By Ralph Hood
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Ralph’s book, “Southern Raised in the Fifties.”
My father was the school superintendent in Brunswick, Georgia, for decades. Most everybody called him R. E. Hood—we called him Daddy.
Daddy is remembered by many as a dignified man. His uniform was a business suit, complete with hat and walking stick. His manner bordered on southern courtly. (He also kept an unlit cigar in his mouth, but we won’t go into that.)
On the other hand, he was in many ways unconventional to the point of eccentricity. For example, Daddy kept a running war going with dogs. As far as I know, the dogs were quite unaware of the war. No dog ever bit him, and I saw no evidence that dogs bore him any ill will. Still, he was eternally convinced that all dogs were out to get him.
Daddy rode an adult three-wheeled tricycle around in his later years. He said it was for exercise; I rather suspect it was primarily a continuance of his “War On Dogs.”
Daddy’s tricycle was a virtual arsenal of anti-dog weaponry. He had, so help me, an umbrella, mace spray, and electric cattle prod on that vehicle. The umbrella was his first line of defense. His chosen technique was to point umbrella at dog, then open and close umbrella rapidly. Most dogs fled in confusion at such a sight, and Daddy enjoyed it immensely. I don’t remember that Daddy ever had to use the rest of the arsenal, and I think he was right disappointed about that.
Once upon a time, Daddy stayed at the home of old friends in the Washington, D.C. area. On his arrival, he was horrified to learn that he was to share the house with two huge Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs.
I never saw those dogs, but to hear Daddy tell it, they breathed fire, drooled blood, and were trained to kill. By bedtime, Daddy was convinced that only his constant vigilance kept him alive. He bolted his bedroom from the inside, and probably wedged a chair under the doorknob.
Before telling the rest of this story, I should point out that it is not necessary to be in danger to be terrified. It is only necessary to believe oneself to be in peril. It is the belief, not the real risk, that strikes terror in the mortal heart.
In the middle of the night, Daddy was awakened by a call of nature. He carefully opened his door, peered up and down the hall, and ascertained that the dogs were not in the immediate vicinity. He then made a run for the bathroom.
Daddy swore to his dying days that the two dogs had been lying in ambush, just waiting for an opportunity. He heard them overtaking him from behind, panting in hot bloodlust, determined to do him bodily harm with malice aforethought.
Daddy bolted through the bathroom door, slammed it behind him, and turned around. To his horror, the woman of the house was sitting on the toilet!
Now hear this—Daddy did not leave! He apologized to the lady, turned to the wall and stood there until she finished. Then she, not he, left the room. As Daddy explained it to me, “Goshamighty, boy, it was a matter of life or death.”