My Daddy's Hound Dog


        My daddy was a country boy who grew up in Georgia in the 1930's. As a product of those hard times, the pleasures of a teenaged boy were simple. Daddy's greatest pleasure was hunting with his dog, Buster. Buster was a Georgia Coon Hound which was a dog of somewhat questionable lineage but with the basic characteristics of a beagle - especially noted in his yowling bark.

        Buster was a present to my daddy on his tenth birthday and immediately became his constant companion. Buster would follow Daddy to school and wait patiently in the shade or under the stoop in bad weather. As Buster grew, he began to show his natural bent as a hunting dog, and when my daddy received his first shotgun on his twelfth birthday, Buster was ready to be his hunting companion. Boy and dog formed a special bond and an amazing ability to communicate. It was almost as if they could actually speak to and understand each other. By the time my daddy was fifteen, he and Buster had become small local legends due to their special hunting prowess.

        In the summer of my daddy's fifteenth year he was given the chore to clear the high weeds from a field near the house. Of course, there were no power tools so my daddy was using a scythe to cut the weeds. A scythe is somewhat of an ergonometric anachronism considering its ancient lineage for it is a wondrous combination of wood and metal designed to be the perfect cutting tool. A scythe's handle is shaped in a special way that along with a two foot-plus blade it enables a man to cut a wide swathe using the muscles of his arms and shoulders without placing strain upon his back. As the sun rose, my daddy had shucked his shirt, and Buster had taken to the shade of the nearby woods.

        My daddy worked as that hot Georgia sun gave strength to his muscles with nothing but the sound of buzzing insects and the steady whish, whish of the scythe doing its job until he heard Buster's yowling bark coming from the woods. He knew that this particular bark was one that signaled Buster had found a rabbit to chase. My daddy lay down the scythe with its sharp blade pointing toward the sky and was taking a drink of fresh spring water from a Mason jar which he had brought with him as he listened to the beautiful sound of Buster's bark.

        Suddenly, the rabbit burst from the woods and began running across the field in Daddy's direction with Buster hot on his tail. Daddy couldn't believe that the rabbit was running right toward him and was cussing the fact that he had not brought along shotgun. That rabbit continued to run in Daddy's direction and scooted, in the blink of an eye, between Daddy and the scythe. Buster was not so agile and ran straight into the blade of the scythe hitting the blade right at his shoulder.

        My daddy couldn't believe his eyes when he saw that Buster's momentum had caused the sharp blade of the scythe to slice him right through from shoulder to rump. Buster fell to the ground in two pieces. Any ordinary person would have panicked, but Daddy was used to seeing all sorts of injuries while working around the farm, so without even having to think, he picked up Buster, grabbed his shirt, wrapped him tightly together, and ran with Buster to the house and my grandmother.

        My grandmother was used to doctoring all sorts of injuries and wounds to men and animals, but she had never seen anything quite like what had happened to Buster. She couldn't believe that Buster was actually still alive when my daddy came bursting into the house.

        "Son, there is no way I can save that dog. He's just hurt too bad."

        "Oh Lord, oh Lord! Please, Momma, you've got to fix him! Please, Momma, please fix him!"

        My grandmother looked at her son's tear-stained, anguished face and knew she had to try even though it was useless. She told him to hold Buster tightly together as she quickly prepared a poultice. All the while, Buster looked toward my daddy with cloudy eyes slowly licked his hand.

        When the poultice was prepared, my grandmother was afraid to take the shirt off of Buster so she just packed the poultice thickly all around Buster and then wrapped all of that in a clean sheet. She got some old quilts and made a bed for Buster in the corner of the kitchen where he could stay warm from the heat of the iron stove when the evening chill arrived. My daddy put Buster into his bed and lay down beside him. Afterwards, my grandmother excused herself to her bedroom and quietly wept - not so much for Buster but for the heartache she knew my daddy must face when Buster died.

        That evening after my grandfather had arrived home from his job in town, both he and my grandmother tried to get my daddy to eat supper and sleep in his own bed, but my daddy insisted that he was not hungry and was going to stay with Buster. They left my daddy there in the corner of the kitchen knowing that the morning would bring the realization that Buster had died.

        After worrying throughout the night, my grandmother and grandfather were up before dawn, lighting the stove, and beginning preparations for breakfast. My daddy, as is the wont of most teenagers, was still sound asleep. My grandfather thought it was best that he take Buster out and bury him before my daddy woke up. He was astounded to find that Buster was still alive, and not only alive, but actually moving a little with eyes slightly less cloudy.

        As the days and weeks passed, Buster began to move around in his cocoon of bandages more and more until it was determined that he was well enough to have the bandages removed. As my grandmother lovingly removed first the sheet and then my daddy's shirt a sight not to be believed was revealed. It appeared that, in his haste to grab up Buster and wrap him in the shirt, my daddy had slapped him together with two legs going up and two legs going down. Nature had miraculously allowed Buster to live in that deformed state and had created a dog that was a wonder to behold. For, you see, after that time, Buster was twice the hunting dog he had been before because he could run on two legs for a long time, and then when he got tired, he could flip over and run on the other two for just as long.

        Buster and my daddy became more than just local legends. Buster lived to be twenty years old and was even my companion when I was an infant. My daddy's hound dog was some dog!


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