Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Little Danger is a Small Price to Pay

My daddy was kind of a horse trader, though he never really owned any horses when we were growing up.
He did wind up with a couple blue tick hounds in a three way trade that involved whiskey, a rusty pistol, and the hounds.
“Them dogs are the finest coon dogs in the county,” the toothless trader said as he took a pull from the bottle of whiskey.
I was about eight years old at the time but I can still remember the old man’s eyes kind of glazed over when he took that first sip of moonshine and he scrunched his face up as if he’d hit his thumb with a hammer. When he got his breath back, he managed to rasp, “This ain’t bad stuff!” 
Everybody shook hands to seal the deal and the dogs hopped into the back of the old pickup truck with me.
On the way home, daddy must have experienced “trader’s remorse” because he said “I sure hope your mammy don’t pitch a hissy fit over them dogs.” 
The first words out of mama’s mouth when we got home were, “I’m not feedin’ them dogs, if they get fed, y’all will have to do it.” 
Daddy looked at me conspiratorially and raised his eyebrows in what looked almost like a flinch, but I recognized it as a signal that said, “Wow, that was easier than I thought!”
That night we took the dogs up to Powell Hollow near the old strip pit to see if we could jump a raccoon.
Sure enough, the dogs jumped out of the truck, ran around a few minutes taking care of business, then one of them yelped as if he’d burned his paw, and they were off to the races.
Daddy cocked his head and listed to the sound of the dogs, as if he were listening to a symphony orchestra.
We fired up the carbide lanterns and headed after the dogs. It was quite as a tomb on that crisp autumn night and the sound of their barking made them easy to follow.
All of a sudden we stopped hearing them, which was a little strange. They went from barking every few seconds to not barking at all. It was as if they’d been abducted by alien canine snatchers.
As we walked deeper into the woods, we realized we could hear them, but they sounded far away. 
I heard daddy say, “Uh oh, I know what happened.” Then he instructed me to stay behind him and walk in his footsteps. It was then I felt a little freaked, as we inched further into the woods.
Suddenly, the sound of the dogs was getting louder, but there was an echo too.
Then daddy held his hand back and stopped me. He got down on his hands and knees and crawled up to the edge of a mining shaft almost hidden in the brush. When he shined his light down there, he could see the glowing eyes of the dogs about thirty feet down. They were OK, but the hole was too steep for them to climb out.
He then stood up and we headed back to the truck. I asked if we were just going to leave them down there. “We gotta get a rope,” he said. 
We headed back to the house and he fetched a length of rope and another lamp from the shed.
When we got back to the mining hole, the dogs were still there yapping like crazy. 
I had wondered on the way back to the hole if daddy planned to lasso the dogs with the rope or just how the rescue would happen. 
It wasn’t until he explained that he was going to tie the rope around my waist and lower me down into the hole to fetch the dogs that my enthusiasm faded. 
I was afraid, but I trusted my dad. He gave me the miner’s hat with a carbide lamp and he slowly lowered me down.
When I reached the dogs, they licked me like a pork chop. I took the rope from around my waist and tied it to the first dog and daddy slowly pulled him up to safety. We repeated the routine for the second dog, before he dropped the rope back for me.
The entire rescue operation took less than five minutes and I can tell you even though I was afraid at first, I became the hero of the hour especially to the dogs. My stock also rose with my dad. 
I know today, he would probably have been arrested for child endangerment if he pulled a stunt like that, but I was glad I got a chance to shine in the eyes of my dad. And for that, facing a little danger was a small price to pay. 


  1. That's a good story. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. I think every little boy wants to impress dad with a brave act.


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