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Friday, December 7, 2012

A Valley Walk…With Plenty of Apologies…

Tony in the FallYesterday I was, as the Scots so quaintly phrase it, “ riding shank’s mare” down the Valley: simply put, I was afoot (or as we Yanks counter, “hoofing it”). I stopped at Ed’s driveway to chide Ginnifer Broers for shaming the rest of us into stringing our holiday lights. Ginnifer was using an interactive dog toy to exercise her dog when I walked up. “Oh, I’m not done yet,” she laughed. Pressure…oh, the pressure! If she follows through with her plans, the Broers and their mountain range of lights might just scuttle Beebes’ Oasis of the Seas this year. (Just a heads up to those Beebes.)

I couldn’t help notice a second dog in the driveway and straight away recognized it from a recent “ride” in the Valley. “Whose dog is that?” I asked, motioning to a black dog of questionable lineage nosing around her lawn. The dog wore a yellow cattle tag with some sort of inscription penned on it. I’m told the dog owns the Frohnings. Now I know just a bit more about my walking companion on my last visit to the Valley. This put me in mind of a similar companion I had years ago on my walks.

In those days, I reminded her, she and Ed also had a black dog . Whenever I passed their driveway, the dog decided I needed a walking companion and would tag along. Now while I did not in the least feel the need for canine companionship, I was tolerant and allowed my new friend to trot alongside. On the return trip, however, it looked like my shadow was intent on following me to the ends of the earth, if that was my destination. On past his driveway he padded contentedly as if we were dog and master. I approached the last corner by Van Hulles’ and the dog still contentedly trotted at my side. It was necessary, at this point, to “discourage” him from continuing further; I didn’t want his blood on my hands when we reached the state highway. A stern tone and harsh words halted him, but when I moved on, he followed. As a last resort I pegged small stones at him until he finally got the message and slunk home. This scenario repeated for the next few walks. One day as I walked by, the dog was elsewhere. Ed, who was puttering about in his driveway, smiled as I approached. “Where’s your dog?” he teased…. Ginnifer pondered a bit when she heard the story: “We had a dog then, but after a couple of months, he just disappeared.” Someone must have walked him out of the Valley, I told her. It wasn’t me.

Click, click, clickety click. I’ve just rounded the corner above Swiss Hall and discover I have two companions, that black, tagged spaniel of Frohnings and some other black and white stubby-tailed dog. I can’t remember asking them to join me, intrude on my musings. At Swiss Hall Stubby heads down the road toward Decks’. Blackie, however, decides I need a little company and off we go…I wondering when he will head for home, he nosing about and stopping frequently to let his fellows know he’s passed by. That it’s his Valley is obvious. He wanders the centerline, the shoulders, oblivious to traffic which has to slow, change lanes, anticipate just where he’ll wander next. In the meantime, I try to be innocuous, nonchalant even: “Dog? What dog? I don’t see a dog.” But I can’t help but think it’s not Blackie taking the blame but me. “Hey, you idiot, if you want to walk your dog, put him on a leash!” But I proceed as if I’m on a solitary constitutional.

Fast forward to yesterday’s walk. I bid adieu to Ginnifer and her dog’s exercise routine, march on down the Valley. Just as my thoughts settled into reverie, it’s click, click, clickety click again…that uninvited Blackie is trotting alongside. Why he didn’t stick around for Ginnifer’s fun and games is a mystery. But after all, he’s a dog. He’s at the mercy of his nose which leads Blackie from one side of the road to the other, sometimes stopping him on the center line where he snuffles about. Cars coming and going slow, edge along; some try to anticipate Blackie’s next move. One driver moves into the oncoming lane only to find Blackie sidling there as well. I sneak a peak at the driver. He’s thrown both arms in the air in frustration: after all, he’s at a complete standstill. As far as the dog’s concerned, these vehicles don’t even exist'; his nose leads him willy nilly from one fragrance to the next.

At this point I feel I owe drivers an explanation. I can’t offer much more than a demonstrative gesture with both hands and a shout as they creep by: “IT’S NOT MY DOG!” This seems to help; they smile and nod apologetically as if to say, “We feel for you, buddy.” On past Swiss Hall with my companion lagging behind to sniff the story of a blade of grass, a post, a rock, then bounding ahead to the next olfactory message. I turn around at Sargent Road, head back. When I turn to look for Blackie, I note a second dog sprinting past the calf pens toward us. I think it’s Hank Van Ness’s shepherd mix. Suddenly I’m Grand Marshal of a dog parade, my companions having no sense of formation or cadence and like two  members of the Stanford Marching Band drift back and forth across the parade ground. On up the road past Swiss Hall where I stop the parade from time to time, throw up my hands and shout: “THEY’RE NOT MY DOGS!” Two pickups pass by, a couple of Valley bird hunters finished for the day, dog carriers with dogs nicely contained in the back.  “THEY’RE NOT MY DOGS!” The drivers laugh and nod: they know all about dogs….

Finally I get some doggone relief. Hank’s dog knows his boundaries, turns and trots back toward the barns. Blackie leaves me at Gramma Snow’s driveway, the point we parted company the day before. Unlike the Broers’ blithesome canine of years ago, I don’t have to shoo him back on down the road.

Shed of my escorts I continue along blithely myself. I come alongside Tony’s house where I see the man of the house removing a mass of leaves from under his steps assisted by an unemployed bean pole. “Did you lose something, Tony?” I joke, “A diamond ring or your Rolex watch?” as I walk to his side. His response: “I did lose a gold ring out front,” he frowns. Not the answer I expected…. “I searched everywhere, even with a metal detector. Never did find it.” I nod sympathetically and then share a story about his old neighbor Tina Streutker. “Tina lost a little gold ring, too, years ago. Had no idea what happened to it. Then one day she and Jerald were sifting compost and the long lost ring surfaced from the heap. ‘I must have vacuumed it off the carpet and out it went into the compost when I emptied the dust receptacle,’ she laughed.” Tony mulls this over for a moment. I’ve hooked him but he doesn’t know it.

And then:“You heard about the fellow who was on a charter boat fishing for blue fin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico?” I set the hook deeper. “He lost his wedding ring overboard and figured it was gone for good.” Tony’s firmly on the line now. “A couple years later the fellow ordered a fancy meal at a New York restaurant, had a tuna side salad. He took a couple of bites and then bit down on something hard. Guess what it was.” A few seconds to ponder possibilities before he answers. “Oh, I don’t know…his wedding ring, I guess?”I’ve got the net out for him  now. “No,”I smile, “a fishbone!” A moment later it sinks in and Tony grins a wide “you got me” grin, wags his finger in my face. I throw my hands in the air, shake my head. “Sorry, Tony,”I apologize and continue on up the road.


















































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