The Fugitive

Where are the dogs of yesteryear? They all seem to be some breed or another these days. They never used to be. Back in the forties, we had dogs that LEANED in one direction or another. Or maybe two or three directions at once. But we never went out and bought a specific brand of dog. Why would you buy a dog when the neighbors were giving away perfectly good pups for free, along with a jar of peaches and maybe some string beans?

It has always been hard to earn a living farming, and the animals on our Montana farm all had to have a use. The cats earned their living by catching the mice that ate the grain. The dogs earned their living, Daddy told us kids, by bringing in the cows at milking time.

Our dogs tended not to be real good at bringing in the cows, but we kept them anyway. Maybe because Daddy had a soft heart -- which he did -- but mainly, I think, because the dogs had a better understanding of what they were there for than we children did:

The dogs thought they were there to bark at every single car that went by.

Back when one or two cars came by in a day, we were glad to know that someone was coming down our hill, and, unless it was time for the mailman, we checked to see whose car it was.

The forties went by, then the fifties, and the number of cars increased. We no longer checked to see who it was. Which was not the fault of the dogs: they still barked at every single car.

By the sixties, I had left home but came back for vacations. And during one summer vacation I found out why we really needed that dog.