When I was about 8 years old, my family lived on the west side of Willmar, Minnesota. My father rented a small house in that typically blue collar neighborhood that was full of families with lots of kids and dogs. It seemed, to my 8 year old way of thinking, that everybody in the neighborhood had a dog - except us. My mother wasn't fond of animals. They were too messy, she said. She didn't want muddy paw prints on her kitchen floor. Or dog hair on her rugs. And because Mother's word was law, we didn't have a dog.
Until I brought one home.
This was in the 1950's. Kids didn't have "play dates." We just played outside all summer long. We roamed the neighborhood with the other neighbor kids, sometimes several blocks away. We built forts in the trees on a vacant lot. We played on the swings at the elementary school five blocks away. We clamped roller skates to our shoes and went flying over the sidewalks. We rode our bikes everywhere.
Nobody got into trouble. We couldn't. If we even thought about doing something bad, somebody's mother would yell at us to get out of whatever it was we were about to get into. We knew that if we were bad, the phone would ring at our house and somebody's mother would tell mine what I had done. We just had fun.
My travels through the neighborhood often took me past a house in the next block. The house was surrounded by a wooden picket fence. Behind the fence a very large Collie dog often played. I loved dogs, so I would stop and pet him and talk to him. But it wasn't as good as having my very own dog. So I did something about that.
Mother told me many years later that she had watched me come up the street, struggling to drag an unwilling Collie dog on a rope behind me. It took a long time, for the dog would sit back on his haunches and refuse to move, at which time I had to get behind him and push to get him moving again. I think it was lucky for me that he had a mellow personality and he adored kids, for he never once tried to nip at me. He probably should have, between the rope and the dragging and the pushing.
I finally arrived at my front door. Hot and sweaty and dirty and out of breath. Mother was waiting there for me. After the typical "He followed me home. Can I keep him?", Mother informed me that she had watched me drag the poor dog for a block and a half, that the dog had not followed but I had stolen him from his own yard, and I would take him back this very minute.
The Collie trotted back home much easier than he had travelled to my house. Mother followed us. I untied the dog back in his own yard. I knocked on the door. The lady of the house answered. I told her I was sorry I had stolen her dog. I promised never to steal him again. I wondered why she was smiling all the while and why she gave my mother a wink.
It wasn't until we moved to the farm that my Dad was able to sneak a small dog into our household. I still don't know how he got the dog past Mother.
Easy Listening for a Sunday Afternoon
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