Zeke Dooley is a man of opinions. Like Zeke, who turned 90 last year, these tend to be a little out of style. Just the same, it's always worth the trip to Blairs Creek to discuss the changing times with a man who has made his own living, his own "cold remedy" and his own way in the world for more years than most of us have been around.
With his wife Perletta, his mule "Old Maybe" and a dozen or so hounds for company, Zeke spends most nice days on his porch, ready to "squander an opinion" with me and hold the years (and the common cold) at bay with his jug of remedy. Here are the results of my last visit.
Zeke on the Golden Years
Mitch: Zeke, how long have I been coming down here to visit?
Zeke: Well as near as I kin make it out, we got acquainted long about the year of the big freshet when the creek got up outrageous high. Long about 19 and 64.
Mitch: Over 30 years ago! By the way, when did you retire?
Zeke: Oh me and the womern has always laid down around nine of a night.
Mitch: No, I mean when did you quit working?
Zeke: Well, 'cordin to Perletta, when I was about 20.
Mitch: Is this part of your life "the golden years?"
Zeke: Naw, we had that gold weddin' 10 year back.
Mitch: I think "the golden years" means the best part of age, Zeke. Is there such a thing?
Zeke: Well onct you get past 65 it evens out purty smooth, but 65, that's the rough one.
Mitch: Why 65?
Zeke: That's when everbody figures if you ain't dead yit yer missin' a good chaince. They all fly in to sell you yer box or a plot to plant ye or burial insurance, or they set in to put ye in a home som'ers.
Mitch: They all came at you at once?
Zeke: Hit was a sight on earth. Had to nail up a barrel fer a mail box to catch all the dodgers fer rockin' cheers and wheel cheers and funerals and old folks magazines and nostrums fer regularity and perpetchural keer fer yer plot and rest homes and nursin' homes and a whole outlandish bunch of other plunder I cain't remember.
Mitch: Weren't interested, huh?
Zeke: Well sir, I bottled up a batch of my cold remedy jist fer us old folks. I call it "Ol Quiet Owl."
Mitch: "Ol Quiet Owl"?
Zeke: Take reg'lar doses of it, you keep gettin' old but you won't give a hoot.
Zeke on Furbearers
Mitch: Zeke, there have been a lot of demonstrations by animal rights groups lately about the wearing of fur. What's your opinion on that?
Zeke: I hadn't heerd nothin' norated' about that. What do they want critters to wear, if fur don't suit' em?
Mitch: Not the animals, Zeke, people wearing fur is what these groups are upset about.
Zeke: People always fussin' over what they wear ain't they? Did the furry ones whup up on the other folks?
Mitch: No, they didn't do anything to anybody, Zeke, just wearing fur that came off animals.
Zeke: Well Lordy, son, where else would you get yer fur off of, a catfish? Sometimes people makes the least sense.
Mitch: I'm not putting this right. These groups object to killing animals for their fur. They think it's wrong.
Zeke: Well how else you goin' to git fur off, shear 'em like sheep?
Mitch: Animal rights people say we shouldn't wear fur at all, that the fur belongs on animals, not people.
Zeke: Well sir, reckon that's right, but it's like sayin' trees belongs in woods, and eggs belongs in chickens. You could belong yoursef out of a cheer to set in and yer breakfast besides follerin' that rule!
Mitch: Zeke, this isn't my idea . . .
Zeke: Air these folks agin hides too?
Mitch: Lord, I don't know Zeke.
Zeke: Because fur's kindly fastened to hides, seems to me. And if they are, ther'd go yer belt and yer shoes not to mention yer bill a'fold, I reckon, and all yer footballs, and the kivver off yer baseballs and catcher's mitts and so on. And what in tarnation would they use fer a saddle, reckon, galvanize tin? Ignernt outfits!
Mitch: Boy am I sorry I brought this up.
Zeke: An' my wood- gettin' gloves! You know ain't nothing makes as good a glove as leather fer rough work. Plague on 'em!
Mitch: Zeke I don't think you have to worry about that this week or anytime soon.
Zeke: Well somebody better. Them anti-fur folks is after my cornshellin' gloves and its time to make a new batch of cold remedy. And speakin' of that . . .
Zeke on Making a Garden
Mitch: You and Perletta grew a big garden again this year I guess?
Zeke: Oh shore. Perletta, she does the most of the gardenin' of course and you couldn't no more contain that wormern's ambitions than a honeybee's. She'd plaint the world if you give her seed.
Mitch: You don't get in her way, I take it.
Zeke: All I fool with is my corn crop. Now that has to be quality controlled on account of hit's vital to the mash that goes into the cold remedy. And of course I set out the tobaccer, you need a man's touch fer that.
Mitch: I can see how you would.
Zeke: Perletta she plaints by the moon signs and knows all sich as that. She says all the rabbit spells and she . . .
Mitch: Says the rabbit spells? What's a rabbit spell?
Zeke: Why, to keep the rabbits out of her lettuce and all. You cain't be feedin' the critters all the time.
Mitch: I know that, but what does she say?
Zeke: Oh I don't charge my mind with sich as that, that's wormern's work. Jist does a little incant. Best I 'member the incant goes: "Rabbit rabbit, get thee hence with this spell I weave a fence if past this fence thee seeks to shove thy ornery hide will line a glove"
Mitch: That's wonderful. Does it work?
Zeke: No. But mine does.
Mitch: What's yours, Zeke?
Zeke: A .22 rifle loaded with shorts. Beats an incant all holler.
Mitch: I'd figure that. Does Perletta favor any special fertilizer?
Zeke: Yeah, she's partial to zucchini squash.
Mitch: Zucchini for fertilizer? How does that work?
Zeke: Well she allus overplants the plaguey things and of course everbody else does too, so she cain't hardly give 'em away.
Mitch: So what does she do?
Zeke: Well, she takes a ton or so and puts them in a compost pile. But the biggest part she busts up with the choppin' axe and plows under fer my corn patch. Gives my cold remedy extry vitamins. And speakin' of that . . .
Zeke on the Rights of Fish
Zeke: You know back there a while ago we were a'caucusin about them animal rights folks? How yer varmints hide shouldn't be used to dress up humans? How come them people never brought up fish?
Mitch: People don't wear fish, Zeke.
Zeke: No, nor these animal rights folks don't take up fer 'em neither. That ain't right t' my notion, nobody speakin' up fer fish.
Mitch: Are you getting ready to?
Zeke: Why mercy no. I figure all these critters we live amongst uses each other and we use them. I didn't make up the rule book. I jist think fish ort to maybe have somebody campaigning fer their rights, if other animals does.
Mitch: And what would these rights be, Zeke?
Zeke: I hain't no idee. Maybe to keep from being stuffed and tacked up on the wall to look at. Now that's vanity ain't it, stuffin' the hide to hang up on a wall?
Mitch: I'd say pride, Zeke. People are proud of a big fish.
Zeke: Now the way you laid it out fer me, these animal rights folks objects to wearing fur coats to show off. Don't you think they'd ort to object to showin' off a fish?
Mitch: Zeke, let's face it. Animal activists don't want any animal killed at all.
Zeke: What do they aim to eat?
Mitch: I don't know. Rice or greens. Maybe tofu.
Zeke: What in tarnation would tofu be?
Mitch: I'm not sure. I think it's one of those things they whip up out of soybeans.
Zeke: Will it make gravy?
Mitch: Not that I know of.
Zeke: Hit'll never do. A human bean ain't intended to live without gravy. Now just tell me somethin', son. If nobody intends to eat animals no more, what do they aim to do with 'em, watch 'em eat each other?
Mitch: It beats me Zeke.
Zeke: Why that dog won't hunt neither. If human beans ceased whittlin' on the critters, nature would. First thing you knowed, long would come some kind of plague and stuff would all jist die in a pile.
Mitch: You sound like a philosopher, Zeke
Zeke: Philosophy ain't got a thing to do with it, don't reckon. You go agin' nature, you best have one foot in the stirrup. Says so right in the Bible.
Mitch: About having one foot in the stirrup?
Zeke: No, about makin' do with things that was put here.
Mitch: And where in the Bible would you find that, Zeke?
Zeke: Right up at the front. Hit says, best I' member: "Use all the critters of this earth and don't be no more trouble than yer worth."
Mitch: Zeke, I think that covers it pretty well.
Zeke: This philosophizin' is dry work. Pass the jug!
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