County Lines by Bob
Uncle Leo said I could worm my dog Woolly with tobacco. Woolly's
up to two packs a day now and she still has worms and she's developing
a nagging cough.
The vet prescribed nicotine gum to help her quit. But when she
tired of chewing it, instead of spitting it out, she'd blow bubbles.
The cats got jealous and refused to catch mice unless I gave them
Providing a dog with gum to stop smoking is one thing. But supplying
13 cats with gum, just because they want it, was expensive and annoying
with their picky feline ways.
I couldn't save money by buying a large package of gum. Oh, no,
that would have been too easy. Each cat wanted a different kind.
Spearmint for Harpo. Double Bubble for Chico. Groucho liked sugar
free. Karl preferred Juicy Fruit. The list went on and on.
I have a difficult enough time in grocery stores without having
to remember gum preferences of cats. One day a cashier got her kicks
by picking on me.
"A lot of gum there. You must have a heavy chewing habit."
"It's for some cats."
"For your cats?"
"Cats never really belong to anyone. But I have to buy them
gum because my dog stopped smoking."
"Hey, Louise, check out this loser! He's buying his cats gum!"
"Please, ring it up. Or should I speak to the manager?Ó
"Louise is the manager."
I never returned to that store and I stopped giving the cats and
Woolly gum when I caught her puffing on a Kool out by the pig pen.
She wouldn't say where she got it.
Town is 17 miles away. That's 34 miles round trip. A standard-size
dog travels at 4 miles per hour. Woolly's overweight. That would
cut her down to no faster than 3 miles per hour.
I'd seen her approximately 5 hours earlier. She could have traveled
only 15 miles since then. She would still be 2 miles from town instead
of standing in front of me, trying to look innocent.
She didn't get the cigarettes in town. That was mathematically
impossible. That left only one solution.
I called Jim, the owner of a nearby country store. After exchanging
pleasantries, how's your bursitis and so forth, I said, "I
know it's hard making a living running a small store, but please
don't sell Woolly cigarettes anymore."
"I have to sell them to her," Jim said, "or she
could sue me for discriminating against her because she's a dog."
"You're kidding?" I replied. "I'm not kidding,"
Jim said. "There are attorneys who handle nothing but animal
discrimination cases. A lawyer got an 11 million dollar settlement
for a zebra at a jungle reserve because a tour guide described it
as white with black stripes instead of the other way around."
"Woolly's not a zebra," I replied.
"Doesn't matter," Jim said. "An attorney for a rhinoceros
won a 33 million dollar judgment against a wildlife magazine that
published a story describing it as a large, thick-skinned creature
with a horn and a nasty disposition to go with it."
Hummm, I thought, that could describe several of my ex-wives when
they're behind the wheel.
Although I'd never turn him in, I dislike snitches more than yogurt,
I said, "Selling cigarettes to minors is against the law."
"That applies only to humans," Jim said.
"You sure?" I asked.
"Yep," Jim said. "How old is Woolly?"
"Eight," I replied.
"That makes her 56 in human years," Jim said. "That's
plenty old enough to buy cigarettes."
I couldn't argue with that. "You're right," I replied.
"If she wants cigarettes, your place is as good as any to buy
"She can't buy cigarettes," Jim said, "if she doesn't
"What are you getting at?" I asked.
"You give Woolly an allowance," Jim said.
"That's right," I said. "I don't want her feeling
out of place around her well-to-do dog friends."
"No allowance, no cigarettes," Jim replied.
"I'll stop her allowance," I said. "But if she gets
a complex, I'm holding you responsible."
Woolly bummed cigarettes for a while after I cut off her allowance.
But cigarettes are expensive. Tobacco costs more than marijuana
did in the sixties. Woolly's smoking friends soon tired of her mooching
and nixed her supply.
Without her nicotine fix, Woolly turned nasty. Digging holes, deep,
deep holes. Biting tires to the point of deflation. Chasing away
Jehovah Witnesses, which she did before anyway, but never with such
a vengeance. And howling, day and night, howling, howling, howling.
I turned on a fan to drown out the howling. I still heard it.
I put in ear plugs. I still heard it.
A little after three one morning when I could no longer stand it,
I sped into town.
A young lady behind the counter said, "Can I help you?"
I replied, "A carton of your cheapest cigarettes please."
"Show me some ID," she said. "I have to see something
with a date of birth before I can sell cigarettes to anyone who
doesn't look at least 27." "Bless you my dear child,"
I replied. I threw the cigarettes to Woolly as soon as I got home.
"Smoke them," I said. "If you kill yourself, you'll
Uncle Leo steered me wrong and so did the vet. Buying nicotine
gum was a waste of money.
The only way Woolly can quit smoking is cold turkey. But she likes
it warm and covered with gravy.
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570