The Banks County News
August 4, 2004
The story of Big Foot
While walking around the field early one fall day last year, I thought I caught a glimpse of something. But, no, just my imagination.
Yet every day after that, as I passed the barn I would get that same shadowy glimpse and then strangely, the feeling that I was being watched. Again, I passed it off like a tree limb waving from the leap of one of my many squirrels or a bird, perhaps.
A week later, with the coming of a heavy rain, I discovered it was not my imagination. There on he ground were a set of the biggest footprints I had seen. They looked like dog prints. But, whew! Thats a big dog.
Im pretty used to all manner of creatures showing up down in my little valley.
Theres still a cow roaming out in the woods she has actually made it through three hunting seasons. I leave a mineral block and hay out for her. Tried to catch her once, but she really didnt take to my amateur roping attempts. (Always looked so easy in those old Roy Rogers movies.) We have a leave-me-alone relationship.
Then there was the pig, yes, a black and white porker, ham-on-the-hoof that visited a few times. He didnt take to the dogs too well, so he doesnt hang out. Just visits every now and then, mostly to root up my garden.
But, this, thats a big dog! The fact that hed been hanging out for a while down there, all alone, really got to me. So, I started leaving a bowl of food for it, whatever it was.
For the next week, I took the food down trying to keep to a semi-schedule, so it would get used to the idea of suppertime and maybe I could begin to earn its trust.
Well, I knew I couldnt keep calling this thing an it, so I started calling him Big Foot when I came down.
A month went by and I never saw so much as a hair.
Plan 2 start moving the bowl closer to the house. That worked. I saw my Big Foot. He was a German Shepherd mix with the biggest darn feet. He looked to be about five or six months old. He was pretty big, but heavens, hed be huge if he grew into those feet!
He also was in very bad shape. And he sure didnt like the idea of a human being around. He barked, growled, and put up a general display of pure ugliness. At least thats what he wanted me to think.
What I saw was an animal that had been so mistreated that to think about what he had endured in the first few months of his life just tore at my heart. His coat was dull and tummy bloated worms. His muzzle was scarred and it appeared he had some wounds that were healing. But, all my coaxing and kindness and tenderness could not reach his terrified, tortured doggy mind. He was a beast who didnt know he was a dog.
By the time I was feeding him up at the house, he was used to me, but still very wary. The slightest movement and he would jump back and go into this ferocious stance. Yeah, like he was going to scare me. I dont think so. That would have been the wrong signal to send him. I didnt want him to sense that there was any reason to take a defensive position. He had to learn I was not gong to hurt him. Patience, patience.
For the next month, I tried as often as I could to sit outside as he ate. Talked to him, tried to calm him. He began to trust me, sort of. At least we were past the growling phase.
After four months, he let me touch him. Five months later, I could pet him.
Now, he was looking good, strong, healthy. Beautiful! But, he really needed a bath, bad. He had been getting along fine with the rest of my gang. They played and romped in the field together. When he got a little too rambunctious Red Dog put him in his place in no uncertain terms.
Well, I figured if he saw me give one of them a bath, maybe hed get the idea it was all right. So, I grabbed Red and started hosing her and scrubbing her. She likes that part. He watched very intently.
Then I took the leash from Red after her rinse and walked to Big. He backed up, but then sat down and let me put the loop around his neck. He walked calmly, but hesitantly, with me over to the tub. For some reason, that leash seemed to make him almost obedient.
For the first time, I put my arms around him and we had our first hug. He looked up at me, inquisitively. It was an amazing moment. It was the first time his eyes held no fear.
Now, came the hard part, or so I thought. I rinse him with the warm water from the hose and he didnt seem to mind. I lathered him up and he seemed to enjoy it. This was just too surprising. I had been so worried that I was going to freak him out. Instead, he just laid there, let me roll him over and lather up his belly. He didnt take much to the rinse; the warm water had turned cold.
He jumped up back to his old self, growling, tugging, acting unruly. Then came the shower. He shook his coat and what seemed like gallons of water sprayed all over me. I started laughing and he started acting playful. We had our first play period.
I grabbed up a towel and began patting him down. He didnt care much for that, made plain his displeasure. I ignored it, kept right on cooing and rubbing him down.
That bath put us on the road, finally, to a trusting relationship.
Its been nearly a year now, and Big Foot has made himself a part of the family. He climbs on the couch (all 85 pounds of muscle) for hugs, rolls on his back for scratching and pleads with those big brown eyes for tidbits of my dinner.
He has become a special member of my family. I had my doubts many, many times that I would ever reach him; that I would never stir the dog that lay inside his heart. But, we found our way together. Finally, he has found freedom, and a trust and love that he will always know until the day he dies.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.
By: Jana Mitcham
The Banks County News
August 4, 2004
People here and there...
Jerry Payne, Jackson Countys director for the Department of Family and Children Services (better known as DFACS), officially retired as of Friday with 34 years of service to his credit. Before he took the directorship in Jackson County in 1996, Mr. Payne worked with Banks, Franklin and Stephens county DFACS and is well-known in this area.
Mr. Payne will be around as Jackson Countys part-time interim director for a few more months until his replacement can be found, and, of course, he will continue his ministry at Harmony Christian Church in Maysville.
I have noticed something about Jerry Payne in my past years of covering DFACS board meetings. And that is, when you mention his name, someone is likely to say, He is such a nice man.
And its true.
If you see him out and about, wish him well in his retirement.
* * *
I got a USA-airmail letter with postage from Lesotho, South Africa, recently, with correspondence from Texys Morris, a fledgling Peace Corps volunteer whose family lives in Maysville Brad and Renee Morris, and brothers Bradford, a college sophomore, and William, 9.
Texys wrote that she had arrived in Lesotho, where she will serve as a youth development advisor, establishing programs for youth organizations and teaching youth job and leadership skills.
At the time of her writing, she was living in an old monastery outside Maseru, the capitol city of Lesotho.
We have been doing training here for the past week, including language training, Texys wrote. In two days, we go to live with host families for five weeks. During that time, we will live in roundavilles (the traditional houses), learn to cook traditional foods, and continue our training, including language.
Additionally, we will learn to live life without many amenities: electricity, running water, and inside bathrooms. After this five-week period, we will have about a week and a half of further training before being assigned to our posts for two years. On August 5, I will start my official position.
I had been in contact with Texys via email in the spring when she was about to graduate from the University of Virginia with a bachelor of arts degree in English. She has agreed to send photos and updates from time to time to share some of her experiences and her surroundings with all of us as she embarks on her two-year stint in Lesotho.
I spoke with Mrs. Morris Monday morning and she had just gotten off the phone with Texys the first time she had heard Texys voice in months. She said they have been getting letters and the last one had wax on it from where Texys was writing by candlelight.
The town where Texys is living is a sort of cultural center, with many missionaries, so more people than usual speak English. But as an American, Texys is still enough of a novelty that she sometimes has 30 eyes watching her while she writes letters.
As a cultural center, the town where Texys lives has a library and is seeking books written in English, so Mrs. Morris is starting a book drive through her work in the humanities program at Gainesville Middle School. Anyone wanting to contribute can contact the school.
Its interesting to think that this week, as we go about our daily routines here, Texys is learning the ropes far, far away in what will be her South African post for the next couple of years.
I think she is representing Maysville well, Mrs. Morris said.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.