Birdie and the Gypsies
My Grandfather George Garner was something of a legend at the beginning of the twentieth century in Lonoke County, Arkansas. Tall, slender, with red hair, he was fond of wearing starched white shirts buttoned up to the neck. Women found him attractive and men sought his council when it came to dogs and horses. An excellent shot, he always wore a sidearm. He was an accomplished hunter and people would come from as far away as Chicago and St. Louis to hunt with him. One of my favorite stories about my grandfather had to do with a band of Gypsies that traveled through that part of Arkansas every year.
Grandfather was an overseer of a large plantation and as such, was in charge of all day to day operations. One year the Gypsies sought permission to camp down by the river on plantation land. He granted their request over the objections of many in the community and for several years thereafter, the gypsies returned to the same campsite.
There came a year when the Gypsies told my grandfather that this was to be the last time they would come that way. They thanked him for his courtesy in letting them camp on the plantation and, in appreciation, they presented him with a bird dog. He named the dog Birdie and she was to be his primary hunting dog for many years to come. It wasn’t until well after the Gypsies had departed that grandfather heard of the theft of a valuable dog from some bird trials in Louisiana, a dog that bore a striking resemblance to his beloved Birdie.
Nowhere in my memory do I recall a follow up story about how my grandfather, realizing that the dog was stolen, contacted the legitimate owner and returned Birdie. No Lincolnesque stories here about returned library fees and such. My family was far more inclined to see the above story as one of an appropriate allocation of resources. I can hear my Uncle Lynn now: “Hell, boy, that rich bastard that showed that dog probably didn’t even hunt him. Them Gypsies knew what they was doin. They were giving the best damn dog in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas to the best damned hunter in the South. Theft my ass! That was divine providence! God wanted your granddaddy to have Birdie!”
Yet another example of the founding principles of my Socialism…