My father was not a dog-lover. My mother loved farm dogs—those big, slurpy, dirty dogs that lived outside and always barked when anyone arrived on the scene. We children begged for a dog; Daddy was adamant. He would not get us a dog.
His mother-in-law, my Grandmama Ralph, saw a way around the issue: she gave my younger brother Larry a puppy for his fifth birthday. My Granddaddy Ralph built a doghouse for him. Mission accomplished! What could Daddy say? The dog, named Jip for our first grade reader dog, was a great farm dog of no particular origin. He chased my brothers around the yard and barked at newcomers. He ate only table scraps, for we had “no money to waste on dog food.” Occasionally Grandmama would slip us a few cans for a treat for Jip.
When Jip died 14 years later, we were all devastated—even Daddy, though he wouldn’t admit it. Mother immediately called around and found a new puppy—a collie like her first beloved Sandy that she’d gotten when they first married. It was after Sandy was struck and killed by a car, leaving Mother inconsolable, that Daddy developed a firm antagonism for owning dogs.
My Ralph grandparents always named their dogs for Presidents—Harry [Truman] and Jack [Kennedy] being the ones I remember best. So Mother named hers for a historical figure as well—Stonewall [Jackson].
Meanwhile, I had taken on a project. I’d adopted, against Steve’s better judgment, a mutt we named Toby. He looked like a little border collie—all black with a white-tipped tail. He was hyper but a quick learner. He was housebroken in a couple of weeks, prompting a friend with toddlers to say, “Well, you won’t have any trouble potty-training a child!” (As it turned out, she was wrong.)
Of course I always bought dog food for Toby, and for a while my favored brand offered a free dog bowl with the dog food purchase—a double one, with a place for dog food and a place for water. Since I had an extra one and knew Mother fed Stonewall in an aluminum pie pan with his water in an old cottage cheese carton, I mailed the extra one to her. Just for fun, I addressed it to Stonewall Jackson Bradley at their address. Since they had a new mailbox number on their rural route, I figured it would make it OK.
A few days later, Mother invested in a long-distance phone call to tell me the story of the dog food bowl. She was working with her flowers outside when a postal delivery truck pulled in. The mail carrier said to her, “Ms Bradley, I have a package here for Stonewall Jackson Bradley, and I’ve looked all over this route and I can’t find anyone that knows any Bradley by that name. Do you know Stonewall Jackson Bradley?”
“Of course I do!” Mother answered, and just then her dog came around the corner to investigate the visitor. “That’s him right there! My dog’s name is Stonewall Jackson.”
“A dog!” he said. “I’ve looked all over this country for a DOG?” Fortunately he was tickled by his error and had a good story to tell everywhere he went. Though he’d delivered by name for years, he learned to pay more attention to the box number than the name in an address.
And I learned, temporarily, to stick to my own project and not go uninvited to someone else’s project. I especially learned not to get too creative in addressing packages.