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Over Here: 77 - Dog Cemetery

"Boyhood, then, except for my years at the market, was largely of the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" variety,'' recalls Ron Pataky.

Our Dog Cemetery at the farm, located in a small barbed-wired enclosure behind what we called the "summer house" (as you may recall, actually an open-fronted storage shed for our few, aging farm implements), could reverently boast of three inhabitants, not bad considering the number of animals forever lurking thereabouts. Two had been pet dogs, Tippy the first, and the shaggy and ever-jovial Gus. The third thusly consecrated was an unnamed squirrel whose rigid body we'd found sprawled one day beneath the black walnut tree (almost certainly done in by the self-same Gus, in one of his rare, less-than-jovial moments!).

For me at least, it was a place of frequent calculated contemplation, and I don't know how many adventures, from the relatively well-meaning to the positively idiotic, were hatched there midst the graves over the years. It had to have been quite a few. It was a quiet place. A peaceful place. And a place where I normally could not be spotted from any angle by a thoroughly peeved Grandpa.

Boyhood, then, except for my years at the market, was largely of the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" variety. The only times Grandpa cared much one way or the other were those times when our presence was required, rather than merely preferred. (Merely "preferred"-was a kind of unspoken green light for just about anything). Milking was required. Hooking Bob and Bill to a plow might, depending on the job in question, have been preferred. Collecting eggs and feeding chickens were required. All day long baling hay in a steaming field? Well, it depended. Sometimes, we were required; at other times perhaps merely preferred.

One thing was for certain, however: During the preferred times, we were seldom if ever visible to anyone other than God Himself. Grandpa always knew we were okay, though. A dusk-time bounty of two or three rat corpses, in a bag or dangling sullenly from a cord, did nothing to dissuade him of the possibility, at least, that we were a couple of decent kids after all. Grandpa liked to see dead rats. Me, I could take them or leave them. (I did, however, take them whenever the future seemed bright with regard to possibly using them as another day's bounty! Unfortunately, and sans refrigeration, this only worked for, say, a week or so maximum!).

One agrarian situation that never became a matter of required or preferred always happened in springtime, as Grandpa prepared the fields for planting. Part of getting a field ready is crushing chunk-sized dirt into a smoother, more manageable condition for eventual plowing. To do this, grandpa had an extremely heavy, door-sized wooden slab that he would hitch to Bob and Bill, to then be dragged across the soil, thus smoothing it out. Clearly, the more weight he had on the slab, the better the job. Enter Gordie and Ron. Our job (and a tough one!) was to sit on. the slab, and to hold on for dear life. For hours on end, up and down the rows, the horses would go, thanklessly grinding dirt into smaller dirt as two kids bobbed and weaved among the rows. Occasionally, if we had to leave, or even merely wanted to leave, it was okay with Grandpa if we jumped off for a spell. He'd replace one or both of us with a huge rock or two, and life went on. It didn't occur to me until much later in life that we had actually been used as substitutes, for heaven's sake, for a couple of boulders!
The question in short: Could a couple of kids do the job, physically and/or mentally, of a couple of bouldersP. It was a philosophical question that did nothing whatsoever for the little self-respect I had. Accordingly, I filed it under "Gherkin," or "Etruscan," or some such, where it has remained until the very day of this writing. Not one single time, moreover, have I ever included "Summer Boulder Replacement" on a resume.


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