My dog Sam, part 3

That first summer on Sand Road brought a lot of changes for me. Self awareness not withstanding, I ventured away on my own spending time out of my yard and exploring what lay beyond the road. Sometimes I’d hike to my grandmother’s house just for something to do, that is… if our grass didn’t need mowing. My grandfather didn’t need to know I was idling my time away.

My grandparents lived a couple of miles south of us in the same section of town categorized as the Sand Road. It was one of the reasons we moved there in the first place, so my mom could be close to her mother. Up a hill beyond the highway sat the Showers Estate and it was the proverbial landlord owning all he surveyed below. Ours was one of the few 2 story houses in the area and had nothing behind us but a cornfield. We looked directly across and up to the Showers mansion. Built in the 1800’s, it was an amazing structure of brick and open gables. The house was tucked up off the highway with woods in front of it and a barn with several out buildings in the rear. Depending on the season, it would be a partially hidden castle in the summer then became a giant exposed monolith during the winter months. We lived in the section known as the Showers Edition and felt like serfs left scurrying about under the watchful eyes and in servitude of the king.

Occasionally I would be out on the road and run into Frankie again, which usually meant pelting him with stones to keep him at a distance, if I saw him coming. Sometimes he’d catch me unawares and I’d have to out run him back to my house or end up climbing a tree to avoid him. That meant Frankie could hang out down below indefinitely. One late afternoon Frankie treed me and I sat there until twilight started to fade in and the lightning bugs came out. Frankie’s master, the sassy girl from the “lower” road finally came calling for him. When she found me hiding in the tree, she bawled me out for keeping her dog away from home. After several minutes of telling Frankie to “sic ’em” and making him bark his fool head off, she called him away and he followed her back down the “lower” road. When I was certain they were far enough and wouldn’t do an about face and come after me, I climbed down and went home.

Other dogs marked their territory and let you know if you were coming too close by barking at you, but Frankie was a nomad and didn’t adhere to normal dog behavior. He considered all of Sand Road his territory. He’d trot into another dog’s yard with that stubby leg of his and chase the other dog around. Growing tired of that game, Frankie would lay in their spot under a shade tree, mangle their chew toys and even eat their food. It all belonged to him. And it didn’t matter what the size of the other dog was, Frankie’s sheer madness pound for pound made him more than his match in a fight. I watched as Frankie went for another dog’s testicles once and saw fear I have never witnessed in another animal before.

As school started in the fall the house started to take shape. Along with our old beater, a couple of junk cars managed to find a home in our yard as well. The grass grew tall around their frames making them look like elaborate automobile planters. My mom had a garden tilled in the front yard which produced tomatoes, carrots and potatoes along with a failed crop of sweet corn. And since I weaned off mowing the grass early on, our yard resembled a faltering wheat field.

I hated the walk to our bus stop. All the kids from the neighborhood would be dotting the road from my lane all the way up to the blacktop and if I was running late they’d call out for me to run, which I of course… did. Our bus driver would yell at me that he wouldn’t wait if I was late again but deep down inside I think he enjoyed seeing me run and showed up early just for that purpose.

The bad kids sat in the back of the bus, the good kids (or those that got on board early enough) sat towards the front and I sat wherever I could find a seat. In those days there wasn’t much else to do as you rode to school but pick on the littler kids. While I was in sixth grade and bigger than some of the passengers but not as large as the high school kids I was a perfect victim for them to show how tough they were. Usually they grabbed my books or pencils and flung them out the window. One time one of my shoes became the item of choice and after a few minutes of playing keep away it was tossed outside never to be seen again.

Though my mom bought our shoes from the thrift store, I knew our welfare check didn’t grow on trees. Going home with one shoe was the ultimate embarrassment, I usually got one pair to last me the entire school year and this meant we had to go find me another bargain somewhere. I remember once she found me a stylish pair of shoes for a quarter.

Then one day our lives on the Sand Road changed. One of my cousins came to our house and talked my mom into taking his dog, sight unseen. I don’t remember what he said to convince her that we needed a dog, least of all his, but my mother agreed to take him on a temporary basis until a permanent home could be found. We had had dogs in the past, but for the most part none of them stuck around for one reason or another. We would move away and abandon them or they would run away and abandon us. Up to this point I don’t recall any dog making that big of an impact on the family, they were just animals that ate table scraps, generally stayed outdoors and barked at the moon.

It was coming on to December by then, our first winter in the gray house. This dog, Sam, was already fully grown so we got gypped out of raising and naming him. Needless to say his arrival caused little interest in me or fanfare from the rest of my sisters.

But my mother took to Sam immediately…


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