We don’t like to have regrets, but I do have a few from my childhood. I wish I had taken the time to read more. Playing ball and gallivanting around the neighborhood was a lot of fun and probably helped me in many ways. However, I just wish I had taken the time to read more books.
One of the books I did read more than once was Wilson Rawls’ “Where the Red Fern Grows.” It is a wonderful story about dogs, growing up and life in general. The story teaches us about working hard for something we really want and loving something more than we could ever imagine.
I’m talking about dogs.
Even if you are not a dog person, I’m not sure how you could miss the love in the story of “Where the Red Fern Grows.” The author, Wilson Rawls notes this in Chapter 18 of his book.
“Men,” said Mr. Kyle, “people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love—the deepest kind of love.”
If you have a dog or had a dog, you should understand what Mr. Rawls is talking about in this passage. Dogs love you.
My Papa (grandfather) always had a dog. It was usually a Chihuahua, a poodle or some mixed breed of small dogs. He carried his dog everywhere, usually under his arm in his travels around Randolph County, Alabama. They would be venturing out to talk to folks or check on his land. On the weekends when I visited my grandparents, I got to go with them on their adventures.
Papa treated his dog as if it were a child. When we would get take out from one of the mom and pop grills or dairy barns, the dog would always get his own order. It was usually a chicken leg or wing that Papa would pull the meat off the bone and let his dog eat on a napkin in the floorboard of the car. The dog always ate first.
My brother and his wife are living in my Papa’s old home place. This would make Papa happy; he has been gone for many years.
Maybe it made him so happy that he decided to come back. Now don’t call me a nut yet. I don’t believe we can come back as dogs, butterflies or trees, but I do believe in something I can’t put my finger on.
The best way for me to describe it is to use another quote from “Where the Red Fern Grows.”
“It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.”
That being said, after my brother had been living in the old home place a while, a dog showed up. He was a rough looking fellow that you could tell was “well-traveled.” It was apparent that the dog felt at home and wanted to stay.
My brother and his wife named him “Louie.”
Louie has the most captivating eyes I think I’ve ever seen on a dog. He has an easy way about him. He hangs around the porch most days, sitting in a chair when he feels like it and roaming the property when he feels like it.
A heated house now sits on the porch for Louie on cold days and I’m sure he goes inside the house if he feels like it. He loves to play, catching and fetching with the greatest of ease.
This little dog Louie, who showed up out of nowhere has found a home and life of leisure where many dogs in the past have enjoyed a similar existence. Louie loves you back in his own kind of way, still liking to hit the road on pretty days and coming back when the mood hits him, just as my Papa did.
As fate would have it, Louie hit the road and didn’t come back. Two days passed and my brother and his wife were very worried. They had people all over the community looking for Louie.
It was my niece’s birthday and she had the unfortunate task of calling and letting my brother know that Louie had been found dead on the highway. My older brother is my rock, I know no man that is better. He loves everyone and would do anything for anyone, including a dog, especially his Louie.
My brother still carries a scar on his face from our bird dog; he tried to rescue from the road after a car on the highway hit him. The dog was in agony and didn’t know what he was doing when he bit my brother on the face. That’s just the way my brother is. He won’t leave you to get hit again.
I’m sure the news of Louie’s fate tore my brother up. He went to get Louie and put him to rest properly. When he got there, to his surprise, it wasn’t Louie.
His wife heard the news and got in her car to look one more time. Driving up the rural road, she prayed that she would find Louie. Less than a mile from the “Rock House” that has been home to many dogs and our Papa, she found Louie just taking life in.
Louie hopped right in the car. He was probably just surveying his land, talking to people, loving those he ran into and life in general. He was ready to come home and maybe have a little chicken or perhaps some hoop cheese.
My brother immediately started building Louie a fenced in fort or domicile or place to be safe. My brother knows better than this.
You can’t fence love in.
Please forgive me for my recent absence. I took a vacation and topped it off with an illness that had me down for a few weeks.
BN Heard’s column “Cranks My Tractor” appears in newspapers across the southeast and LA (Lower Alabama).
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