Blackie and Me
Blackie was my first dog. Actually he was a 'family dog'. I rather suspect he was initially chosen to give my two older brothers some responsibility in caring for something of their own and to act as a 'calming' influence to their own exuberant personalities. As my mama also had a brand new baby boy to care for, realistically Blackie became my mostly full time companion during my waking hours and my daytime babysitter. Blackie was my first dog.
THE ESCAPE ARTIST ~ Family legends and lore say I made my first escape from my baby crib at age 9 months and made it several rooms away before I was discovered. This was pre-Blackie in our lives. With Blackie, another family legend says I was found a quarter of a mile down a fairly busy roadway making mud pies just off the shoulder of the road with Blackie lying on the shoulder of the road (facing me) curled (curved) like the top half of a full moon as his attempt to protect me. No harm came to me or Blackie for the 'mudpie' adventure except the 'wagging' of extended family tongues as to demean my mama on how on earth she could have possibly 'allowed' such a thing to happen.
Did it not dawn upon any of them, that I was possessed of and with the elemental spirit of wind being part of my humanness? I liked to be free. I was highly spirited, free spirited, full of energy and I loved to roam. Please do note the fence in the picture. I have no memory if that fence was present before my 'mudpie' escape or came after. Of course, I have no recollection of there being a gate left open either. If the fence came after, obviously it dawned upon someone that I was a flight risk. While we are focusing on the picture here, please do note that mama did make every attempt for her wee only girl child to look like a little girl. Blackie was still a pretty small pup at the time of the picture. He did grow quite a bit bigger, he certainly grew bigger faster than me. The more I look at the pic, Blackie's puppy status, the more I'm thinking, ahhh that fence had been there. Blackie and me must have found an open front gate for our 'mudpie' adventure.
Only the front yard was fenced--in. Miles of wide open spaces were accessible from the back yard. Blackie was not allowed to sleep in the house. Mama had old quilts and blankets to make him a comfortable bed on a back porch entrance that was quite less than a fancy modern 'mud room' feature like many of today's homes have. (When daddy was grimy, gritty or caked with dirt from any type of work or the older brothers in their own activities were, that's where the outside coats, overhauls, coveralls, slickers, muddy boots or grimy shoes were taken off.) That's where Blackie's food and water were kept. That's is where Blackie would be found each and every morning. Blackie was allowed through the house when he and I were put out into the front yard together.
THE OLDER BROTHERS ~ my two older brothers were 'well known' upon sight and by reputation. They were born with not bright red hair but flaming orange hair and along the way they had extremely speckled freckle faces. They were bullied and would have been bullied throughout their entire school years except they put a stop to it 'with their fists' as often as necessary. (Both brothers are still alive and well into their 70's, so I'll not humiliate them by finding school pictures to share with you. They might see this posting.) Our mama had beautiful auburn red hair, she was number seven of eight sisters and the only authentic redhead. She too had been tormented, teased and bullied about her own red hair and freckles through her entire school years. Secretly, I believe mama to have been pleased her boys could handle themselves and yet worried about their 'fist fighting'.
I do have to give these brothers some 'hero' credit because they took up for other kids who were being bullied for any reason ~ so if you were Johnny the Bully's parents ~ you weren't going to like these brothers. If you were the parents of Timmy the one who Johnny had unmercifully bullied and the brothers put an end to it ~ you were going to love these brothers.
The oldest brother even failed a grade so he could be in the same class as the second oldest brother. You won't convince me he did it because he was stupid. He did it so the brothers could be together in strength and double the fists numbers.
This was a time that daddy was working construction out of town during the week. The job would be too far away for a daily commute, daddy would come home for the weekends. The brothers weren't allowed yet to take any of the hunting rifles out as they wanted. They had a BB gun, one BB gun, two brothers. So some days, out and off they would go with their BB gun and Blackie (against any objections that I would have even been able to put up) adventuring. They had a favorite place in the woods and yes no chipmunk, squirrel, or bird was safe from them, in addition to whatever target practice they could set up.
On the way to and from their favorite place with Blackie, they had several 'run-ins' with an angry rancher man. I think it was because they would cross BLM (Bureau of Land Management) pastures that had been 'leased for livestock grazing' to get to their woodland. Angry rancher man told them they were trespassing and accused them of harassing his livestock. I truly don't know if the livestock in question was sheep or cattle. I have the idea in my mind it was sheep. The brothers told angry rancher man, they were not trespassing, nor were they shooting at his livestock, they were simply headed to the woods and/or back from the woods and they did their shooting there and only there. Daddy told the brothers he was very concerned, but to hold their ground without violence and be sure when they were shooting in the woods to never shoot in the direction of the pastures/meadows so it could not be misconstrued.
THAT HORRIBLE DAY ~ One bright sunshiny, blue sky day Blackie and me were put out into the front yard. I can't recall if it was a pick-up truck or a car that pulled up. I just know a man who had a big hat on, walked up to the gate, unlatched it and came into the yard. (I would find out years later the 'big hat' was one our own State Troopers wear). I heard a deep rumbling growl from Blackie and then he took off toward the man. I heard three loud noises simultaneous to a screaming yelp from Blackie that seemed to get cut off before it was completed. I didn't understand it all then. I don't quite understand it all even now. Blackie had been shot down dead, murdered in his own front yard there with me, his very own little girl. It gets very jumbled after that, I can hear my mama's screams and the horror in her blue eyes as she swoops me up in the front yard and dumps me inside the front door. I remember her telling me in absolute terms to 'stay here, don't you move, stay right here.'
WHY? ~ Angry rancher man had reported his livestock was being killed and partially eaten by what he thought was a pack of dogs. He was positive the dog that belonged to those red headed boys that look to be brothers was the lead culprit. There was only two red headed brothers in the entire region. My brothers. So a law enforcement officer, after visiting with angry rancher man came directly to our home to investigate. (Mind you, my now old lady adult brain tells me, law enforcement officer believed every bad word angry rancher man had to say about our dog, my Blackie being the bad dog ~ resulting in a pre-conceived notion of guilty.) The law enforcement officer did not nor did he have dispatch call us that he would be coming by. Three further insults were added to injury.... Blackie was 'hauled away' as to be whatever the animal form of autopsy is called, but specifically you must know it was to be 'gutted' to see if there were any sign of angry rancher man's livestock there. (There was not.) Blackie's cold blooded homicide was deemed to be 'self -defense' immediately, the law enforcement administration said the law enforcement officer was simply protecting himself. Finally, the livestock killings from the errant pack of dogs continued and the 'real livestock killers' were found a month later. No apologies from either law enforcement or angry rancher man were ever made to our family.
THE AFTERMATH ~ I now know that every single time I asked about Blackie, it made my mama cry. I know that for a whole decade, 10 long years we were not allowed to have another dog, this experience having been so traumatizing to my mama. Without hesitation, I can tell you that life without Blackie was a very lonely front yard existence, I can remember being lonely even if I didn't know or understand what the word lonely was at that time.
I shouldn't have to 'rail on' about all the 'life lessons' that weave or surround this event. I would hope you will see many of them for yourselves, take them to heart. Always remember when your own mama or gramma tells you that 'life isn't always fair', they are telling you the truth. I hope you live each day the best you can so that you can be strong and hearty to endure those times when life is not fair.
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SPECIAL NOTE ~ It was exceptionally challenging to write this story from wee tiny girl memories and family stories. I did the best I could.
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