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Growing up on the Mississippi Delta with Guv’nuh the Doberman pinscher


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By —— Bio and Archives January 10, 2018

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Wintertime winds are brutal in the Mississippi Delta. They are soaking with humidity, and howl unchecked across ironing-board flat fields. Delta folks call these winds “cuttin’ body hawks.”

At daybreak one freezing January morning, the body hawk unleashed its full fury upon us two duck hunters: my lifelong best friend and mentor, the beloved old black man everyone called Jaybird, and me.

Just as we stepped into a field of rice stubble in which we had built a blind, I looked down and spotted a shivering puppy, crying pitifully. He resembled a Doberman pinscher — solid black with rust-colored jaw patches and feet, and a long nose. When I squatted before him, his dull, mucous-clouded eyes, filled with fear and hopelessness, looked straight into mine.

That was all it took. Abandoning this starving, helpless little creature was out of the question. Gently, I picked him up, wrapped him in a warm blanket, and put him in the truck.

Later that day, I took the puppy to Old Doc Tom, the local veterinarian. After examining him, the doctor said, “He’s feverish, dehydrated, malnourished, sounds like he’s got severe respiratory problems, and is obviously more dead than alive. You might consider letting me put him to sleep.”

“Let’s give him a fightin’ chance, Doc,” I answered.

“Okay. We’ll do all we can for him, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you.”

A few days later, Doc Tom called. “Believe it or not, this puppy is still alive, and with proper care, might survive. He is definitely a Doberman.”

I named him Governor, or as we Southerners pronounce it, “Guv’nuh.”

The puppy grew at a rapid pace, as did the bond between us. When I took him to have his tail and ears cropped, Doc Tom said, “Surely that isn’t the same emaciated runt that I had all but given up on! And judging by the size of his paws, he’s going to be huge.”

Huge indeed. In two years’ time he stood about two feet tall and weighed nearly a hundred pounds. As he grew, his faithfulness and obedience to me grew proportionately.

That beautiful animal and I were constant companions. Riding in my pickup, he’d hang out of the window on warm days, snapping at the wind; on cold days, he’d snuggle up against me and drift off to sleep.

Guv’nuh and I enjoyed many happy years together. Reflecting on our love for each other, I can’t help but think … if people were just half as obedient to the Creator of dogs and men as that Doberman was to me, if they served the one true God of the universe with the same unfaltering attitude of faith and love as that dog had for me, what a far better world this would be.

When he died, I removed the collar he had worn all his life and attached it to my pickup’s rearview mirror. It reminds me of the best dog who ever owned a man: Guv’nuh.


Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.

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Jimmy’s latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.

His collection of short stories is available via, telephone 662-236-2262.