Rupert Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rupert Howell

Cold kindles memories of Drag and Shorty

The most recent cold snap reminded me of an extremely cold winter night during my childhood when there was an alarm of fire in our neighborhood.

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My mother remembered that she thought the fire engine was going next door to my grandparents’ house. Actually it was the next house with whom my grandparents shared a driveway.

The house belonged to the late Myrtice and Drag Craig. If you remember them you’re probably old like me. They owned a hardware store on the Batesville Downtown Square called Craig’s before selling it to the late Howard Mize when it became Mize’s Hardware. It was later sold to the current owners, the Lott family, and is our Ace Hardware Store located in Highway 51.

Drag Craig was a character, a man’s man, and I will always have fond memories of him. He loved children and they loved him. He took an occasional drink but always possessed a great personality, even during long bouts of sobriety. He wore khakis every day except for Sunday when he would wear a white shirt, suspenders and bow tie.

A few years later after having a “spell” at his  Eureka Street home, an ambulance was carrying him to the hospital and he reportedly asked the attendant, “What’s happening to me?”

“Mr. Craig,” the attendant responded, “you are having a heart attack.”

“A heart attack?” he responded, quizzically. “Well then, I have had a bunch of heart attacks before.”

The fire that cold winter night was not actually at the Craigs’ house but at Shorty’s house. Shorty was the Craigs’ fiest-type dog that was truly a member of the family. Every day during his retirement when Drag would leave his Eureka Street residence and drive to his Red Hill farm, Shorty would be in the bed of the truck barking annoyingly all the way at anybody or anything or even nothing at all. You didn’t have to look up to know that Drag and Shorty were headed to the farm.

It seems that the heater in Shorty’s dog house had started the fire and the ensuing commotion. It was during the early 1960s when the world was “smaller” and a siren during those days was a matter of concern for everyone.

Snow was on the ground and my mother remembers running across the yard to my grandparents’ house next door in  house shoes before realizing the fire was another house away. She rememberd how cold her feet got. She also remembered my younger sister being under the weather—but not so sick that she couldn’t find clothes to put on before going to the back yard and watching the commotion two doors away.

And don’t worry about poor ole’ Shorty.

He was in the house with Drag and Mrytice, probably in Drag’s easy chair next to a blazing fire with TV blaring.