The veterinarian opened the door and said, “You can come back and look at the x-rays now.” As my wife and I examined the film of Miss Kitty’s left front leg the break was evident even to the untrained eye. “The bone shows no sign of healing after a month in the splint”, he explained. We had anticipated the bad news but still were saddened by it. “Doctor, what do you recommend that we do now?”, I asked, perhaps knowing the inevitable. “Well, she is over fourteen years old and I don’t think will ever heal. I think the humane thing to do is to put her to sleep. She will never be able to do the things that cats normally do.”
On a spring day in 1997 close friends brought us this little kitten that had wandered up to their home. She was a ball of black and white fur that needed a new home. Who could resist this kind of temptation? We took her in as an adopted member of our family.
She was not overly tame and hated to be picked up and cuddled. She loved to climb up tall trees and appear to be stranded. Early on she climbed to the top of the tallest tree on our lot and remained there for several days. No coaxing would get her down. Clara fretted and worried that she would starve to death. But, I reminded her that I had never seen a cat skeleton in a tree. Finally a crew from the Co-op drove their bucket truck to our house with plans to pluck Miss Kitty from the tree limb. When they arrived, they discovered that she had already climbed down herself.
As she aged she mellowed out somewhat. She loved to be petted, but on her own terms. If she walked up to you and plopped down on the floor, that was her sign that she wanted some loving. She liked for us to lay on the floor beside her and talk to her while we stroked her fur. She still hated to be picked up and held. We decided that she must have been an abused kitten in her very early years.
She also hated to ride in the car. We purchased a pet carrier to put her in whenever we had to transport her somewhere, like the vet or the boarding house. She “squalled” the whole time she was in the car. She usually spent the days outside exploring her territory, but enjoyed spending the nights in the house. In fact, she normally would wait until we both retired to bed, then she would jump upon the bed and lay on my feet, always mine and not Clara’s.
She never ventured far from home. She would occasionally walk to our neighbor’s house where Brooksie would feed her and talk to her. Larry’s dog, Emmy, came over most every day and visited with Miss Kitty. They finally reached the point that they would tolerate each other.
Several years ago she barely escaped the clutches of a large hawk who swooped down to pick her up. However, she was a little too large for the bird, but suffered several deep puncture wounds in her flank. She recovered from that injury without difficulty.
Last fall we did not see her for several days, which was unusual. We concluded that she may have been killed by stray dogs, but we found her curled up in her favorite chair on the patio. It was not until she jumped down that I saw her front leg dangling, obviously broken. Cats don’t do well on just three legs. The mystery is still unanswered - how did she break her leg? There were no other injuries. I think she climbed up a tall tree and fell out, after all she was fourteen years old, equivalent to an 85 year old human.
The vet was not optimistic, but he gave us two options - amputation or a splint to see if the bones would heal together. Now we were hearing the results of that action, and they were not good.
“Let us think about this for a minute”, I told the vet. “What do you think, honey?”, I asked. “Well, I think we gave her a good chance to heal and it looks like she is not going to”, she whispered. I glanced over my shoulder and saw her in the cage, still begging to get out. Now we were about to make a life-or-death decision about our faithful pet.
It was painful for us to walk out of the vet’s office hearing our Miss Kitty meowing in her cage, knowing what was about to happen to her. Were we letting her down, or were we doing the right thing for her? We both swallowed hard and kept walking to our car. The house seemed a little empty when we returned, and it still does.
Some people believe that our animal pets go to Heaven when they die. I have never found any scripture in the Bible that supports this, but it might be a nice surprise that God has for us. If it is true, Miss Kitty will be perched on a limb on the highest tree there waiting on us to arrive.
BY: NEAL MURPHY
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
Well, this should prove interesting, I thought to myself as I hung up my office telephone that spring day in 1983. I had just had a conversation with a deputy District Attorney from the Bronx, N.Y. He was sending me a round trip ticket to fly to the Bronx to testify before a Grand Jury on a matter involving my insurance company.
I was the Vice President of Underwriting for the Bankers and Shippers Insurance Company of New York at the time, with headquarters in Burlington, N. C. I had received a call from him a few days earlier inquiring as to whether our company had ever insured a taxi company based in the Bronx. A search of our records indicated that we had never done so. His investigation revealed that the taxi owner had acquired one of our company’s Proof Of Liability Insurance Cards, and had committed fraud by typing in his company’s name and address, and a false policy number. This small card allowed him to secure a permit from the city to operate a taxi cab.
I later learned that “gypsy cabs” were common in the New York area. A person with a relatively good car would work his day job, then at night put a lighted “Taxi” sign on the top of the car, and drive around the city picking up unwitting passengers. The fare was usually higher, they usually drove the long way to a destination, and cases were reported of the driver refusing to give the passenger his luggage without an “extra” charge. It seems that the DA’s office had “busted” this operator and was facing a grand jury for his illegal activities.
The flight to LaGuardia was uneventful, although the landing strip extended far out in the water and made it appear that we were landing on water, which produced some anxiety on my part. However the interesting aspects of the trip were just beginning.
I took a taxi to the downtown Bronx courthouse. The taxi driver commented to me in broken English that if I were to spend the night near downtown I should not walk around town by myself. “I would just stay locked in my room if I were you”, he advised. Thankfully, this was a one day trip. So, I shrugged off his unusual advice.
After arriving at the courthouse around 11:00 am, I found the office of the assistant district attorney. He was very friendly and talkative, although I had to listen carefully to his words due to his heavy accent. I learned that there was a representative from another insurance company from Atlanta who was to testify before me. The taxi operator had forged one of their insurance cards as well.
I found myself in the witness box facing the grand jury around noon. The attorney asked me about four questions which I answered. It was all over in about five minutes, and I was free to go. Then things got interesting.
Back in the district attorney’s office, along with the gentleman from Atlanta, plans were being made to get both of us back to the airport. “I don’t want you guys just hailing any old cab down there. I am going to call the Yellow Cab Company and request a taxi for you”, he informed us as he was dialing the telephone. After his conversation, he instructed us, “Just go down there on the street corner and wait for cab number 151. Don’t get in any other cab but that one.” That sounded good to me.
Suddenly, he had a change of mind. “I think I will go with both of you and make sure you catch the right cab. Let’s go.” He grabbed his suit coat and escorted us down the elevator and out to the street corner. “Now, another piece of advice – don’t let the driver charge you for this ride. The county will be paying for it. Sometimes they will try to collect twice.” My first thought was that I sure was glad that I did not live there.
In a few minutes we spotted a Yellow Cab headed toward our street corner. “Make sure it is cab 151”, he instructed. It was, and we got in. Then he yelled to the driver, “This fare is being paid for by the county. No further charges are necessary.” Then we were off on a wild ride to the airport.
On the flight back to North Carolina I reflected on the eventful day. I had made a trip to the Bronx, testified to a grand jury, and been told to stay inside the hotel room at night. Then just getting a taxi turned into a major ordeal. I decided that my first trip to the Bronx would also be my last. I think the assistant District Attorney felt that we two southern boys just were not quite sharp enough to handle our situation correctly. He may have been right.
“A VISIT TO THE BRONX”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
P. O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
I have often stated that I wish I knew what “scratch” was because I keep hearing people say that they made something from “scratch”. If I knew what it was I could bundle it, can it, or bottle it for sale and make a lot of money. I hear the term “made from scratch” mostly in the world of cooking, as women say with pride that they made that wonderful cake from scratch.
Research on the phrase reveals that it was begun in the 18th century as a sporting term. Who would have though it? The use of “scratch” derives from a line or mark scratched into the ground to indicate a boundary or starting point in sports, especially cricket.
“Scratch” later came to be used as the name for any starting point for a race. The term came to be used in ‘handicap’ races where weaker entrants were given a head start. For example, in cycling those who were given no advantage had the handicap of ‘starting from scratch’, while others started ahead of the line. Other sports, notably golf, have taken up the figurative use of scratch as the term for ‘with no advantage”, starting from nothing.
The world of boxing has given us an additional concept of ‘starting from scratch’. The scratched line there specified the positions of boxers who faced each other at the beginning of a bout. This is also the source of the term ‘up to scratch’, i.e. to meet the required standard, as pugilists would have had to do when offering themselves for a match.
The British have long used “scratch” in various contexts to mean, essentially, nothing, as in starting a contest without a handicap. It could also mean building something without tools. Its use in cooking comes from England which means “from ordinary cooking ingredients that have not been pre-mixed or otherwise specially processed.” Obviously, sugar, flour, baking soda and the like are the result of a long process which is the culmination of the history of agriculture and of chemistry, and God-knows-what. But sugar, etc, are ‘ordinary cooking ingredients’.
The opposite definition of “scratch” is – a point at the beginning of a project at which nothing has been done ahead of time. If you make pancakes, or a cake, without using a mix, you are making it from scratch. If you and your child make a “volcano” for a school project without using a kit, you are making it from scratch.
The word was later applied figuratively with the meaning “from nothing”, and it was used thus by James Joyce in Ulysses, “A poor foreign immigrant who started scratch as a stowaway and is now trying to turn an honest penny”. It modern times it was taken up in cooking once boxed mixes and prepared foods became widely available. Today it is a badge of honor to be able to say one made a culinary delight from scratch.
So, in short, the word “scratch” referred only to sporting events and was first used in terms of boxing and cricket, after which the term was applied to all types of races. Now in recent years it has also been applied to cooking with basic pantry items, or made with the most elementary starting materials.
So, now you are ‘up to snuff’ on the meaning of ‘scratch’.
“MADE FROM SCRATCH”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
Recently I saw a television ad concerning a certain beer or ale. The male character would swallow a bit of the concoction and say the words “dilly, dilly”. All the other people sitting around the campfire would parrot back the words “dilly, dilly”.
Those two little words, “dilly, dilly” conjured up a memory of years ago. I recalled them being used in a song way back when I was a young lad. Naturally I had to do a little research and discovered that these words were popular back in the 1950s in a song titled “Lavender’s Blue”. I read the words of the song and they all came flooding back in my mind.
The song is an English folksong and a nursery rhyme dating back to the 17th century. The earliest surviving version of the song is in a broadside printed in England between 1672 and 1679 under the name The Kind Country Lovers. It was to be sung to the tune of “Lavender’s Blue”, implying that a tune by that name was already in existence. The lyrics printed are fairly bawdy by celebrating sex and drinking.
There are almost thirty verses to the song and some variations of each verse. The typical verses, sung in the 1950s by artists Burl Ives, Sammy Kaye, Dinah Shore, and Sammy Turner, include the following:
“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,
When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen;
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?
‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.
Call up your men, dilly dilly, set them to work,
Some with a rake, dilly dilly, some with a fork;
Some to make hay, dilly dilly, some to thresh corn,
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly, keep ourselves warm.”
There are many more verses, but I shall not bore the reader with listing them here.
So far we have not found the real meaning of the word “dilly” in English. The closest one I can find is that it means “an excellent example of a particular type of person or thing”…e.g. – “That’s a dilly of a breakfast.”
Now, back to the commercial I mentioned. It appears that the writers of the commercial are using this old English word to mean “ditto to that”, or “I agree!” One actor takes a swig of the brew, holds it high in the air, and all the others repeat “dilly dilly”, meaning, “We heartedly agree with your statement.”
I don’t’ care for the product, but the commercial is pretty impressive...dilly dilly!
BY: NEAL MURPHY
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972