NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and occasionally best owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise we had to keep on earning. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
By Larry Brody
One day as my wife Gwen the Beautiful and I were leaving the ranch to drive into town we noticed a couple of trucks pulled over at the side of the road. Several people were standing around and when one of them saw us he waved and called out. “You missing your dog?”
We weren’t, but that didn’t keep us from being curious. We drove over to the group and saw Fred, an old-timer from up the road, and a Mennonite couple and their son. Fred pointed into the woods—our woods on our property as it turned out—and showed me what the fuss was about. A dead dog lying under a tree about fifty feet from the road.
We tromped in for a closer look. Fred showed me four widely spaced bullet holes. Someone had shot the dog, probably from the road. “None of these is a kill shot,” Fred pointed out. “Whoever did the shooting wanted the dog to suffer.” His eyes misted up. “Same thing happened to my dog.”
As we walked back to the road Fred told me about his dead retriever, “the best dog that ever honored a man with her love.” One day not long enough ago for the memory to have healed, Fred’s dog came crawling home to die in his arms after being shot six times. Individually, none of the wounds was mortal, but in combination, “She bled to death is what happened.”
The Mennonite Couple said they’d seen a black pickup going up and down the road slowly several times in the past few weeks, and just that morning they’d heard shots coming from it as it went by. Fred’s eyes lighted up. He described different kinds of black pickups. “Was it a Ford? Dodge? Did it have chrome pipes?” He reminded me of all the TV detectives I’ve written over the years. Sounded like a member of CSI.
The Mennonite Couple answered as best they could. Fred’s expression grew grim. “This old boy with the black pickup is just plain bad,” he said. “I’ll find out who he is—“
“And go to the sheriff…? Gwen said.
“This ain’t a sheriff kinda thing,” Fred said. “Animals’re kind of a gray area. No…I’ll just be paying that old boy a little visit on my own…”
“You might want to have somebody with you,” the Mennonite husband said. He was volunteering, but Fred shook his head. Patted the hunting knife sheathed to his belt.
“No,” said Fred. “It’s best if I go alone. That’s one of the Old Ways.” His eyes rested on each of us standing there, one after another. “Till then, you’d best be watching your dogs.”
“Somebody should bury that one,” the Mennonite woman said, pointing into the woods.
My property, my job. I told the others I’d take care of it, and after they drove off Gwen and I went back to our place, where Jeff, our Unhandy Man, and I grabbed a couple of shovels and did the deed. When we were finished I sent out a little prayer, best wishes for a dog that someone, somewhere close by, most certainly must have loved.
Since then, every time I’m on that road I find myself looking for a black pickup. And, of course, I always find one, or two or three. Part of me says, “Get the license number! Call Fred!” But another part says, “Stay out of this. How’ll you feel if someone gets hurt?”
The truth is, I don’t know how I’ll feel if I hear that an evil old boy with a black pickup was found sliced and diced or shot dead. Or if I learn that Fred’s been charged with the slicing, dicing, or shooting. I’m not even sure what I’ll feel if I hear that an evil old boy with a black pickup took Fred out in self-defense.
What I am sure of is that if in the meantime anything happens to one of my dogs I’m going to regret to my own dying day that, unlike Fred, I don’t have what it takes to hitch up my anger and steep myself in the blood of the Old Ways.
But I’ll tell you this. If that time comes, ain’t nothing in this or any other world that’ll keep me from calling on old Fred.