Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Man's best friend lends a helping hand.

original run date April 3, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

Memories come flooding back to me at some of the weirdest times.
 I can’t seem to get any of my “city” friends to come walking with me of an evening at my house. They all seem to have an aversion to walking on gravel. The other night in my quest to get some kind of workout in, I resorted to taking the bird dog walking with me. It turned out to be a good move.
Not only did I turn the mile and a half trip into closer to two miles, I got some resistance training in as well.  Mattie was convinced that the road ditches were full of quail and was enthusiastically going from side to side to check every inch for birds.  My normal trek was easily extended and she unknowingly powered it up even more.
Mattie spent at least at least 25 minutes of the 30 pulling me down the road. I had the brakes on most of the trip so I had built in resistance training. I’m sure I looked like a carton character at more than one point as I was bracing myself at the end of the leash to hold on. The brakes were applied and my heels were dug in for traction. Our gravel road has a couple of pretty big washboards in it. There is probably a start for two or three more to form from the divots I left as Mattie continued her mission of finding every bird in the county in that short section of road.
As we reached the stop sign at the highway I tried to turn around to head back home. Mattie in her excitement made the turn and headed back to the house via the tunnel created by my legs bracing for her to hit the end of the leash. The leash formed a firm grasp on my ankles and I realized things were about to get really ugly. I managed to catch myself on her back and maintain my upright position – barely. I’m pretty sure the trucker that passed by about that time is still laughing.
I stopped for a minute to catch my breath and calm Mattie. As I was looking around, a memory hit. I’m not sure why this particular event came flooding back but it made me chuckle all the way home.
There used to be a mobile home across the highway from where we turn onto Hwy 24. I never really knew a lot of the people that lived there since it was a rental.  I don’t even remember the name of the last people that lived there but I do remember doing them a big favor when they were preparing to move.
These particular renters had a lot of “critters” around. Dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, geese, and emus come to mind. Mainly because we received a phone call one evening from them asking if we could help them move to their new place at Excello. They had lots of critters and no way to move them, especially the emus.  They knew we had a stock trailer for our horses and wondered if we could haul the emus for them.
Larry was a little reluctant to take on this venture but being the neighborly sort of guy he is, he agreed to help out the following Saturday afternoon. All three of the kids jumped in the truck with enthusiasm. They had seen the big, ugly birds from the highway and were excited to get to meet them up close.
Getting the birds into the trailer was nothing short of challenging. I won’t lie – the kids and I were hiding behind the trailer at one point so Larry couldn’t see us laugh at him. The birds would not voluntarily step into the trailer. They wouldn’t even volunteer to look at it. When Larry brought out the lariat from behind the seat of his truck to lasso them, we hid our enjoyment.
He was not impressed with the job he was about to undertake. He managed to catch one of the birds and ran his end of the lasso through the side slats and coaxed/pulled the first bird in and closed the middle gate. One bird loaded - one to go.
Long story short, emu number two escaped its confinement and the last time we saw it, she was headed over the hill and through the woods. I don’t think they ever did catch it. There is either a very old emu still roaming the countryside or the coyotes had a very large chicken dinner one evening.
The ride to Excello was no less exciting. This was before Hwy 63 went to four lanes all the way into Macon. We were cruising down 63 on the two-lane portion following the couple to their new farm when Larry audibly gasped. The image in his rear view mirror and the vision of the oncoming traffic created a terrifying vision.
Apparently our friendly passenger decided it needed to see where it was going. The openings on the sides of the livestock trailer were just wide enough for it to stick its head through and enjoy the rush of air much like a dog with his head out an open car window.
This probably wouldn’t have been to bad if the emu had chosen the passenger side versus the driver’s side. The oncoming semi and that birds head stuck out what looked like about 15 feet spelled disaster in our minds.
Thank goodness the shoulder of the road was paved enough Larry could move over and save our passenger from a very ugly beheading. The girls didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Jake didn’t hesitate. He was still laughing so hard when we got to the farm he couldn’t even tell the emu owners what was so funny.
Larry did manage to hold it together until the bird was unloaded and we were back on the road towards home. At that point, he vowed to never again put any kind of animal other than a horse in any trailer he owned. He has stuck to that vow.
The trailer is filled every year with camping equipment for the family float trip/fishing adventure; it has been filled with furniture and belongings from family and friends when they moved; and it has carried building material for home improvement projects but it has never carried any critter besides our horses.
The older I get, the harder it is to remember all the funny things that have happened through the years. I wish many times I had started a journal when my kids were young and kept track of all the memorable things they said and did. Maybe I just need to take the dog walking with me of an evening more often. Who knows what memory she may jar out of me the next time.

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