Canine Chatter

From the moment I was old enough to open the kitchen door, I would let myself out and go into the backyard to visit with the dogs and cats. The cats lived in the yard and slept in one of several outbuildings during warm weather.

Like many homes in the Delta, our house sat on concrete piers and was underpinned with corrugated metal skirting. My daddy left one small opening in the skirting so that the cats could go under the house during the winter and keep warm by lying next to the lower part of our floor furnace.

My family had small house dogs, and we also had a couple of large dogs that lived in the backyard. Even though the yard was not fenced, they rarely ventured far and were always excited to see me when I came out the back door. They knew not to jump on me. Instead to show affection, they would lick my face, and I would giggle. More than once my mother caught me bending down over the dogs’ food bowl and sharing their meal.

When I got older, it was my job to carry food out to the dogs. Around the age of four, I went outside to feed them, and I asked my daddy’s bird dog, “Tip, do you want the red bowl or the green bowl?”

Tip answered, “The green bowl.”

I threw the dog bowls into the air, and I ran into the house to tell my mother that Ol’ Tip could talk. Every day for several weeks, I would ask Tip which bowl he wanted. Even though I tried, I could not get the bird dog to speak again.

A couple of years later, my father confessed that he had been in the backyard outhouse that morning, and he had answered for Tip.

I wish he hadn’t told me.

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About the Author

Zeek Taylor is a recipient of the Arkansas Governor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement. Best known for his stylized watercolors, he is also a storyteller, and author of two books. He has appeared twice on the NPR Tales from the South. A StoryCorps interview with Taylor aired on NPR’s Morning Edition show. He is the author of two memoirs, Out of the Delta and Out of the Delta II. The memoirs were combined into one volume and published under the title “Out of the Delta, the Anthology” by Sandy Springs Press. Taylor lives and works in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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