The snow had been cascading down since time began; at least that’s the way it seemed to Andrew, trapped inside with three kids eight and under in age. He was the designated parent this week; his wife was down in the bay area, whooping it up with her pals. OK, in reality she was at a kindergarten conference, in San Jose, her former stomping grounds.
“Joey, stop smacking Timmy, or I’m liable to let him smack you back. So don’t.” Andrew spoke sternly to him, maybe because it was something Joey had heard before, frequently.
“Well, he won’t quit looking at me.” Joey had the whine on today, and Andrew was was having none of it.
“How do you know?” Andrew asked Joey.
He stared balefully at his pops. “What do you mean, how do I know? I can see him.”
Smiling beautifully for the cameras in victory, Andrew came back with, “You have to be looking at Timmy, to know he’s looking at you. Quit looking at your brother.”
Joey paused as he pondered the ramifications of that thought process, and Andrew took advantage of the silence to ask, “Who’s going to help me do some hay bucking in the barn?” By “helping,” he simply meant, who would like to come with him to the barn, and who would like to stay here in his room, for the fifteen minutes he would be gone.
As they all struggled into their outdoor clothes, Timmy and Joey helping little Tommy with the intricacies of snow gear, Andrew was monitoring the weather outside, trying to determine if this storm were going to become problematic. When all were all ready, the four headed on out and split up, when they got to the barn, the boys heading inside, and Andrew to the chicken coop, where he had to break through the ice to make sure they had fresh water. It was a cold one.
Andrew wrapped things up by dumping extra straw in the barn stalls, to try and keep some of the frozen air, at bay. Straw was cheap, and mixed well with the manure, to provide the best compost on the mountain. He was on his way back to the barn, when he heard the boys arguing vehemently amongst themselves, and came around the corner, and into the side door of the structure, to see that the boys had gathered at the far door, and were peering out at something beyond his view.
“What’s up, Men?” Andrew bellowed, as he came in from behind them, startling all three, who convulsively jumped.
“Dad,” Joey whispered although he could be heard across the barn, so it was more of a stage voiced whisper, than the real McCoy. “You gotta check old Balderdash out. He’s acting awfully jenky. I think he’s got rabies.”
Now it was Timmy who was squawking. “Not rabies! Couldn’t be. He isn’t slobbering, like the dog in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Balderdash was the old collie over at the McGovern place, where they ran all of the sheep. He was a beautiful critter, but he was still a collie, and they were an ultra-sensitive breed. He’d better take a look. He and old Mac were old partners, from back in the day, and if there was something wrong with Old Baldy, then he’d expect the same from Mac.
His first impression was that the boys were right. He was looking at a dog whose right to life and liberty had been severely compromised. The burnished colors of Balderdash had faded and his fur was unbrushed and matted. The dog’s jaw was wide open, seemingly as though he were panting and drooling, only Balderdash did not appear to be doing either the panting or the drooling, as opposed to cocking his head over and over, attempting to work out some sort of logistical problem with his jaw.
Poor Balderdash!, But he still did not seem to be in the snarling, addled state of a dog in the throes of rabies.
The dog’s frame, at first glance, appeared poorly nourished, and at second glance appeared emaciated. The dog whimpered as Andrew approached, and all of the sudden, Andrew knew what was wrong. He remembered reading a series of books when he was a kid, entitled Lad, A Dog, and Lad of Sunnybrook, by Albert Payson Terhune, in which the author described a similar situation, and that Balderash’s problem was a piece of mutton bone stuck in the back of his jaw, wedged in between his upper molars and his lower ones, a sort of knuckle-shaped chunk of bone, which prevented the dog from eating or drinking, until some human being, put things to right. Balderdash lived on a farm where sheep had the run of the place.
It took Andrew about two minutes to remove the piece of knuckle from the dog’s mouth, and then to monitor the poor old guy, so that he could not eat and drink himself to death. For Balderdash would live to see another day, now that his jaw was restored to working order. The only thing Andrew still needed to do, was groom Balderdash, and he had three helpers for that task.