Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Story of Miss Essie and Her Dog Rocket

I love to tell stories. I don't really think of them as stories, but my husband has convinced me they are. He loves it when I remember something from my growing-up-years and tell him about it. For me, they are just memories, but many are so uniquely Southern, and since he didn't grow up in the American South, he finds them fascinating. My memories, i.e., little stories, are about growing up surrounded by extended family; as a member of a rural community; experiences of church and school life; and especially people with sometimes quirky personalities. My world was populated by unique and interesting people, funny "characters," real people, and a way of life that has now forever disappeared.

In thinking about sharing some of these stories on my blog, I really didn't know where to start, but he suggested one. I've been thinking about that a few days and am conflicted on whether or not I want to. But in a way I feel compelled to do so, because I believe that "everyone has a story to tell" in his or her own unique voice. You may not find these stories interesting, but here I give you one, with more to come later. This is one of my husband's favorites.

Miss Essie and Her Beloved Dog Rocket

Miss Essie Goad (she was a widow and thus a "Mrs.", but everyone called her "Miss") taught English at the local high school. She was known for her no-nonsense approach in the classroom. You showed up for class each day--assignments completed; you listened in class, you participated in class discussions, you studied for her tests. And you never even considered bringing food or beverages into her classroom. And you never, ever chewed gum in her classroom! Follow Miss Essie's rules and you did ok. If you didn't, well, she could ruin your day. She had a sharp tongue at times, and could put a student "in his or her place" faster than any teacher I can remember.

Miss Essie loved to tell stories to her class, about growing up in the Depression, about her early years in the teaching profession, about the trips she took, the flowers she grew, her pets. Miss Essie was a talker. She could tell a story as well as anyone I ever knew. 

On the classroom wall hung a large  picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was her hero. Roosevelt was worshiped by a great many people in the South in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He was credited with bringing the end of the Great Depression -- a depression that southerners knew didn't begin after 1929, but had been in effect since the end of Reconstruction. Roosevelt brought jobs and electric lights to the Tennessee Valley. Miss Essie often talked about how difficult life had been before his programs brought prosperity to the area.

I visited Miss Essie once in the late 1970s or early 1980s, after she had retired. This was after I had read the newspaper story about her and her dog, Rocket. It seems her story was run by a local newspaper and picked up on the UPI wire and it went viral -- all over the U.S. She told me during my visit that after the story ran in newspapers she got cards and letters from people all over the U.S.  She seemed somewhat embarrassed, but in typical Miss Essie fashion, took it in stride.

She was a real plant aficionado  and had this beautifully landscaped lawn with many flowers and trees. Her beautiful little stone house  near downtown was full of African Violets and many other lovely plants. 

Miss Essie's house is gone now, like so many others than existed years ago. It was demolished some years ago to make way for a large and modern brick bank with white columns.

Here is the story of Miss Essie and her beloved dog Rocket.

Before I said my goodbye, Miss Essie walked me to her kitchen window and pointed to the spot she had buried Rocket.

"This is much better. I have him here near me now. He would have preferred it this way."

(Miss Essie died in November 1993 at the age of 92 years.)


  1. I liked your story. I read some of the earlier ones too, and believe you to be a wonderful woman.
    Therefore, without doubt, and in hope that you won´t stop blogging, I joined in as a follower of your blog!

    1. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I am drawn to your blog because I feel you are an authentic woman in a sometimes inauthentic world. Love your animal pictures and the simple pleasures you speak of. I hope you keep writing as well! And thanks for signing up as a follower.

  2. Yes, please more of these stories....sad that we no longer have teachers' of that ilk in our classrooms.Ida


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