The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Mad Dogs

By Lois S. Poff © 1990

Issue: January, 1990

I believe the reason my little brother, my sister and I were so scared of dogs when we were real little was because we heard our parents tell of mad dog tales back in the days when they were young. My father said their dog went mad, bit the calf and it went mad and was trying to stand on its head. Then the dog bit a colored lady on her hand but, she had on gloves and didn't go mad. The same dog went a few miles over to my mother's home. She was out playing with her brothers and sisters and her brothers said it was a mad dog and rocked it away.

Then too, a few people in the county had died from dog bites and we would hear them talk about that. I was so scared of dogs that I actually thought that if one would bite me, I would just fall over dead.

We didn't keep dogs but people up the road about two miles in the town of Floyd, Virginia, did. Beautiful girls all dressed up in riding apparel would ride their horses down by our house and often times a dog would be following along. If we were playing outside and saw their dog we would run in the house. Our mother soon noticed how scared we were of dogs, and when she wanted us to quit playing and come in the house, she would just step to the door and say "Lulu May's dog." Lulu May from the town of Floyd was married to Frank Sweeney, A World War I soldier who lived farther down the road and she rode her horse by our house right often.

After we got a little older and our mother told us about Pasteur's treatment for dog bites we would venture outside the yard sometimes to play.

I was fine the time I got the scaredest of dogs. That summer my father had corn planted over on Mr. Jeff Shortt's farm, all over the hillside where Great Oaks Golf Course is today. It was a hot, sultry day and we were peeved because all the rest got to go over to Mr. Shortt's to hoe corn and we didn't get to go. We went in the house and asked our mother if she cared if we went down in the meadow below the barn, to a little thicket of plum trees and she told us we could go.

When we got down there the ground was covered with beautiful red plums. My sister and I pulled up our dresses for baskets and began filling them full. We stopped long enough to watch a girl ride her horse down the road but we didn't know there was a little dog following her that couldn't keep up. After she went out of sight, we started back to picking up plums and then we heard it, a loud mournful yelp. We stopped and on the second yelp my sister said, "That's a mad dog," and started for the house. Down went my dress and all my plums and I was right with her when she went through the barnyard gate. She was trying to hold on to her plums. I stayed with her until we passed the barn and then she went on ahead.

I was so scared that I never gave my little brother a thought until I was near the house and then I began feeling sorry for him, but I didn't see any use of me staying down there and dying just because he had to.

When I went through the kitchen door there was my sister standing inside so still. I made so much noise that my mother heard me, quit her sewing and came in the kitchen and asked, "What's the matter?" My sister told her that we heard a mad dog. She said, "Oh, that wasn't a mad dog, it was just a little dog following that girl on the horse and got lost." About that time we looked out the window and saw our little brother coming out the lane. He was crying but he was still alive.

One year we walked across the hills to Peabody School with Mr. Luther Slaughter's children who had moved up from Patrick County. Since we were all little we played some coming home from school. If someone yelled out, "Yonder comes a mad dog," everyone was supposed to go up a tree. The boys could just skinny up the trees so fast but I would climb up on the old rail fence. Then I noticed Pauline wasn't afraid of mad dogs for she just kept walking on home. I decided that since she was in the first grade and littler than I was that if she wasn't afraid of mad dogs I wasn't going to be either, so I would just walk on with her.

When I was thirteen someone gave us a shepherd dog and he went mad too. That morning he went with my father, brother and some of my sisters over at the orchard to gather apples. He took a spell of running around the truck and my father told them all to get up in the truck. Then the dog left and came to the house. He had to cross over water to get to the house and that made him real sick. I was sweeping off the front porch and he walked up behind me and lay down in front of me and started kicking and foaming at the mouth. I remembered our mother telling us when we were little that if dogs had hydrophobia they slobbered at the mouth. I went in the kitchen and told my mother that the dog had gone mad and she said, "Run over to the orchard quick and tell your daddy so he can come and kill him." I did run and fast too, but I was really not so scared, for I had been on the porch with the dog and he liked me and didn't bite me.

My father ran to the house but by the time he got to the house and got his gun the dog had gone up in the woods in front of our house and he couldn't find him. He got his nephew Price Bower, to go with him to hunt him and they found him over about the Peabody School and killed him. We didn't keep dogs after that.

My sister's husband, Herman Hargrove, who grew up near Mount Olive, North Carolina said he was bitten by a mad dog when he was six years old and was cured by a madstone. The madstone was owned by Doc Jones and it was kept on the wound for around five hours.

Thorndike and Barnhart Dictionary defines a madstone as being a concretion of mineral salts formed in the stomach and intestines of deer, formerly thought to relieve or cure the effects of a poisonous bite when placed on the wound.