It’s been decades since I heard of, or thought of, a mad dog.
Modern technology has fairly well wiped out mad dogs, and the threat of rabid animals roaming the streets ended a long time ago. But when I was coming up on the mill village where my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and her sister lived, the call would still go out from time to time.
Somebody on, say, ‘G’ Street, would yell “MAD DOG!!!”, and for the next 24 hours at least you couldn’t find a kid playing outside for blocks.
My darling wife and daughter are ushered over in Pelzer when the Mill Town Players and put on “To Kill A Mockingbird”. There is a scene in the play where the sheriff and an associate are attempting to shoot a Mad Dog.
A few nights ago, the ladies were told to warn folks about the sudden and loud gunshot and the accompanying smell of burned powder in the mad dog scene. They had worked hard to warn everyone, and then, in the play, when the gun went off it barely made a sound, and there was absolutely no smell.
But the whole time my wife was talking, was recalling, in vivid detail, a true life Mad Dog threat very near downtown Anderson.
In those says, the Sheriff and his family were very good social friends with us Fants. We went on vacations together. We spent time at the lake together. We enjoyed each other’s company, and back then the County Jail was a former residence, a rock house, just a few blocks away from the Court House.
There were lots of times that Pop would take me with him as he went down to socialize at the jail, and one of my favorite people was a great big loud guy, originally form Honea Path, who always had a ready answer for everything. He was entertaining.
It was the Christmas season. Pop and I were at the jail, when the call came in.
“MAD DOG!” Deputies who had been sitting around talking suddenly started moving around. The more they moved around, the smaller the crowd got. In just a few moments, the whole bunch went from a crowd to a few. People were just disappearing.
Someone asked where the report was, and it was on one of the — for lack of a better term — meanest streets in Anderson.
You’ve heard the description of Mean Street, where the further down the street you go the meaner it gets, and the real tough guys live down at the end in a pasteboard box. This description suited the street perfectly.
Nobody wanted to go.
Finally, my favorite deputy named Ligon, reared back and said, ‘I’ll go.” There was a shotgun in the corner of the room. He grabbed the shotgun, checked to see if it was loaded (it was) and walked out the door.
Pop made the comment that he was really glad he didn’t have to go anywhere near that street.
So, we sat there waiting. Police cars in those days did have two-way radios. They were huge things that generally took up the entire trunk of the vehicles, but they worked.
And it wasn’t long until a voice on the radio said, ‘We are parked here at the end of the street, and Ligon is walking down the street with the shotgun, asking anyone and everyone if they had seen the Mad Dog.’
A few minutes later, ‘Shot fired’ was broadcast.
Very shortly after, it was reported that Ligon was coming back up with street with a still-smoking shotgun in his hand.
Pop and the sheriff agreed that Ligon had evidently made short work of the rabid animal.
That was not exactly what had happened. The closer Ligon got to the patrol car, the faster he walked and the louder the yells and curses were coming from down the street.
It wasn’t until Ligon got back to the jail, threw the shotgun back into the corner, walked out, got into his own car and drove off that everyone learned what exactly had happened.
None of the houses on that street were underpinned. The sides, beneath the floors, were open, and someone had finally pointed out to Ligon they thought they had seen the Mad Dog go beneath one of the houses. Ligon eased up to the edge of the house and leaned over to look. He had the barrel of the shotgun pointed into the air.
Just as he got far enough over to look, a cat ran out from beneath the house, right between Ligon’s legs, and bounded away.
It scared Ligon, who was expecting a Mad Dog. He jumped and pulled the trigger of the shotgun.
The sad part was the gun was no longer pointed in the air. When the gun went off, the shot blew through a window and cut the top out of the people’s Christmas tree.
Glass and branches were still falling when Ligon was moving back towards the friendly end of the street.
The Mad Dog was never found.
And complaints on that street quickly dwindled into nothing.
Ligon never mentioned it. Not once.