by N. Ray Maxie
an East Texas Mad Dog
in the house, quick", dad shouted loudly as he drove up in the yard
and jumped out of his old 1939 Chevrolet pickup. We kids were all
playing in the front yard and dad hurriedly ushered us to the front
porch and into the house as he repeated, "Get in the house quick,
there's a mad dog coming up the road and he's headed this way. I've
got to get my shotgun and go see if I can kill him."
Believe me, we were all very well aware of what dad meant. This had
happened a time or two before in recent months, mostly while we kids
were away at school. We had heard dad tell some horrifying stories
before about having to kill rabid mad dogs. He had described to us
just how vicious and dangerous those dogs could be. He had instructed
his whole family to be aware and never go close to a dog acting so
very strangely, slobbering and foaming profusely from the mouth. He
said a dog in that condition will usually set his pace in a "dead"
trot, not looking right or left, only moving straight ahead. Dad said
the dog would sometimes go about in large circles too, incoherently
moving about, totally oblivious to its surroundings. Called "Hydrophobia"
it is the result of the rabies virus and it is characterized by the
excessive "hydro" flow of mucus from an animal's drooling mouth.
To nail down his stern warning given to a bunch of often-inattentive
kids, dad would say, "You'll probably die if you ever get bitten by
a mad dog." And that DID get our attention. Dad knew that an animal
being rabid had somehow contacted the dreaded and deadly infectious
rabies virus. It could be transmitted to humans by the bite of that
animal. The animal often became extremely violent and erratic. If
anyone was ever bitten far out there in the extremely rural Northeast
Texas backwoods, it was a long distance to obtain medical attention.
It was about 1946 or maybe '47, a hot Texas summer morning in the
middle of August. As my dad grabbed his big 12 gauge pump shotgun
from behind the back bedroom door, we kids knew to lay low until we
had further instructions from him. So we stayed right there in the
living room listening to the old 6 volt car battery powered radio
always tuned to 1130 AM, KWKH radio station in Shreveport, Louisiana.
We could read some old comic books, or maybe "Blondie and Dagwood"
in the newspaper comic strips, or just lie around staring up at the
ceiling, daydreaming. I always enjoyed looking at those "funny papers"
though. Mother kept a subscription to the Sunday edition of the Shreveport
Journal newspaper. That Sunday paper had no problem lasting us all
We lived in the Rodessa Oilfield on the Rambo lease about 4 miles
west of McLeod in Cass County. Dad was a pumper/gauger there in the
oilfield and had left the house for work around 7 that morning. He
worked around the area fairly close by and when possible, came home
During his rounds that morning, he had encountered the mad dog as
it trotted along an old oilfield road. Slowly following the dog in
his pickup truck for awhile, dad decided it had taken a path towards
our house. Quickly he drove past the dog and hurried home to get his
shotgun. By the time dad made sure all his family was safe inside,
the dog had come pretty close to the house and then suddenly took
a turn across an old abandoned cornfield just north of our house toward
the graveled county road.
Seeing the route the dog had taken, dad decided he did not need his
pickup and set out on foot to pursue the rabid animal. He disappeared
over the hill and behind the trees into the old cornfield. It wasn't
long until we heard a far away, distant gunshot and we knew then dad
had located the vicious dog. It had taken only one shot of his double
aught "buck shot" to blow that hopeless varmint away.
Within a few minutes dad returned to the house. Coming inside he told
us, "I got him. Everything's OK now." He put away his shotgun and
as he stepped off the front porch towards his pickup, he told my mother,
"I'm going back to work. I'll see you for lunch after awhile."