Family elders on my father's side (King). -
Maxine June King (Ma), Ricky, Robert Lee King Jr. (that's me) in about 1949-50.

Maxine June King (Ma), Ricky, Robert Lee King Jr. (that's me) in about 1949-50.

This is at the back door of the place on Morgan Court, Portland, Maine, that my parents brought me home to when I was born. This is where I first came down with contact dermatitis from coming in contact with the Poison Ivy that commonly grows along edges of roads. It would develop into a life-long extreme tendency toward contact dermatitis from the juices of certain plants.

This is where we all got the mumps and measles. I can remember just how sick I was with the measles here. It was the highest fever n my life.....hands down.

And, it was in this driveway that my Brother, Bruce McClean King ambushed me with a rope, yanking me right off my bike! Yup. He had stretched the rope across the drive and tied it to a tree at just the right height. When I passed through on my bike, he pulled it taut, catching me right across the neck and sending me to the ground. I had a long scab across my neck for a while. I guess I probably played that one up with Ma.

Across the driveway, in a tiny side lot, I first began to play baseball. I was younger than the other kids and so I remember it was not easy getting into the game. But when I did, I loved it. I got better than the other kids around and eventually went on to play 17 years of organized baseball. I would have gone father than that, but my love for fishing got in the way. You can't pitch a quality game when you hitch-hiked that morning at 4:30 AM up to your favorite bass hole and then barely made it back to be on the mound behind Deering High School at 1 PM. Nope.

This was an old, coal-heated house that needed lots of renovation and never got, at least not when we were there. In about 1956 Dad and Ma moved us all out to their newly built house at Commonwealth Drive, Portland, Maine.

See the circular piece on the door? That is a door bell. To ring it you grasped the small tab in the center of it and vigorously spun or rotated it.

Ma did such a good job. Look between my face and Ricky. See her hand holding onto my arm? Here, I am certain she is coaching me to go easy on the dog. You know how kids that age can be. So she made sure that Ricky was trained to be tolerant of us and that we were gentle and loving to Ricky. It is Ma's teachings that became the base of our deep love for animals.........NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. As the years passed, I remember many times on a cold winter night, we would hear a neighbor's dog crying to be let in the house and that is when she got angry......"OOOOOHH, why do these people have these pets if they don't want them ?" It was never "....if they won't take care of them." It was always "........if they don't want them." And if you think about it, that's the reason for it. She said that many times over the years.

There can never be another dog like Ricky. He was hit by a car twice, once disappearing for a couple of days and then found mending on my friend's parent's porch, several streets over. He was the top dog on Commonwealth at the time. He never threw his weight around but never lost a fight......never! Years before, about the time this picture was taken, he came up missing and was gone for days. It slowly became apparent to us that he was running with a cute Dalmation lassy. Those were the days when dogs ran loose and nobody talked about "neutering" a dog or cat. I do not know the outcome but he came back to us.

In later years, someone pointed an Army training rifle at me (it was actually a fake firearm, and so harmless) and Ricky instantly jumped on the guy and knocked him onto the ground.

The day I said good-bye to Ricky, was as traumatic to me as losing Dad and Ma. These dogs give everything they are capable of and require so little. I'll never forget you Ricky and I know I will see you and Ma again.

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