrepid pug. They looked down on her with mild amusement and didn’t even offer a replying bark.

For reasons I don’t understand, God has decreed that our dogs will age faster than us. Zsa-Zsa got to the point where she could no longer navigate stairs, let alone charge Rottweilers. But her faithfulness never faltered. Old dogs have a way of looking at you that communicates something entirely different from a puppy. A puppy will look at you with eager eyes that say, “I love you, let’s play.” An old dog will raise its head from the floor, look you in the eye with a depth of knowledge about you that conveys not only love but that says, “I understand.”

Dogs are capable of mischief, they can be sneaky, especially when it comes to stealing food from forbidden sources, but they are incapable of duplicity. Trust, unwavering loyalty, steadfastness, these are the structural traits of our canine companions.  Old dogs are calming. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter what kind of day you’ve had, they understand.

I’ve started to think, that to say, “I understand,” or “I know you,” is more intimate than saying, “I love you.” Evidently the Psalmist thought so too. David in Psalm 139 says, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me,” and later in the Psalm, ” If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

I’ve watched Zsa-Zsa sleep the sound sleep of an old dog, her chest rising and falling with labored breathing, but still twitching as she chased rabbits and Rottweilers in her dreams. I’ve watched as she struggled to stand. I would scoop her into my arms then hold her fast in my right hand as I carried her down the stairs and to the yard outside. When I placed her down, she would often look up at me, and her eyes said, “I’m sorry its come to this.”

“I understand,” I replied.

The world is in need of a lot of understanding. The therapy of an old dog resting its head on our collective feet might be just what we need to put things into perspective. God created dogs with an honesty and empathy that often escapes us “higher” creatures.

We’re going to need a lot of old dogs!


In case you’re wondering, of course dogs go to heaven!