My experience with pork

Published 7:41 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The General Assembly is back in town.

The legislative branch of Georgia began their work on Monday. I expect most of the 180 representatives and 59 senators aren’t looking forward to the next 40 days. Tradition calls for the elected officials, lobbyists and other players to gather the Sunday before the second Monday in January at the annual Wild Hog Supper. For 47 years, this dinner the night before the swearing in of the General Assembly has signaled the beginning of the legislative deliberations.

I remember my first Wild Hog Supper.

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Eight hogs were laid out in all their splendor in front of thousands of hungry folks. I worked my way up to the nearest pig and asked the older gentlemen next to me where the forks were. He looked at me funny and told me just to reach in with my hand and grab me some meat. That was the first experience with government pork

It is sort of like my current diet. I may complain about the health problems caused by pork, but I sure do love the taste. I remember my grandfather having bypass surgery in his 70s only to return to pork chops and gravy. When I asked him about it, he told me he didn’t live that long to give up eating everything that tasted good.

The American public loves that pork. The citizens of Georgia love it too. Politicians of both parties give it to the people who elected them because the people want it. They may complain about the cost, but they will complain even more if their pet project or local funding request isn’t met. It has become the bread and butter of the political world.

That is why the General Assembly isn’t that excited about the session that began this week. State revenues are slumping so fast that a $2 billion gap in the budget is forecast for the current fiscal year. When you see the term “current fiscal year,” that just means the current budget that extends through June 30. The next fiscal year actually doesn’t begin until July 1. Given the current projections, things in that fiscal year could be even worse.

Look for difficult decisions to be made about cutting our state budget. Everything is on the table and there aren’t any easy decisions.

My dogs

History has shown that when times are tough people go to the movies more often.

I am not a frequent moviegoer, but ML and I went this past weekend to see “Marley and Me.” She had given me the book a year or so ago, and I read the entire thing in one night. It was a book that made me laugh and cry. Seeing the movie did the same thing because it reminded me of the three great dogs in my life.

Pee Wee came along when I was in the first grade. She was part Chihuahua and part Manchester. She lived 19 years and only then gave up when we had to put her to sleep. She licked the tears off my face when I was in trouble. She slept under the cover at my feet, chewing airholes in the bedspread. My mother finally gave up and just bought cheap spreads when the holes got too big.

Pee Wee loved the lake and would run out on the dock, grab the rope to the boat in her teeth, and wag her tail expectantly waiting for a boat ride. She would run from side to side barking at the waves until in her excitement she would leap over the side. She was a tiny dog swimming around in the big lake until we circled around and picked her up.

We watched TV every night with her laying on my stomach. Her favorite food was spaghetti or raw oysters and she had her first puppy in my lap while my father was driving frantically to the vet. When Mary Lou made her first visit to my home, Pee Wee jumped up on the couch between us and let her know that she was there first. Pee Wee loved me and was my first great dog.

Second great dog

Bud came along a few years later. He was a Boston Bulldog. We decided that we wouldn’t have an inside dog so we got him a big doghouse and a chain link fence. It wasn’t long before he was sitting up on top of that doghouse just like Snoopy. Shortly he was jumping from the top of the house over the fence to the freedom he was born to have.

We moved the doghouse farther away from the fence so he couldn’t make the jump. It didn’t matter, he simply learned to climb the fence like a monkey.

When I began walking so much around town, Bud would follow me. He steadfastly refused a lease but would take my three-mile walk all over town. He would wander here and there only to catch up with me and if he got tired, he would just head home and see me later.

Whenever there was a thunderstorm approaching, Bud made a beeline to my office. The problem was in his frantic state he didn’t know exactly where to go. I would get calls from Davis Jewelers, the IGA and his favorite, the county jail where he would dart in seeking refuge from the weather.

When Bud turned 2 years old, I had a long illness. For three months, I could not go to work. Dr. Stewart came by each morning and afternoon to check on me, but ML was teaching school so I was alone. Bud moved inside and laid by the couch each day nursing me back to full health. He never moved back outside.

Bud loved me, ML and my children and was my second great dog.

Jack Russell ‘terrorist’

We didn’t think we would ever have a dog again after Bud. A few years ago at our Christmas Party, I told our friend and vet Cleve Bridges that I thought ML was ready and needed a dog. Little did I know that ML had told Cleve that very same night that she thought I was ready and needed a dog.

He suggested a Jack Russell terrier. Our girls picked him up in Valdosta and named him Harry before he made it home. Once again, we decided on an outside dog and put him up on the patio. Nothing could have prepared us for the next few months.

Harry ate every piece of furniture we had on that patio. He chewed, gnawed and tore apart everything inside that fence. We called it “Cleve’s Revenge” and expected he was laughing each night at the thought of the Jack Russell “terrorist” that he had sent our way.

Harry was fixed one day after he was old enough and one day before ML was going to kill him. I trained him on a lease in 20 minutes. Like Bud, he walks all over town with me, but this time on a lease. He is the smartest dog I have ever known.

Harry can open a door by timing his jumps just right. He likes to lie on my stomach and float around the lake. He barks at jet-skis until he is completely hoarse.

Harry loves me, ML, my children and he loves my grandson, Henry. Most of the time, I get their names confused. I told my daughter that calling my grandson, Harry, isn’t an insult. After all, Harry is my third great dog.

Everyone whoever had a dog they loved knows what I am talking about. In many ways, we don’t look after our pets, they look after us. I have been lucky enough to have three that were indeed this man’s best friends.