from the upcoming book about North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills
Ole Rock: A Good Dog
By Estelle R. Briggs of Bakersville, North Carolina
Ole Rock was born on the mountain about the same time as some of us young'uns, I guess. He was from a litter of two puppies born to a dog named Bess. From the day of his birth he belonged, almost exclusively, to my older brother, Russell. I think Russell was about six or seven years old at the time, Ole Rock came into this world. They were soon inseparable.
Ole Rock was about a year old when we moved to the Bristo Ellis house the first time. Where Russell was, you were sure to find Ole Rock close by. The Ellis house was surrounded on the lower side by several large boxwoods. Russell, being a small boy and full of devilment, discovered how much fun it was to climb up into the boxwoods and slide to the ground. Ole Rock was having as much fun as Russell was, that is until Daddy discovered what they were doing! He soon put a stop to their fun and games. It was then and there that Ole Rock became Russell's avid protector, growling and showing his teeth at Daddy when he threatened to give Russell a spanking.
One day some of Grayson's folks were at our house. When they were getting ready to go home, Jack and Kenneth began begging Mama to let Russell go home with them. They aggravated her for a while and she finally told them to go to the barn where Daddy was working in the tobacco, and ask him. Well Daddy said no, but the boys came back and told Mama he said yes, so she let Russell go.
Later when Russell returned home, he was afraid to come into the house. He knew exactly what he had done and that he would probably have to "face the music." When Mama went to see why he hadn't come into the house, he was sitting on the porch with his arms around Ole Rock's neck. She said to him, "Now, little boy, if I wanted to give ye a whuppin' that dog shore wouldn't stop me!"
Russell was full of life and always into something, but if he had some reason to think that he deserved a spanking he would grab Ole Rock around the neck and hang on for dear life, knowing that his faithful friend would never desert him if he was in trouble.
It was while we lived at the Ellis house that Ole Rock began taking fits. One morning Albert had slept late and missed breakfast. When he finally got up, he went to the kitchen and fried himself some eggs. He was sitting at the worktable in the kitchen eating his eggs. There was a window right over the table where he was eating. All at once, something came through the window, shattering the glass and landing right in Albert's breakfast! It was Ole Rock. He was having a fit. Albert just sat there and held him until the fit was over and he had stopped quivering. Daddy thought maybe that someone had fed him broken glass.
By that time, Ole Rock was practically one of the family. He moved with us from the Ellis house to the Handy house and from there to the John Randolph house. His fits continued there, from time to time. He would begin to act strangely, and barking every breath, would then begin to run. Finally, he would run underneath the house and stay there until the fit was over.
We also had other dogs that had fits from time to time. We never knew what caused them and eventually they all stopped having them. A dog having fits is unheard of now a days. They too, have become a part of history.
One day, Russell had Ole Rock in the house playing with him. Vista, who lived with us at that time, came through the room and saw the dog in the house. "Russell," she said. "You get that dog out of this house, right now!" Russell replied, "You leave my dog alone! You might just be a dog someday!"
One evening right before suppertime, Daddy had been listening to the radio. His favorite programs were "The Lone Ranger," and "Sky King." Mama was cooking supper when Daddy came into the kitchen and told her that he didn't feel well. He just squatted down in the floor, and the first thing we knew he just laid down in the floor. Daddy was shivering and shaking like a leaf. Mama sent Jennie out in the yard to tell Russell to run up to John Randolph's and send him for a doctor. Russell was having such a big time playing with the dogs that Jennie had to go to where he was before she could get his attention.
John went and brought back Doctor Barry all the way from Bakersville. His diagnosis was that Daddy had a light stroke. Daddy stayed in bed for a few days, and then one day we heard a very familiar sound. Kathleen came running into the kitchen and said to Mama, "Listen Mama! Daddy's gettin' better! He's whistling!" This incident gave us all quite a scare.
Ole Rock was a rabbit dog, a squirrel dog, and a possum dog. He was also a snake dog. He killed numerous snakes and Daddy even said that he had probably kept him (Daddy) from being bitten by copperheads many times.
Ole Rock moved with us again to the Edd Sharpe place, where he continued his faithful service to the family, and especially to Russell. One day in the fall of the year, Russell and Paul Garland went fishing just below Bakersville, where the old mill used to be. Ole Rock was with them of couse. Ole Rock crossed Cane Creek and went into the road on the other side. A car came around the curve and hit the dog! Russell saw it all from the opposite side of the creek. He wasted no time. Although it was quite cold, Russell quickly waded the creek, picked up the dog and carried him all the way home; shedding a lot of tears on the way. Ole Rock recovered, and boy and dog were closer than ever.
There was one time when we lived at the Sharp place that Ole Rock temporarily forgot about his job of protecting his master. It happened like this:
One night when Russell was about fourteen years old, he, and our cousin, Kenneth, were out in the woods, well after dark hunting possums. All at once, this blood-curdling scream filled the woods around them. The dogs quickly deserted the boys and lit out for home. The two scared teenagers were hot on their heels. Russell said that Kenneth turned a complete flip in the air and hit the ground with a thud, but when Russell's feet hit the upper end of the porch, Kenneth landed in his footsteps. He hadn't lost a second. They were two very scared boys.
Many times, we heard this unidentifiable noise while we lived at the Sharp place. We never knew what it was. One evening, right before dark, in the summer of 1949, we heard it for the last time. It was down in the little hollow behind the house. It had screeched a few times, and we were all out in the yard listening. All at once, Mama gave a loud screech in return, scaring us all half to death! We never heard it again as long as we lived there. Be it a mountain lion, panther, some type of bird, or other living creature, we never discovered its identity. It remains a mystery unto this day.
Many years later, after I married Eugene Briggs, he and B.C. McMahan were in the same area hunting one night. They said they heard something that they couldn't identify. Whether it was the same thing, or a close relative of what we heard, I guess we'll never know.
Ole Rock remained a faithful part of our family up to and during our move to the Nimp Bailey place. By this time, he was growing old and stiff. Sometimes he would disappear for several days at a time, but he always came back home. Daddy said he suspected that maybe Ole Rock was returning to the Edd Sharp place, and finding no one there, he would return home again. Ole Rock spent his last days stretched out in the sun, just resting. By that time, Russell was older and didn't spend too much time at home. He and Ole Rock weren't as close as they once were. Then one day, Ole Rock was gone. We guessed that he had lived out his days on this earth and had gone off by himself to die. Our memories of him will never die. Yes, Ole Rock was one good ole dog!