The caricature we see sometime of a Cajun man in his "pick-em-up truck" with a gunrack across the back window and a dog or two riding in the back (if not on the front seat with the owner) is more truth than fiction.  Hunting dogs, especially those trained by their owners, are very special to outdoorsmen in Louisiana.  I know that my father had more than the two that I remember, and my youngest son even bred Chocolate Labs at one time.  He and his brother-in-law have some beagles now and love to hunt rabbits.

When I was about six, Dad had a beautiful black and white dog named Lady.  She was probably a mix of Chesapeake retriever and and water spaniel.  She was such a gentle creature that Jerry and I could romp with her, but she had been trained by Dad to retrieve.  Only problem was, she would work just for him.  An acquaintance asked to borrow her for a hunt, although Dad told him she wouldn't retrieve for him.  The man didn't believe it, so he took the dog out to the marsh to hunt wild ducks.  Two days later, he returned the dog and told Dad, "Alex, you were right.  I couldn't get her to fetch my ducks."  A week later, Lady went missing.  Three days after than, guided by the stench, we found her under the floor in the barn where she had crawled to die. Dad said she had been poisoned, and always suspected the disgruntled hunter was guilty of killing his dog, but he could never prove it.

One other dog stands out clearly in my memory.  When we moved to Perry, we took Rex with us.  He was a really big male Chesapeake/Lab mix, with a beautiful thick wavy auburn pelt.  That dog could spend hours in the water, and his skin would remain dry! Dad had trained him to hunt, too.  Rex was nothing like the gentle animal Lady had been, so we couldn't really romp with him, but we loved him anyhow.  

I had always known that I wouldn't sink in the water, that I was very bouyant, but I did not learn the different swimming strokes until the first summer we lived in Perry.  That was the year I got to go to 4-H club camp at Charenton, because my godfather gave me three dollars for my birthday, the exact amount I needed for the trip.  The swimming instructor told me that I could already swim, but taught me the right way, including how to swim almost noiselessly like an Indian.

Well, I went back home, excited because finally, I could REALLY swim, but instead of telling anybody about it, Rex and I went for a swim in the bayou, the first of many such swims.  I would grab hold of that great big dog's tail and let him tow me to midstream, and then I would let go and float a while to give him a rest.  He'd paddle around me for a while, then he'd come back close enough for me to grab his tail again, and he'd tow me back to land.  

One day, Mom happened to look out the window and saw this little drama, and the poor lady almost had a heart attack!  I'd never told her I could swim and she thought I was drowning and Rex was trying to rescue me.  

Some one had given me a white rubber bathing cap, like the one I recently saw in a catalog from The Vermont Country Store.  I used that cap every time I went swimming, because it kept the water out of my ears.  After swimming, I always hung it on the clothes line with my swimsuit.  One day I went out to get my suit and cap, and the cap was gone!

We realized what had happened to that cap when Grandpa found several littles piles of chewed up white rubber in the yard.  Rex had eaten my cap!

Rex was getting on in years and his eyesight was failing, and he decided that he owned us instead of us owning him.  We were his family and he was going to take care of us.  He slept under the front porch every night, and no one dared come up to our house unannounced.  Even I, when I came home after dark from a function at school, knew that I had to make him aware of who I was before I came up to the house.  I usually stood outside the gate and called out to him until he came to meet me.  

When we moved to Orange, Texas, Dad gave his dog to Mr. Cameron Foreman, who lived a couple of miles down the bayou.  I don't know what happened to Rex after that.  I hope he lived to a ripe old age, because he was a good dog and a good friend.


Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA

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