Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Good Morning Justin

Letter to my Son
3 June, Sunday

The old dog named Jake arrived late Friday giving me time enough to assemble his new kennel and wooden doghouse.  He’s eleven years old so that makes him eligible for any senior discounts available for the canines among us.  His best friend, Keith, has had to move to a place far too civilized for any dog to enjoy with the possible exception of a poodle trained to dance for doggie hors d’oeuvres.  First thing Saturday morning Jake and I went on a long, brisk walk.  We avoided the tidy neighborhood nearby and, instead, followed a path that initially paralleled the northbound tracks of the Norfolk Southern.  We came upon a road that once had only three houses along it.  Now just two remain as a ramshackle residence, providing a home to two kids and a dog, burned to the ground one night shortly after Christmas.  Everyone made it out alright but among the debris left scattered out front of the charred crumble the next morning was someone’s collection of NASCAR toys.  They’d all lost their race car shapes when they turned gooey from the heat.  The remains of the home were quickly bulldozed and everything was hauled away.  Spring rains quickly turned the lot green and as Jake nosed about the area no one would easily guess people had recently lived here. 

Near the Le Bleu Tow Truck building residents of the neighborhood cross the tracks to get to the small business area on Midway Boulevard that includes a What-A-Burger.  You can eat inside or you can order from any one of a number of stalls that are each equipped with their own intercom and menu.  There’s also a pawn shop and a snug convenience market next door where the signs are often in Spanish.  It was here it was said the high school girl was headed to buy a pack of cigarettes one school day last fall when she was hit by the morning Amtrak headed north to places like High Point and Greensboro.   The small wood cross and plastic flowers her friends left at this fateful point to commemorate her life endured the winter cold and a couple of snowfalls before eventually being carted off when the railroad crew came through to refurbish the track with new wood ties and steel rails.  When crossing the tracks it’s always best to keep in mind that freight trains trundle by while passenger trains barrel through at what seems about twice the speed of freight. 

Jake and I made our way through a gathering of folks taking advantage of the still cool morning air while they browsed among the items being sold at the benefit yard sale held out back of the Midway United Methodist Church.  We crossed a couple of grassy open fields and skirted a small community garden sponsored by the local Baptists, all the while Jake pulled me along with his eager, impatient gait.  I began to wonder just how much steam the old dog was capable of generating so when we reached the Anointed Barber Shop, a natural turn around for home, I decided, instead, to continue in the direction that would take us to the center of old Kannapolis.  We walked in the shade of a line of trees that kept us within sight of Dale Earnhardt Boulevard, named after the local boy who made good.  If we followed it all the way we would eventually arrive at Dale Earnhardt Plaza where park benches surround a magnificent bronze statue of the home town hero, standing there with arms folded in his iconic Levis and cowboy boot, mustached stance.  The surrounding buildings are mostly vacant these days and it seems only the movie theatre can make a go of it in this part of town.  The Gem Theatre is old enough to have a balcony and its been a community fixture since Kannapolis was just a company town for the once dominate textile factory, Cannon Mills.  The old black and white pictures of the installation on display at the local library give me the definite impression that this place was once the General Motors of the cotton kingdom. 

We won’t make it all the way into town on this day.  Jake’s leash begins to show some slack well before we reach the outskirts of the old brick village and there’s still quite a walk ahead for us to make it back home.  Jake’s a good dog, a good walker.  He responds to the slightest tug of the leash indicating my intended direction.  When he was young and headstrong he got himself into some serious trouble for killing the neighbor’s ducks and chickens.  That’s all long behind him now.  He barely acknowledged the taunting squirrels Saturday that ran close across his path.  I’m thinking the dog will want a long, cool drink when he returns and it would be good to get him a bone for an afternoon snack, one that he can busy himself with licking the moist marrow from the bone’s center while resting himself in the shade.  It sounds like the perfect treat for a dog’s life.  

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