Thursday, March 4, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
Bob’s dogs seemed to be oracles of wisdom
My little dog Gracey has been right sick for the last couple of weeks, but thanks to the Good Lord, Drs. Thompson and Childers, and lots of pills, she’s doing much better now. Gracey is a lot of company and provides lots of amusement. She befriends young and old alike. However, I had wished my dog could help me pen messages to my congregation like Bob Walkup’s dogs Boo and Mary always did.
Bob was the gravel-voiced prophet who graced pulpits and challenged the faithful in Starkville, Helena, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn., and as his friend Emett Barfield liked to say, Bob always provided himself with “a good barkable dog.”
Bob’s dogs, unlike your average ministerial pets, seemed to be oracles of wisdom and communicated their ideas to their master, who passed them on to his congregations.
Bob’s love for his dogs stemmed, perhaps, from the fact that he was orphaned at an early age. As he told the story, “Our mother and father had died, and my twin brother and I had gone to live with our grandparents. The change had not been easy because our mother had spoiled us. She was so wonderfully loving and so tenderly demonstrative. She would come by our bed and kiss us and say, ‘Goodnight, Lambkins.’ Goodness knows, we were not Lambkins, but goodness also knows my heart treasures to this day the lift of heart those words brought. Then after a long illness she died, and we went to live with our grandparents.
“Our grandmother was a remarkable person -- she was actually my step-grandmother, a wonderful lady who raised 13 children and never bore one of her own. But she was dour — seemingly stern and with little time for affection.
“I was lonely. I was homesick. I wanted to be loved and to love. Christmas seemed to offer some hope. My brother and I sought to enlist the aid of Santa Claus. We asked for a puppy, a warm, wiggling puppy to snuggle, one who would love and be loved.”
Christmas Day came, but there was no dog for the boys. Then, late that afternoon, a neighbor drove up and said, “Boys, Santa Claus made a mistake and left your present at my house. Here it is.” He reached down and handed the boys a wiggling, squirming fox terrier puppy!
Years later, as Bob repeated the story, he wrote that “Miss Boo [his faithful basset hound] says there is too much sermonizing here. She thinks this message is about the wonder of puppies who grow to doghood. I know, of course, it is just another way of telling of the unfailing goodness of the Master.”
Sometimes, Bob’s dogs could deliver a more sobering message. “Miss Boo and I were musing about the years of mutual helpfulness enjoyed by dogs and humans.
“Trying to tease, I reminded Boo that puppies are born with closed eyes, which surely means that humans are superior. Boo, in her mildest way, offered the information that dogs’ eyes open as time goes by, while humans too often see less and less as fear of change makes them close their eyes. I do declare, that dog could be a mite more respectful!”
One year, about this time, Bob wrote: “It really is spring! This morning we had rain and then sunshine, and Miss Boo was threatened with apoplexy because a squirrel scampered up an old TV antenna, shook his tail, and I suppose made a face at Boo. When I tried to reason with her, it was easy to tell her that she was deeply offended by the squirrel’s invasion of ‘her territory,’ and threatened her status. I was ready to tell Boo just how silly this was, but a wicked grin warned me. ‘How come dogs can’t have territory if Presbyterians can have special pews?’
“Mercy, I find lippy dogs hard to take!”
Once more Bob’s dogs spoke truth, when his other dog, Mary, had this to say. “My canine commentator and I were talking about Easter and Holy Week being so near. Mary, with her jaundiced view, commented that the friends of Jesus do not look too well in the Passion Story. The men don’t look very heroic. Mary says if you are looking for loyalty and compassion in this story, you will find it either in the women, or in the wonderful little animal who served so splendidly on Palm Sunday. I am sure that the fact that Mary is a female animal does not prejudice her a bit!”
As I write this, my Gracey is sound asleep, offering not a word of suggestion or advice, leaving me to conclude this article on my own. I’d be grateful for a little help writing all these sermons and columns after 24 years in Holly Springs!
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