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Paddle Your Own Canoe
Chapter 8

Tray was the ugliest little dog possible. He was a copper color, only about knee high, and had the most frightening colored eyes,  like the stereotype of some alien creature who has amber eyes. As if this was not enough they were snakelike too.  At first the dog  worried the children. He didn't actually nip at them but rather seemed to be nibbling.  That is until the two-year-old  discovered he hated to have someone blow in his face. Ada was about the same height as he was but she would run him all over the yard with Tray  trying desperately to get away from her lest she blow in his face.

The mutt  was a found creature but had endeared himself to them because of  one  saving grace.  A small copperhead snake they on occasion uncovered under some rock or maybe in the fence line brought him redemption.   For every paradise it was almost like there has to be one negative.  To bring back the balance Tray came into their life. Something about the dog's ancestry gave him an ability to hunt snakes. No sooner was he freed from his night time pen until he was zipping up and down the fence lines searching. If there happened to be a stick or something, anything with some length to it he immediately attacked, dragging it out with his sharp teeth.

Where they lived had been country not too many years ago and one would think the little serpents would find a more protected area, but not so. For this reason Tray was  less than well bred  but still appreciated, and became accepted.

Sunday morning saw them early off to church and when they returned they were greeted with tears and sobs from their little granddaughter.

“Gramma!  Gramma!  There was a mean lady and a terrible man here who said they were going to shoot Tray.”

“Oh no!  Surely not.  Has he bitten someone?  Oh dear I do hope not. He never has.  What is this all about?”  Dee asked her daughter.

All the crying and carrying on continued until Dee had to stop to console the granddaughter.  “No one is going to shoot Tray.”

“Gramma!  They said the policeman told them if he bites their little boy they can shoot him.”

“No!  No!  In Oklahoma it is against the law to shoot a dog.  Did he bite someone?”  Dee asked one more time.

“I asked them if I could see the bite.  They said he had not bitten the child he was just afraid of him.”  Dee's daughter, Sheila,  looked off into the distance.

There was no way Dee could laugh. Everything was in such a tense situation. “Ooooh  sheesh!  Now I feel sorry for Tray. Bless his heart he can't help it because of  his ugly fearsome look.  I'm sure he looks ferocious to a child.  He makes himself  obnoxious too, nibbling at people the way he does. One woman complained. “Don't do that Dog, that tickles!”

Why didn't you tell the mother what Ada does to run him off?  Blow in his face.”

“Oh the mother was in a rage.  I didn't dare say too much. Anyway Elsa was screaming and crying because they said they were going to shoot HER dog. The woman's husband was backing her up by saying, “I can take care of it.”

Dee visited with her friend about it which was almost like talking to no one. The woman was always so peaceful and placid about everything. Her solution was to advise Dee to go meet the woman and apologize. For some reason Dee had no intention of walking into a stranger's yard especially since her man had already confessed to owning a gun. They were new to the neighborhood, but she was feeling that surely there was some other way to get acquainted.  And, too, she had a little trouble with apologizing to them. After all they were the one's who came on her property threatening mayhem and murder for poor old Tray who was just doing his job as his ancestors must have done.

The weather was unbelievably miserable. For some reason the spring of 2003 was very slow about making its presence known. Every day was a drizzly day, cold and bleak. Occasionally a few warms days  would come around but, for the most part it was  rain,  heavier than a mist but, on the other hand,  not pouring in big drops.  In these conditions Dee turned her attention to the very front of the property,  which needed help as always. The drop of the heavy clay hill was to make the slope dry and for the most part barren. For over the thirty years they lived on the property she had never worked on it  because she knew there was a lot of work to be done.

In this weather Dee began to transplant, fertilize and pull mulch on to it. The traffic on their small road was something they mostly ignored even though over the years it had increased.  Their house set back a good way and it wasn't a bother. However, it may have been  part of the reason Dee didn't work on the edge of the front property.

The heavy shovels of red clay she moved to one side in order to set mulch on it and then cover that again with more shovels of the miserable hard packed  substance which could loosely be spoken of as soil.  She knew she looked ghastly with her gray hair wet and  plastered to her head, but something about the work was cleansing.

They had come through a hard winter with her daughter driving every day through ice and snow,  rain and storms to attend the little college only fourteen miles away. This  was nothing unusual because so many of the young people in the area did the same thing.  The difference was that money was close so her daughter vowed she would make straight A's in order to get a good scholarship.  They were so over joyed when she achieved her goal and was offered a very fine scholarship, or at least the opportunity to apply for it.  If their joy had a let down it was what she knew they must go through. It was this let down which made the scene with the woman and the dog harder to accept.

For once in her life she appreciated the heavy packed  red soil. Its heaviness was a challenge. Too, the very young looking  woman who had created the scene always zoomed  by in her shiny new large truck neither looking right or left.  Dee wanted to chastise herself for thinking of the spirited colts of her youth in what seemed like another century ago, who had to be tamed through association.  Not too much at first, mind you. They can't be spoiled or they will be hard to control, but one must get acquainted, slowly.

She smiled to herself,  “It's the code of the hills!”  Too many of her Dad's  “old sayings”  seemed to fit.

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