One night Hattie came in alone. She’s the blue heeler cross, but Pancho Villa, the blue-eyed Australian shepherd never came. Our calls and whistles were in vain, so we left the gate open. Next morning he was still a no show. I went out to feed, called for him. I drove out to the main road with a knot in my stomach. But, still no sign. Late afternoon I decided I’d finally hang a picture in the house–a chore I had put off for months. I walked out to the shop to get the drill. I unlocked the door, pushed it open and Pancho Villa nearly knocked me over!
All was well, he was safe and life could go on. But that night I had a chill thinking about how seldom I went to the shop–maybe once a week. We’d moved our tools to the tack room where we’d been working. Except the day before I’d gone to get an extension cord. Pancho followed me in but I’d left alone and locked the door. I don’t like to think about it.
I’m tellin’ you this tale because of a letter I got about Jumpy. Jumpy is a Heinz 57 variety dog, black and white, long hair, long body and short legs. According to his folks he’s a low maintenance good natured companion. He won’t jump on you, bite or bark or pee on tires or anything.
He’s dad’s shadow, trots along behind when they check the calving cows. Jumpy’s feet hit the ground, then a fraction of a second later his skin comes down. They do make one concession to Jumpy, howling coyotes scare him so they let him in the garage at night.
One December day he disappeared. No sign, no scuffle, no blood, no war. Probably coyotes, the folks figured. They still looked and asked neighbors but eventually gave up. They missed him though. In February, Dad bought some cows at the sale barn in Winner. He pulled the 20-foot aluminum stock trailer to town to bring ‘em home. He backed up to the loading chute and the yard man asked why he brought his dog. Dad said he didn’t. “What’s that?” the yard man asked, pointing.
Jumpy had been locked in the trailer since dad’s last hauling trip fifty days before. The trailer was slick clean except for Jumpy’s little piles. He was thinner. It was an unexpected reunion.
A combination of things allowed this story to have a happy ending. A warm South Dakota winter, frost for moisture, Jumpy’s low maintenance demeanor, the price of cows and luck.
Today Jumpy has gained his weight back and is once again his normal pleasant self. But the family is a little more thorough about closing doors, boxes, trailers, well houses, shops and such. They take one last peek.
And so do I.