WHAT’S IN A NAME
This was the first sunny day we had had in a couple of weeks, so the kids and I piled into my old pickup and headed out to the berry patch. Mary was pretty mad at me right now. I had been promising the boys a dog ever since our old Rusty passed away. Just kept putting it off. Never seemed to find a dog that seemed to fit our family, now she was nagging at me about a dog just like the boys.
Blackberries should be ripe enough to pick, and hopefully we would have enough for Mary to make some jelly and a pie or two and calm her temper down. This dog situation is killing me. Seems Mary mentions that dog every day, and I’m really getting ticked off about it.
I could hear the boys arguing in the back seat as to who could pick the most berries, who could eat the most berries, and, in whispers, what each would do if we spotted a bear.
Bears love blackberries, a well-known fact, and are always spoken about in awed tones whenever we started out to challenge the bears for the biggest and best berries. Our neighbor spotted one a week ago, almost in the area we were going to. Another was spotted not a mile from our house. Big one, taller than a man when he stood up, they said.
“Ok kids, what do you do if you see a bear? Get in the truck and roll the windows up. Beat on your cans, whoop and holler and make a lot of noise once you get inside the truck. I’ve got my gun, but I sure don’t want to shoot a bear today. Out of season, no license, they’re hungrier than us, you name it, and it would make shooting a bear the wrong thing to do.”
“But pa,” said my youngest son Buck, “what will you be doing while we are running for the truck?”
“I’ll probably be racing you to get there first. Don’t you think that would be a good idea?”
I heard snickering from Jimmy, the oldest, my namesake. “Pa, you ain’t scared of nothing.”
“Wrong, I’m for sure scared of a big bear. You’d better be scared too.”
We pulled up to the side of the road and could see the big old berries hanging down. The patch wasn’t far from where we were parked, just a matter of 20 feet or so, so I blew the horn a few times, and we eased out, looking around. We each had a berry bucket, and a big box to dump them in when our buckets got full. When I took over the farm from my dad, there were lots of syrup buckets piled in the barn and we use them for everything. We don’t buy syrup in buckets anymore, just plastic jugs. Shame, that. The jugs get thrown in the garbage, but the buckets are used over and over.
We beat on our buckets as we walked to the patch, beating and singing ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ as loud as we could. Seemed like a mighty fine song to sing when maybe facing a bear, but there were no bears, no growls, nothing, and we picked til our buckets got filled, dumped them and picked some more.
Around noon, we stopped picking for a while and settled down to enjoy the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Mary had packed for us, and our little bottles of water. We weren’t really hungry, had been eating berries like crazy, but the resting was a blessing.
“Just fill our buckets once more boys and we can head for home.” They had been really good, kept picking long after I thought they would quit. Of course, this being the last bucket, I managed to pick a blackberry with a bee hanging onto it, got stung, and gave out a yell, a whoop and a holler. Had to bite my tongue to keep from saying something stronger in front of the boys.
They thought it was hilarious of course and kept laughing while I pulled the stinger out with my teeth and popped my finger in my mouth to try to ease the pain. All picking had stopped during my shenanigans and the boys hung over my hands trying to see just how much my finger had swollen.
Out of nowhere Buck said “Pa, when are you going to get us another dog? You told us you’d think about it when Rusty died, and he’s been dead a long time now.”
“Yeah, Pa, you know you said that, you know you did.” Piped up Jimmy.
“Yes, but I just haven’t found the right dog yet. We looked at Mr. Bob’s dogs, and none of them seemed just right for our family, then we went to the pound in town, and some were too little, some were too mean, just didn’t find the one for us. I’ll keep looking. I know you miss Rusty, I do too, but with my finger hurting, mama mad at me about no dog, and being tired from all the berries we picked, it isn’t a good time to talk about a dog, boys.”
We had finished filling our buckets for the last time and started for the truck when we heard a moaning sound, “bear, bear,” shrieked Buck and took off running toward the truck, berries bouncing out of his bucket all the way.
Jimmy didn’t run, but he hung mighty close to me as I turned to see what was making that moaning noise. I could see the tall grass moving, as something made its way thru, coming slowly toward us. Urrrmmmm, urrrrmmmm, and then the grass quit moving. Buck had climbed back out of the truck, and was standing with us, holding onto my pants leg. I cautiously tiptoed closer, “boys go to the truck in case it’s a coyote or some such.”
I took a long stick and reaching ahead of me parted the grasses. The moan came again, softer, fainter, loss of hope type moan. Fairly made my hair stand on end. Finally parted the last of the grass, and there lay a dog. Nearly starved, ribs sticking out, hip bones protruding, looked to be maybe some kind of hound. Had long ears like a hound, but the hair was so matted with burs, leaves sticks and such, I couldn’t get a good look. The ears couldn’t even lay flat there was so much stuff on and in them.
Of course, the boys had slipped back out of the truck and were standing right there with me. They peeked around me, and I heard Buck whisper, “a dog.”
“God sent us that dog, didn’t he pa? Sent her right to us, so I reckon she’s ours. Figured it would take a miracle for us to get another dog, and here she is. Can we name her Miracle pa?”
“Good name Jimmy, we can call her Mira for short,” added Buck.
“Woah boys, this might be someone’s dog already. Guess we better get her home, feed her something, and see if someone has put an ad in the paper for her.” I took off my shirt, wrapped the dog in it and carried her to the truck. She was quite willing to lay in the back, especially after we found another peanut butter and jelly sandwich for her to eat. We took off the jelly side, and she licked and chewed the peanut butter piece of bread, getting it stuck to the roof of her mouth. Both boys were laughing as they climbed in the back of the truck to keep her company on the short ride home.
It took a good while, but we got her fed, let her rest a bit, and then set to work washing her and picking out the burrs, weeds and such. She didn’t like that at all, but never offered to bite. As we got down to where we could actually see her, I discovered she was expecting. So emaciated, it wasn’t obvious at first glance, but there would be pups coming, for sure.
The boys had been after their ma to come see their new dog Miracle, so after she put the baby down for a nap, she came out to see her. Goodness, it is a dog alright. So skinny though. Who does she belong to?”
Both boys smiled and said “us. God sent her to us, so she must be ours.”
“Now boys, hold on a minute. This dog must belong to someone. I’ll have to take her to the vet, have him check to see if she’s chipped, look at the paper for lost dog postings, may even call the sheriff, see if anyone has reported a missing dog.” When I looked at their little faces, and saw the disappointment there, I was almost tempted to say to heck with it, but what kind of example would I be setting for them if I did. Nope, do what’s right, and I’ll make another run thru the pound see if I can find a dog for them.
The boys begged to have Miracle sleep in their room that night, saying, “please mama, she will be so lonesome without us, this is a strange place to her.”
Their mother finally agreed, “ok, she can sleep in your room but not on the bed with you. Dog on the floor, not in the bed. Ok? Can you agree to that?” They both nodded and smiled. “Yes mam, not in the bed.”
I sat on the bed with the boys, holding our baby girl for a nice cuddle while Mary read a Bible story to us all, then I listened, answered their questions, and prayed with them, but when they got to the ‘God bless’ part of their prayers, Miracle’s name was right in there with their mom and me. Hugs and kisses, and we got them tucked in, tired from the day’s activities, should be asleep in no time.
After baby Susan had her bottle and settled down, Mary and I watched the TV for a few minutes, then started to bed ourselves. She stopped to check on the boys, and whispered, “Jim, come here, you’ve got to see this.”
When I got to the door, both boys had taken their covers, made a pallet on the floor, and the dog was sleeping spread out right between them. So cute, Mary and I were both laughing as we pulled the door partly closed. “But she is not in the bed, Jim. You’ve got to get this dog for them, they love her already.”
“Mary, I can’t believe we are arguing about this. You know I’ve got to try to find the owner. If he turns up and wants his dog someday, it will be that much worse.” I didn’t get a hug and kiss that night when we went to bed, that’s for sure.
It’s morning, one of my favorite times of the day. I got the chores done while Mary cooked us a big breakfast and we discussed what needed to be done today, and what we would like to do. Mary’s plans included the ‘Ladies Helping’ group at church, they were knitting baby blankets to send to a sister church in Alaska, and warm blankets were top of the request list.
“What are you doing today, Jim? Anything special?”
“Going to the vets and the sheriffs to check on that dog, I’ll go this morning so I can be back before you need to leave. Man, I hate to do this, the boys will be brokenhearted for sure.”
“Please don’t do this Jim. Let’s try to keep her somehow.”
“I tried to tell them she probably has an owner somewhere, but they didn’t want to hear that. Named her Miracle of all the crazy names, said God must have sent her to them and that was a Miracle.” I pushed back my chair, went upstairs and got the dog to follow me without waking the boys. Fed her good and took her with me in the old truck.
First stop, the vet. Only one in three counties, so his place was always busy, we used him for all our farm animals too, good vet. I made a collar and leash out of a piece of rope and led Miracle into the office. She balked, clearly not wanting to go in, but I tugged a bit til she followed me, tail tucked down and under, slinking along, turning those woe-filled eyes up at me as if to say, “what are you going to do to me now?”
The vet, Dr. Jones, ran the little wand over her shoulder, and sure enough, found the chip. He wrote the number down, said, “this little lady looks familiar to me, let me call and see who her owner is.” He returned in a moment; “I do know this girl. Her owner died a couple of months ago, his son came down and closed everything up, put the place up for sale, and went back to his home in New York. I don’t have the sons’ phone number, but I think my secretary might. She is related somewhere down the line.”
“Sally, could you come in here a few minutes?”
“Sure Doc. what can I do for you?”
He filled her in, and “I do have the number, let me give him a call, and tell him about the dog”, she said.
We could hear him sputtering loudly, “just what am I supposed to do with a dog here? In New York? My apartment complex doesn’t allow pets, it’s in the rules.”
I broke in, “just ask him if he would be willing to sell the dog to me for my kids. I’ll give him $100.” Thinking to myself, I’m crazy, lost my mind. How will I justify $100 for a dog when there are so many things need replacing or repairing on the farm.
I opened my mouth to renege on my offer, just as he said to her, “let him have the dog. Dad would have rather have her go live with a family with children anyway. I didn’t see her but once after dad died, just never thought about her anymore, too busy. I thought I saw a glimpse of a hound at the cemetery, the day after we buried dad, but never thought about it being his old dog. She must be in bad shape if she has been missing for a couple of months.”
Sally said, “She is. Managed to get pregnant somewhere in those two months. Very skinny. Come back down soon, stay with mama and me, meanwhile, I’ll tell Jim to enjoy the dog with his children.”
When I got back to the farm, the boys were sitting on the back steps, forlorn, sad, and it looked like Buck had been crying. Mary came out just as I picked the dog up out of the back seat of the truck and set her on the ground. She took off running toward the boys and they started running toward her. She was howling a howdy, and the boys were laughing for joy. Mary ran too, right up to me and laid a big old kiss right on my lips.
After I finished telling them about how everything had worked out, Jimmy looked up at me, smiling, “see dad, when I saw her, I knew God had sent us a miracle, and that had to be her name.”