Coda and Callie’s Excellent Adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children, (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs, more specifically, hunting dogs. 

    Anyone you know that keeps hunting dogs has more than one story about their dogs running away, getting lost or just in general being MIA, missing in action. Whether it is a Pointer bird dog, a beagle, Cur Dog, Coon or Fox Hound, most hunting dogs, you see, are not wired like your average pet. They want to hunt! The intense desire to hunt makes a dog desirable to us, the dog owners. The problem comes during the off season, when the dog is left to lay about the pen or yard and hatch evil schemes of escape.

    Don’t tell me that dogs don’t do this, OK? I have kept hunting dogs all my life and I have just about seen it all. I have spent hours, weeks and months driving country roads and byways, looking for a dog. One of the things that has always amazed me is you can look for days for your dog, always fearing the worst. You are waiting, hoping and praying for the call that someone has found him. You come around a bend in the road and your dog is sitting there seemingly waiting for the 12 o’clock bus. He gives you a look that says, “What’s up?” Like you just saw him at MacDonald’s that morning.

    I freely admit that my dogs are the worst (or best) when it comes to escaping. I am sure that I am well known in my town for this. To many I am probably “that guy who is always looking for his dogs.” Dogs care not a whit about this. They have no concept of how they embarrass you.

    I once got a call, and I am not making this up, that my two dogs were in a nearby tavern, a bar. No, not waiting outside the building like polite little doggies. They were in the bar mingling with the patrons, probably bumming quarters for the juke box and buying a round for the house, assuring the bartender that I would take care of it all when I got there.

    I know that I should have a bomb proof pen and fence. I go for long periods and there is no problem, no escapes. Then you go out in the back yard one evening and man! No one is home. I really do think that they have a pair of wire cutters hidden in the back fence. I also think that this latest rash of escapes all started after they saw that World War Two movie with Steve McQueen in the prison camp.

    My latest tale of woe started on a Saturday evening about two weeks ago.  I discovered the dogs were gone and started my routine driving the neighborhood in hopes of snagging them as they crossed a road somewhere. No luck. Saturday night dragged on into Sunday and no sign of them. By Sunday afternoon I was getting that nagging old feeling like, are you going to see them again?

   The clouds parted and many prayers were answered when we got the call Sunday afternoon. We jumped in the truck and rushed off to the house of a very nice man that called us. Here is the kicker, over twenty miles away! Not just any old twenty miles away, this was on the other side of a major river gorge, the New River Gorge to be exact. That is a lot of rocks, river, rhododendron thickets and rattle snakes for two bird dogs to traverse in less than twenty four hours.

    It was twenty miles by road, only heaven knows how far it was by the route the two miscreants took. Coda, the old brown dog was on the front porch almost unable to walk. Callie, the white pointer was actually in the man’s house, enjoying the air conditioning. I walked into the house and she gave me a look that said “Hey, what’s up?”

 

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CODA AND CALLIE

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Get on up, or you’ll get left behind

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” William Shakespeare

 

    The lone fisherman stood and looked down the hill. There was a path that cut through the brush and rocks that lay between the road and the stream. He did not remember that it was this steep. Studying the pebbles and sticks in the path he knew that if one of them rolled under his foot, wham, he would go down and this little adventure would be over before it started.

    As he eased forward and felt the gravity push at his back, he thought of how not that long ago he would have hurled himself down the path. Whatever happened, he could have handled it. His strength and balance would have served him and he would jog down to the stream with nary a scratch. Now he feared a fall as he never had.

    Finally reaching the big rock at the bottom of the Snake Hole, he stood as in the past and studied the water. Ray felt some of the old spell wash over him. Here was the dark swirling current of his dreams, the rocks that were obvious and some barely visible, all of which he knew from a time in the past. There is a fish there, I know it, can’t be a rock like that and not be a trout there, waiting in ambush.  He brightened some, maybe he could do this, a feeling arose felt like he was getting some of it back.

    Putting the rod together and stripping some line, he glanced down at his arm and felt himself pull up short. He stared as if he had not seen this arm before. Of course this was his arm, he knew that. Not like the knotted and bronzed arms that he had once had. Not like the arms that could do anything, any kind of work, this arm was pale and thin, almost translucent. He felt a bolt of terror for an instant. Could he still cast a fly rod?

    After Ray had tied on an Adams and a dropper, he stood and held the rod forward, sighting it across the river. He gathered himself, trying to remember the steps in a process that was once as natural as breathing air and required less thought. Out of nowhere the face of the doctor flashed in his mind. The doctor, the first of many that sat and told him about cancer and treatments and his chances with no more emotion than describing yesterday’s weather.

    The demons took him to a very bad night 14 months ago when he lay as sick as he ever thought he could be. The words of his old river mentor, Rob, had come to him that night. “You got to get up Bud, no matter what, you got to get up. If you don’t, you just get left behind.”

    The first few casts were as clumsy as he expected. Rob would have growled, “Looks like a cow on roller skates.” After a few more though, the rod seemed to take over and help him, as if showing him how to all over again. For an instant he wondered if Rob was there, holding the rod for him. No, he didn’t believe in that.

    He was learning to cast again as if he was learning to breathe again, live again. He had not one thought of hooking a fish, he was watching the line slice out and descend gently to the water. Grading every cast, giving himself no leeway. One long cast and he made the Table Rock. He watched the fly land beside the rock and start with the current. Then just like that, no warning, no pretense, a brown trout over twenty inches took the fly with an audible slurp. He felt as if he had been struck by lightning. 

    Ray would have bet the farm that he would miss this fish, but as he brought up the rod, it was there, heavy and throbbing. With a grimace he applied the pressure as he knew he must. If the fish got behind the Table, that’s all she wrote. Then again, just like that, here comes the fish up and out of the water. Beautiful and terrible at the same time, he remembered to give it a little room and then whispered in a trance, “Please……”.

    When the fly came out it whizzed past his ear and he tried to duck and sprawled over the rocks backwards. He went down hard and wondered if he would wake up from a dream or if he was he dead. He lay there for a minute and took an account of what was left of him. He wasn’t dead, as far as he could tell, the rocks were hard, but he didn’t think anything was broken.

    For the first time in two years he exploded in a gale of laughter, he didn’t know where it came from and he didn’t care. It was uninhibited, forceful laughter that left him out of breath. He raised and wiped the corner of one eye, “OK Rob, I’m gettin’ up, ‘ol bud, I’m gettin’ up.

 

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