Dear Smiley: During the ’70s, my husband found a 6-week-old raccoon in a car trunk and brought it home.
We named him Rocky Raccoon, and he lived with us for a year and a half. He slept with the kids, played with our pets, ate cake at our birthday parties, received mail for Rocky Weilbaecher from the vet for his shots and had the run of the house.
When he reached the size of a medium dog, kept ransacking the kitchen cabinets for his favorite food (Cheetos), emptying all potted plants in the house and falling in love with our dog, I opened the back door and said, “YOU’RE FREE.” He ran wild in the neighborhood for months, then disappeared.
Fast forward many months to Thanksgiving Day. The family was about to sit down to eat when the kids starting screaming that Rocky was home.
And he brought his entire family with him.
After a great visit with the family, off they went for good. This has become our most talked-about and memorable Thanksgiving Day.
Our Thanksgiving turkey was served with no legs that year — my husband made sure Rocky and his family had turkey legs for Thanksgiving.
Dear Smiley: When I was growing up in Crowley, adults spent their afternoons on my front porch enjoying Seaport coffee and homemade cornbread and talking of topics that confused me.
One guest frequently talked of visiting a place named “Vilflat.”
Every year, these same adults talked of celebrating “Mem-o-rall” Day. Now where, oh where, was this Vilflat? Mem-o-rall Day was not a school holiday, so when/what was it?
Years later, I realized that “Vilflat” was actually Ville Platte. While preparing my end-of-the-year teaching plans umpteen years later, it hit me like a bolt of lightning that my childhood “Mem-o-rall” Day was probably Memorial Day!
Everybody else may have celebrated Memorial Day, but to me, it will always be “Mem-o-rall” Day!
Dear Smiley: I watched Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” interview Sen. John McCain. It reminded me of when McCain ran for president.
As I watched the candidates, I explained to my then 6-year-old grandson that McCain had been a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War and, for over five years, was held alone in a small room and treated very cruelly.
He turned to me with the innocence of a child and asked, “And did he have a little refrigerator?”
Thank God the Lord allows them, for a short time, just to be little children.
Pen pal memories
Dear Smiley: Reference to “Aunt Jane’s Letter Club” reminded me of a wonderful English pen pal I came to know in 1955.
Mr. Gess was a London accountant who sent a letter to the Crystal Springs, Mississippi, post office asking if someone in Crystal Springs (he chose the town because of its lovely name) would care to become his pen pal.
Gladys Wallace, a friend of our family, became his pen pal. She wanted me to meet him when I was awarded a Fulbright year in England at the University College of North Staffordshire.
When I arrived in London for orientation, Mr. Gess was at the train station to meet me and immediately took me and my shipmate friend Sue under his wing.
An expert on London and its history, he led us all over the city and took us to tea in his flat, shared with his delightful wife, Alice, and cousin Amy.
Through my year in Staffordshire, whenever I took a trip to London, he was there to take me to his home for tea.
On Christmas Day, Sue and I were treated to lunch at a Lyon’s Corner House and an afternoon before the cheery fireplace at their flat.
Our parents had sent presents there, and for tea, we had a cake decorated with the stars and stripes.
The Gesses became like family to us and were delighted that summer when my mother and his pen pal Gladys came to England to travel with me and then return to America on the Queen Mary.
We would remain pen pals for years to come.
Dear Smiley: I recently attended a luncheon where I knew no one.
When I introduced myself, the person said, “Oh, you write for Smiley.”
This happened twice. I feel like a cast member from “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Thanks for my notoriety.
FAYE HOFFMAN TALBOT
Dear Faye: I wonder — does being in this column make you famous or infamous?
Write Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.