Family ties cost me lunch

By Jimmy Alford | Published Saturday, October 13, 2012

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My dog has been banned from the dining and den area of my parents’ home. When we visit my parents, Chloe now will be spending the bulk of her time in the back.

Jimmy Alford

My mom instated the ban. The event that spurred it began when my dad, my sister, my fianc e and I were watching TV and lamenting the recent Rangers’ loss. My dad was gravely sullen about his favorite team’s misfortune and has a few things he’d like to say to center fielder Josh Hamilton, if they ever meet.

My mom was cooking lunch – Salisbury steak, one of my favorites – when the phone rang. Aunt Ann was on the other line, having just talked to Aunt Nancy. It was a serious phone call that required Mom’s full attention.

Our family owns a small farm in East Texas, near my parents’ home. This piece of land has been in the family since they moved to Texas before the Civil War. I spent my childhood wandering its pastures and exploring its dense pine thickets, as well as hunting and fishing. Needless to say, the farm means a lot to me, and to the whole family.

Over the last decade or so, a local lawyer who made his fortune suing big tobacco and other companies has bought up about 10,000 acres surrounding our farm and has said several times that he wanted to purchase our property. My family has shown little interest in him or his offer.

This talk got serious recently when he announced a plan to put up high game fences all around his property, effectively cutting our farm off from the rest of the country for several miles.

Normally we wouldn’t care, but we have been operating the ranch as a gaming outfit and wildlife preserve. The proposed fence would put an end to that and possibly make our taxes skyrocket. The county recently announced that property taxes would likely go up anyway, because they’re about to lose much of their tax base as coal mining dries up.

This chain of events makes the timing of the lawyer’s latest bid very interesting. His offer was far too low, and in his letters, he didn’t even bother to get my mom’s or my aunt’s names correct. To me, the offer smelled of contempt and ignorance. He really has no idea what kind of folks my mom and her sisters are. They are certainly not the type of people to be blinded by dollar signs.

They are polite southern women, raised in what could be called Texas’ “Old South,” capable of cooking, talking real estate and handling an assortment of other matters while remaining cool and collected.

But her attention was divided.

And beagles are crafty.

Like a guerilla fighter, Chloe took advantage of the distraction. She’s a good dog, but greed got the better of her. She is, after all, a dog. When Mom concluded her call and returned to the dining room, she saw the fruits of labor – the steaks of her labor – being devoured by a one-eared canine.

Chloe is thankful my mom is a gracious southern lady. She was only banished. In fact, Mom got a good laugh out of it.

I didn’t. The dog had eaten my steak.

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