My old pal Skippy always meant well, but sometimes he was the unfortunate victim of circumstances.
I suppose it was because I was dreaming of springtime that I recently recalled a circumstance in which he found himself one spring day many years ago.
It was one of those glorious days when the sun was smiling down from a clear blue sky, warming the earth and making nature sing. The landscape had shaken off the dingy grays and browns of winter, and new life was bursting forth all around us, including in the flower beds on either side of Skippy’s front porch.
The freshly turned soil suggested the lady of the house had been busy planting spring flowers.
Mingo and I noticed this when we arrived at Skippy’s house to help him install a new bathtub. Skippy had not been aware he needed a new bathtub. He never took a baths. He preferred showers, and his shower was in good order.
However, marriage was turning out to be an educational experience for Skippy, as indeed it is for so many men, and his new bride, Victoria, had drawn to his attention that a new tub was required in order to make their house a proper home.
Victoria had gone out before we arrived, which suited us fine. Victoria, although a splendid person in many ways, was one of those women who tend to make men nervous, and whenever I was around her I felt as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
We got started right away doing some demolition in order to make way for the new tub.
Our progress was soon interrupted by a knock on the front door. Skippy went down to investigate, and found big Jeff Pritchard waiting without. Jeff was a pal who lived with a collection of creatures on a hobby farm just outside of town.
Jeff asked if he could leave The General with Skippy while he attended to some business in the city. The General, or Major General Benjamin Huger, to give him his full name, was Jeff’s pet goat. Jeff had seen a photo of General Huger once, in the uniform of the Confederate States of America, and he thought the goat looked a lot like him, and named him accordingly.
“He’s no trouble,” Jeff assured Skippy.
Skippy was a helpful fellow, and agreed to look after the goat. He tied The General’s lead securely to one of the railings. Jeff went on his way, and Skippy returned to work.
Things went well, and we had the new tub in place in no time. It wasn’t until we decided to take a break before starting the finish work that a shadow was cast over the beautiful day.
“Impertinent fly-bitten miscreant!” Skippy thundered, addressing his remarks to The General as we emerged from the house. “What have you done?”
The question was a rhetorical one, because it was obvious to even the most myopic observer that what the general had done was to dine on Victoria’s new flowers. What had started the day as two beds of cheery, colorful blossoms had been reduced to a wasteland of pathetic shriveled stalks.
Skippy predicted that Victoria was not going to like it. The accuracy of his hypothesis was soon confirmed, because she arrived on the scene at about that time.
A sound rather like that of a twister approaching across the Kansas plains manifested itself as she emerged from her car.
She directed her opening remarks at Skippy, and although it was difficult to make out exactly what she said, owing to the fact she was highly agitated and speaking rapidly, it was clear the point she was trying to bring home centered on a sense of disapprobation regarding the state of her garden.
There may be some things that will help to pacify a woman who is upset, but telling her to calm down is not one of them.
This was among the lessons Skippy learned that day. Victoria became even more agitated, and began to punctuate her comments with wild gesticulations.
Skippy also learned that there are times when it is better to remain silent than to offer helpful suggestions. This was brought home to him when he thoughtfully tried to point out how much Victoria enjoyed gardening, and what fun it would be for her to plant new flowers to replace those on which The General had dined.
Mingo and I did our best to appear invisible during this interview. The carefree atmosphere of the day had been shattered, and we figured the sooner we finished the job and got out of there, the safer we would be.
Skippy learned some painful lessons that day about goats and women, but fortunately, this did not tarnish his warm and helpful nature. It simply made him a wiser and more careful Skippy in the future.