Madison County Opinion...

JUNE 9, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
June 9, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Reagan’s three-legged chicken story
I met Ronald Reagan once, if a few words and a handshake at a political rally count as a meeting. I was living in Savannah in 1976 when Reagan was seeking the Republican nomination for president against Gerald Ford. His comments consisted of elements from “the speech.” Reagan had used the same description of his vision for America from the time he campaigned for Goldwater until he finally gained the office of president.
Reagan spent quite a bit of time in the South that year. That was the emergence of the “Southern Strategy,” the idea that by converting the “Solid South” from the Democrats to Republican, he would be able to win the presidency. Unfortunately, a southerner was in the race, and Gerald Ford eventually lost out to Jimmy Carter.
What I remember most about that appearance was his use of a Southern folk tale as the introduction to his talk. Reagan was a great fan of storytelling, and storytelling is a major factor in Southern culture. It was natural that he would hear and adapt one or more of the southern tall tales for his presentations.
Having heard these stories all my life as told by my grandfather, I was fascinated when this California politician opened his talk with a Southern tall tale:
“While we were driving through a farming area we noticed a small dust storm coming up the road behind us. This puff of dust passed our bus, ran ahead of us for a distance then turned down a side road toward a cluster of farm buildings. We decided to follow it and find out what it was.
“When a farmer stepped out of the barn to greet us, we asked him what we had seen. He said it was one of his brother’s three-legged chickens. We asked him where the strange chicken came from. He said that everyone in his family loved the drumsticks and a flock of three-legged chickens would produce half again as many drumsticks. But that third leg made the chickens half again as fast.”
“Well,” Reagan asked him. “How do they taste?”
“Don’t know,” the farmer answered. “We haven’t been able to catch one.”
Reagan loved a good laugh. I suspect he is really laughing now at all those left-wing pundits who constantly hammered him during his presidency but now are praising him as one of the two best presidents of the 20th century.
Do you remember the jokes about his lack of intelligence, his sleeping through cabinet meetings and his hesitancy when answering questions at press conferences? Do you remember the cries of outrage when he did something that might anger the Soviets, like calling them the “Evil Empire” and demanding that they “tear down this wall? Today, the same left-wing media types are saying virtually the same things about George Bush. They are eating Reagan crow today, and will likely eat Bush crow a few years from now.
Reagan won the hearts of the American people by being himself. Bush is trying to do the same. If Bush can find half the success Reagan did, he will also be listed as a great president.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at

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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
June 9, 2004

In A Moment with Margie

Our version of ‘Animal house’
Home would not be the same to me without a pet or two - or in our case, ten.
Warning — if you don’t like animals, you won’t want to read any further.
Ever since I was a little girl, animals have been a part of my life. Growing up, cats and dogs were my most frequent playmates. I dressed our cats up in my dolls’ clothing and rode them around in my wagon or doll stroller. I slid down my backyard slide with them in my arms. (As you might guess, I frequently had a scratch or two.) On my walks in the woods there was always at least one dog accompanying me and sometimes a few cats as well.
When I learned to ride my bike, an unsuspecting puppy or kitten was often strapped into the basket and taken for a ride. Those that liked it (you’d be surprised at how many did) were ridden frequently, those that didn’t soon knew to disappear when my bike came out.
My daddy loved animals and so did my mother (although she was much less willing to admit it).
Nowadays things haven’t changed much, really. I often think how lonely our home would be if there were no animals to greet us when we came home. My husband, Charles, would have had a hard time over the years if he hadn’t grown to love animals almost as much as I do.
My little dog Crickett is always at the door when we come home, ready to greet us with her wagging nub of a tail. It doesn’t matter if it’s been ten hours or ten minutes since we left, she’s just as glad to see us.
She forgets offenses instantly and is always ready to forgive, ‘no questions asked.’
Our yellow Lab mix Buddy was found in a drainage ditch across the road from our house. We had noticed the little puppy on the side of the road for a couple of days and had caught him sneaking into our yard to search for food. When we went to look for him we found him curled inside the pipe, asleep. Buddy came out wagging his tail, grateful for the attention, and the food we had brought along. He’s been with us almost five years - a sweet-tempered gentle fellow who loves people, kids, dogs, and cats alike.
Which brings me to our feline companions. There is Tinkerbell, our “crazy lady” who is the talker of the bunch and certifiably insane. She prefers dogs to other cats and often sleeps with Buddy in his dog house, or on top of him or near him out in the back yard in warm weather. The two of them can often be observed sitting face to face, Tinkerbell gently kneading Buddy’s chest while he sits with eyes closed and neck outstretched, clearly enjoying the massage. Talk to Tinkerbell and she will talk back in a series of off-kilter “meows.” Pick her up and she will meow; put her down, same thing. Sometimes all you have to do is look at her to elicit one of her “meowwws.” Tinkerbell may be crazy — but it’s like a fox. When she’s visiting inside and wants out, she’ll go to the door, ring a bell on the door knob with her paw and then sit waiting patiently for someone to come and let her out. If no one comes fast enough, she’ll ring again and then meow.
Next is Doo-Dad, our short round girl who doesn’t think about anything very much.
Doo Dad’s affection to the human members of the family is in direct proportion to the coolness of the weather. In summer, we don’t see much of Doo Dad, just an occasional glimpse of her in the yard, or on her way out of the garage where the food is kept. She generally only comes to the door in warm weather to complain when the food bowl in the garage is empty.
In winter, Doo Dad will do her best to be a full time house cat and some lucky member of the household will invariably find her snuggled at their feet or up against their sides on cold winter nights.
Then there’s Oscar. Fluffy orange Oscar and his brother and sister were found at the paper one day when I arrived for work. They were half-wild and I set about feeding them and trying to get my hands on them. Eventually Charles and I caught them, got them neutered and spayed and found homes for the brother and sister.
We found a home for Oscar too — ours.
Oscar has gone from being afraid to be touched, to being a real love bug. He, like Doo Dad, often makes himself somewhat scarce in warm weather, but cold weather finds him all too ready to love and be loved. We put a collar on him recently and he loves to shake himself slightly just to hear the bells and tags on his collar jingle — as if to show off that he’s a ‘bonifide’ member of the family.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Jouranl.
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