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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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LAUGHING IN THE GOLDEN YEARS Bunky Gets Drafted

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My mother did not like animals of any kind. Still, it fell to her to name the dogs and cats that lived on our rural property. Before I could really remember, there was Daisy the Airedale named after Daisy Mae, Al Capp’s cartoon girl. Then there was Desdemona, a feral cat that had a litter of kittens every few months and had my father’s blessings because she was a great mouser. Soon another cat joined the team. Mom named her Mehitabel, after a column character in a New York City newspaper. But the animal that was the prize for my brother Wally and me was Bunky, an English setter that my dad trained for bird-hunting.

Bunky had all white fur with a few brown spots and brown ears and obeyed my father’s every command and whistle. He would let us kids roll around with him and lie on his back to snooze. We often tried to ride him, but he would simply lie down and look disgusted until we removed ourselves from his back. He had a habit of lifting one foot and pointing at any bird that landed in the yard, and dad would praise him for pointing at the pheasants that wandered onto the lawn from the nearby fields.

When Wally and I came home from school to eat our mid-noon meal, Bunky would be waiting for us and would escort us to the back door. Mom never let any of the animals in the house, and dad had special arrangements for them in the barn. During the day, Bunky hung around the house and was always willing to play with Wally and me. Sometimes we would run and hide, and Bunky would find us and nose us out of the corners where we were scooted down. In the fall, dad would gather up his hunting equipment and load Bunky in the car. They would often be gone for three or four days until dad had enough pheasants and ducks to feed us for several meals. During that time, Wally and I missed Bunky running to meet us when we came home from running errands or from school. During that time, we made do with the cats, but they were never very friendly and made poor companions.

One day during WWII, Wally and I came home from school, and Bunky did not come out to meet us. When we questioned my mom about our beloved English Setter, she said the Army had come into our town and drafted Bunky. We were aware at the time that the military was advertising for trained dogs to be volunteered for army service. So, while we missed our setter, we were proud that Bunky had gone into the military. Wally even went to school and wrote a story for the second-grade newspaper all about our famous dog. I felt very safe knowing that Bunky was out there somewhere guarding the world against our enemies.

Somewhere in my teenage years, it occurred to me that there was no way that Bunky had been drafted. First of all, he was not really trained for anything except bird-hunting, and secondly, he did not seem very smart. Finally, I asked my mom what really happened to Bunky. Looking kind of embarrassed, Mom confessed that Bunky had gone out on the nearby railroad tracks and had taken a nap between the rails in the sunshine. 

Anyways, Mom explained, the train engineer saw Bunky asleep between the tracks and blew the whistle, but Bunky didn’t pay any attention. He was used to the train, so he just continued to lie in the middle of the tracks. The engineer could not stop the train, and it ran over Bunky. If the dog had just continued to lie there, he would have been okay, but at some point, he stood up, and the bottom of the train hit his head. My father buried him before we kids got home from school.

Mom knew how much Wally and I loved that dog, so she made up a story that kept us satisfied until we forgot about Bunky and came to love another dog that Mom named Lady Higginbottom. But that is a tale for another day.

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About the Contributor
Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer
Maryann Nunnally is a retired high school principal and professional comedienne. She writes the regular column Laughing through the Golden Years for Cape Fear Voices.