Columnist for a Day: It was a long war for Skipper too
Skipper, our fine purebred springer spaniel, had gained a few points with mother as the result of aiding father in the acquisition of some tasty pheasant dinners the previous fall. This was good because protein was hard to find in those days. There was a war on. It seemed everything was rationed — sugar, meat, gasoline, liquor, shoes and more.
In early 1945, mom had squirreled away enough ration stamps to buy a nice beef pot roast. Being generous people, they decided to have good friends over to share a feast.
There was a large country kitchen in our old red brick house on Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland. And although we had a dining room just on the other side of a swinging door, we still had meals, even more formal ones, in the kitchen. The dining room was set up more like a living room with davenport and easy chairs facing a seldom-used fireplace.
The much awaited and dreamed of pot roast dinner was a huge success. The family and guests had all they could eat, and there were leftovers for another meal at least. The dinner party was remanded to the comfort of the living room for some warm social conversation while a rare fire crackled in the fireplace.
The news from the front lines was encouraging though the fighting was terrible. In Europe, the Battle of the Bulge was concluding, while in the Pacific, Luzon was being pried away from the Japanese.
The Ashland winter weather, so far, had not been too hard, and it looked like the draft board was going to defer dad’s entry into the Army once again. As the service manager for Frank Culp Ford, he had been declared “necessary for getting war supplies produced.” But being patriotic, he was not entirely pleased with the decision even if the military did need the lumber.
The evening waxed on, and mother decided dessert was in order. She took orders for apple pie, liberally made with rationed sugar, and headed for the kitchen.
I was sitting across the room from the swinging kitchen door. When mom pushed it open, I glanced beyond her to the table where I could see our dog’s butt at a height that I didn’t remember the dog having grown to. My confusion was quickly laid to rest when I realized she was on the kitchen table!
Mom let out a blood-curdling scream, and the dog jumped off the table scattering the tablecloth with silverware and dishes in a huge clatter. Skipper headed rapidly for the back door, peeling linoleum with her toes, looking for a quick escape, but, smart as she was, she’d never learned to do doorknobs. The next printable word I remember mom shouting (mom never swore), was my father’s name, then something about the dog’s heritage and probable fate.
The dog had finished off the pot roast, gravy, butter and spilled the precious sugar bowl and broke several pieces of mom’s good china.
The house was in an uproar and neither of us boys nor the guests dared to venture into the mayhem in the kitchen. After a bit, things quieted down, and it appeared no one was going to immediately die.
Mother would not be mollified, but dad tried. It was one of those times when even silence was the wrong answer. I finally heard him say, ”well, honey, it’s been a long war for the dog too.”
His Scot’s humor didn’t cut any ice with the lady of the house. I don’t know if dad slept with the dog that night. If he did, he probably found it warmer than his own bed would have been.
Skipper survived … but just barely.
As for dad’s military service, the story continued later that same year. In the summer of 1945, it was announced that another million men were going to be needed to invade the Japanese mainland. His patriotic bent got the best of him and he told the draft board he would not take another deferment. Consequently, he was sworn in to the Army in Ashland, and about the first week in August 1945 he got on a troop train for the Portland induction center.
By the time the train arrived, they were not let off because there were stories about a big bomb being dropped. In a day or so the train reversed course and the inductees who had been picked up between Ashland and Portland were let off where they got on and told to go home. Thus ended his military service of a week.
Dan Mackay lives in Ashland.
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