The more I read Willie Morris, the more I like him. I am alternating between “North Toward Home” and “My Dog Skip.” What tickles me is that he is an early recycler.
He took stories from his 1967 memoir, “North Toward Home,” and repackaged them into the commercially successful 1995, “My Dog Skip.”
Morris received Skip while in the third grade. The dog was a distraction since Morris seemed confused over the loss of his aunt Sue. He writes that he stood in front of her casket trying his hardest to memorize her face. There was a mole under her eye that he had never noticed in conversation. He stood long after the family moved to the cars and she was wheeled out.
Some of Morris’ happiest memories dealt with his grand aunts, Mag and Sue. Both were “old maid” sisters living with his grandmother, Marion, in Jackson. For Morris, Mag and Sue were endless entertainment.
When Morris was eight he sent off for an “ultra-mike” for two dollars. It looked like a regular radio mike and when hooked into an electrical outlet would allow the user to broadcast their voice from the family radio.
“I would hook up this instrument in the back room while Mag and Sue sat listening to the radio in the parlor. Then I would say, ‘We interrupt this program to bring you a special announcement.The Yankees are coming! They are ten minutes away from Raymond! I repeat: the Yankee soldiers are on their way!’ Then Mag and Sue, holding their dresses above their knees for better running, would leap out of their chairs and dash to my grandmother: ‘Marion, Marion, did you hear? They’re comin’! They’re on their way!’”
Marion calmed their spirits and told them it was just the boy playing around. Morris said they would go back to their chairs in the parlor and listen again to their show. After a wait of two to three hours, he could do the same thing again and the aunts produced the same reaction.
It was Percy, Marion’s trusted house servant that recognized Morris’ sadness. After the casket was shut and the burial in the old family plot through, Percy consoled him with, “Now don’t you be sad.” He took little Morris’ hand and led him through the doors of Woolworth to reward him with a toy.
“That day I remember I promised myself that if Percy ever died, I would shoot myself, with the pistol my father kept under his mattress at home. But I knew that Percy would never die.”
Skip joined the family two weeks later.
Maggie Moran is director of learning resources for Northwest Community College
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