Aunt Sukie was my mother’s Great Aunt and this story was passed on to me from my dear Mother so I have no choice but to accept it as the whole truth as my Mother was a truthful woman but I am mindful of family stories and how they sometimes take a strange life of their own depending on which family out-law is repeating them.
Sukie and her husband Ess Tee (S.T. for short) lived near Calabash, North Carolina. Calabash is almost in N. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and it is famous for its seafood and the way it is fried in a light coating of flour and cornmeal dipped in milk.
Uncle S.T. had long since passed on when Aunt Sukie lost Otis. Had Uncle S.T. still been around, Otis would probably have had a longer and much happier life but things are the way things are and a long happy life for poor old Otis was not to be.
As the story happens, Otis took seriously ill and there seemed to be a gastrointestinal problem that involved stomach bloating that was causing Otis no end of pain and suffering.
Aunt Sukie called the local vet who had just got back into town from another call and he had a sick dog on his operating table so there was no way he could get out to see Otis any time soon.
He told Aunt Sukie to give Otis a big dose of mineral oil and, of course she said, “How?” He said, “Use a funnel.” She said, “What if Otis bites me?” He Said, “No, no, no Sukie. The funnel goes in the other end.”
Aunt Sukie could not find a funnel but in Uncle S.T.’s sportier days, he had fancied himself quite a fox hunter and there was still a lot of fox hunting paraphernalia around the house. She found his old fox horn with the lovely red tassels still hanging from it.
She took it to the barn and inserted it in the proper orifice just as instructed by the busy old vet, She reached for the mineral oil but, you know, Aunt Sukie was old by then and she was about half blind and she was especially nervous about violating Otis’ privacy with what all she was having to do to him.
She reached for the mineral oil and in her haste she snatched up a pint of turpentine. With one swift and deft movement she loaded old Otis up with probably the worst liquid she could have chosen to doctor him. Turpentine is an organic solvent and no animal alive should ever have it applied to the delicate tissue at the rear end of the body.
Otis gave one loud torturous snort and reared up on his hind legs. He bellowed like a beast on fire and kicked out the whole east side of the barn. As the turpentine began to really take effect, the horn began to blow. Otis ran like a prize winning racehorse toward town with that horn blowing and the little red tassels blowing in the wind.
There were a number of old fox hounds around the place that soon gave chase. They were in “Full Cry” as more hounds joined in.
Soon Otis came to a small draw bridge that spanned an inland water way. As he approached with horn at full blast, the bridge tender mistook the sound for that of a boat seeking entrance to the waterway. The bridge tender raised the drawbridge and Otis and all the dogs plunged headlong into the stream.
The dogs swam out but Otis was done for. He drowned and his carcass had to be dragged out with a wrecker from town. I don’t know that Aunt Sukie ever missed Otis that much but there is another sad aspect to the tale.
The bridge tender had been running for sheriff but on election day he only got eight votes. Nobody wanted to vote for a man who couldn’t tell the difference between a boat blowing its horn for him to raise the drawbridge and a mule with a fox horn stuck up his ass.
By the way, they say Calabash was the little town where Jimmy Durante had dinner once with his first wife and she liked the name of the town so much that it became Durante’s pet name for her and after her death, Durante would close his acts with “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”
I don’t know if that’s true either but I think I am pretty accurate in saying that Otis the mule did not give a damn about the bridge tender’s lost election or Mrs. Calabash’s whereabouts. Otis would have liked to have died with a little more dignity and a much cooler rear end.