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On July 9, 2011, Melissa and I went to Des Moines, to celebrate her mom’s birthday. Our youngest daughter, Annie, who turned 16 just 9 days before, went with us. We enjoyed a good meal and conversation at the Machine Shed Restaurant. After dinner, we gave Annie a small gift bag. Inside was a key fob and a car key. Her eyes lit up and a smile shot from ear to ear. She thought we might be pranking her when we told her to go to the parking lot and find her birthday present.
She used the keyless entry and the car’s horn to find a shiny, bright red Chevy Cobalt sitting in a parking space under a shade tree. She was in disbelief. “Is this for real? Is this really mine?” We told her to get in and see if the key started it. She did and it did. It was her first car and tears of joy fell. She immediately named the car “Rosie.”
On the way home, I rode with Annie, while Melissa followed in our car. Riding in the left lane, I told Annie to get in the right lane. She turned on her signal and BAM, to the right lane she went…cutting off the car in that lane. “We’re going to have to work on your highway driving skills.” I told her.
A few weeks later, I stood in the front yard and watched Annie drive off for her first day as a junior in high school. I remember thinking, “I guess she doesn’t need us to take her to school anymore.”
It seemed like just a few weeks more, but it was a year later, when I stood in the front yard and watched Annie drive away in Rosie. This time she was headed off for her first day as a senior in high school. In that bittersweet moment, a flurry of “first days” went racing through my mind. Our little girl was growing up – and too fast. I wondered if she would still need me?
A week or so ago, Annie called me with bad news; Rosie died on the side of the road. She had taken the car to a mechanic and was still having trouble with it. Reality hit. She had owned the car for eight and a half years, putting well over one hundred thousand miles one it. It was a used car when we bought it; the time had come to replace Rosie.
Annie and Melissa did the preliminary work, looking online for a new car. They narrowed the selection down to two, both at Dakota Motors in Farmington, Minnesota. Annie had never purchased a car before and Melissa helped her through the process of getting pre-approved for a car loan. With everything in order, Annie and I would go to look at the cars together.
Driving home from Oklahoma, I stopped for the night in Missouri. The next day I would pick Annie up from the school where she teaches. Albeit treacherous, northern Missouri was beautiful. Fresh snow clung to tree branches, fence posts bushes, utility poles and even powerlines - anything it could stick to, including the road. A grey sky with limited visibility made it feel colder than it really was. The roads were icy.
Traffic was moving about 50 m.p.h. on the interstate. Every now and then a car would go flying by in the unplowed left lane; we would usually see them in a ditch further up the road. I called Annie to let her know I would be about thirty minutes late, due to the weather.
If you drive by any elementary, junior high, or high school, around 8 a.m., or 3 p.m., in any town USA, you’ll run into heavy traffic. Parents will be lined up on the side of the street to drop off or waiting to pick up their kids. I arrived at 12:30, so there were no lines. I parked in a space and waited for Annie to come out. I kept thinking, “It’s been years since I picked this kid up from school.” And now, I am picking her up again, but this time she is a teacher.
June was excited. Although she has never been to this school, she seemed to know Annie was coming. A person walked out the door, bundled up so tight I couldn’t even see their face. Their arms were weighted down with bags, a water bottle, books and such; but I recognized her walk. Sitting in the passenger seat, June put her paws on the dashboard, pressing her wet nose to the windshield. Her whole body wiggled with excitement. Annie opened the door and June jumped out to greet her.
After putting her bags in the back, Annie got in the front seat. She settled in, pushed back her hood, took off her scarf and stocking cap and loosened her coat. I could finally see her face. “Hi.” As I backed out of the parking space, she said, “It’s been a long time since I waited at school for you to pick me up.” That comment warmed my heart.
At the dealership, I rode along as Annie drove both cars. We asked a lot of questions, looked over both vehicles carefully and checked their history. I had her look in the manual to see when routine maintenance expenses would be coming. This was a first-time buying experience for her and I needed to let her do the work. I was just there to help. We asked the dealer if he could do any better on the price. Either car would have been fine, but I thought one was a little better than the other. She weighed the benefits of each out loud, then asked “Which one should I go with?”
“That’s up to you, kid. I bought your first car. This time you’re writing the check, so you need to make that decision.” She thought hard and seemed a bit confused. It would have been easier if I told her which one to go with, but I wasn’t going to do that. As she pondered her choices, I reminded her, “You do have a third option. You can go with the 2015, the 2016, or you can wait. You don’t have to buy a car tonight.”
But she had looked hard, done the research and was ready to make a purchase. She looked at the dealer on the other side of the desk. “I’m going to go with the 2016.” Bart was in and out of the room several times completing the paperwork and making copies. I asked Annie if she was excited or nervous. “Both.” She said, “I’m excited about getting the car, but nervous about having car payments.” I laughed, knowing exactly how she felt. She was thrilled, but I also know that sinking feeling of uncertainty, deep in your stomach that comes whenever you’re about to make a big purchase.
“That nervous feeling in your gut goes away after you’ve made two or three payments.” She wrinkled her face. I told her, “For what it’s worth, you’re buying the car I would have picked.” That seemed to put her a little more at ease. Still, she was nervous writing the check – it was clearly the biggest check she’d ever written in her life. I was proud of her.
As she got in the car, I heard her refer to the car as Sally. I followed her out of the parking lot. Our youngest daughter just made her first car purchase. I climbed into my van, watching Annie in her new ride, and said, “Goodbye, Rosie – Hello Sally.”
As I followed, watching her drive away from the parking lot, I was once again reminded – my little girl is grown up. Her tail lights became more distant down the road. I asked myself, “I wonder if she’ll still need me?”
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A Penny Saved...
To coin an old phrase from Benjamin Franklin, (pun intended) “A penny saved is a penny earned.” I agree, Ben. This is especially true for me when it comes to buying gasoline, because I travel so much.
I was on my way to New Hampshire. By the time I reached southern Michigan, unleaded was $2.97 on the interstate. Last week I was on the same road, I-75, but on the other end, in Florida. Gas was less expensive down south. I filled the tank grumbling, “Why can’t this gas be cheaper, like last week? Afterall, it is the same road.”
Near Detroit, I get off the interstates to take state routes eastbound to avoid toll roads. Another penny saved, plus I see some really cool things when I get off the main roads.
On US-20 in Perrysburg, Ohio, I passed a Kroger Fuel Stop. “Holy smokes! $2.17 a gallon? You gotta be kidding me.” I reasoned, “You probably have to be a member to get that price.” I drove by, but curiosity got the best of me and I turned around to go back. That price was for everyone. It didn’t take much, but I topped off the tank and wrote a note to myself. “We’ll stop here for gas on the way home, too.” I told my dog, June.
Saturday afternoon, I finished my business in Derry, New Hampshire, and started for home.
Sunday morning, I stopped 185 miles from Perrysburg. I calculated exactly how much fuel I would need to get to Kroger, then added a couple extra gallons to be safe. I wanted a nearly empty tank when I got there, in order to get as much of that bargain gasoline as possible. I also checked the schedules at area churches.
There was a mass in couple of hours, but I didn’t want to hang around that long. I would be in Perrysburg at 10:30 and found a church there with an 11:00 mass. “Perfect.” I was pretty smug when I gave June a rub on the head, “Things are all going my way today.” I added St. John XXIII, to the route on my GPS. My fuel calculator said I had 220 miles to empty. “Darnit, I bought way too much gas.” I complained as I pulled away.
The GPS was taking me down several back roads to Perrysburg, but that didn’t surprise me since I added a destination. I didn’t mind, as long as I got to church on time and I was rather enjoying some new scenery.
miles to my destination. I was seventy miles out with only 85 miles to empty. I cursed the GPS. “Stupid piece of junk! Why do you do this to me? Why can’t you just stay on the main road?” I was worried about having enough gas to get there and slowed down five miles-per-hour, hoping for better fuel economy.
On the narrow shoulder ahead, I could see someone walking. The thermometer showed eight degrees; a bit cold to be out on a casual walk. I moved to the left lane and slowed down a bit.
I caught a glimpse of the man as I passed him. He was wearing a long tan, hooded coat, insulated pants and boots. He had a big red scarf around his neck and sported a backpack. He looked like he was freezing. I wondered where he could be going. There were no houses in sight. I suppose I was a quarter mile past him when I hit the brakes and pulled over and started backing down the shoulder.
I rolled the passenger window down. “Are you doing okay?” He said he was. I inquired, “Do you have far to go?” His cheeks were pretty red.
“I’m going to Portland.” He caught me off guard with his answer. I asked if he meant Portland, Oregon. “Yeah.”
“Dude, that’s well over two thousand miles away.” I said. He looked bewildered. “Are you cold?” He said he was a little cold. “If you’d like a ride, I can get you up to the next town.”
He was appreciative, “Are you sure? I don’t want to be intrusive or cause you any inconvenience.”
“You’re not, I would be happy to have you ride along.” He climbed into the van and sat in the passenger seat. June went nuts sniffing him. He still had his pack on his back which caused him to sit way forward on the seat. I introduced June and myself; he told me his name was Jeremy.
“Jeremy, it’s seventy miles to town. If you take your pack off you could sit back and be a lot more comfortable.” He set it on the floor between his legs then held his hands in front of the vents to warm them.
As we talked, he told me his story: His mom and dad had both passed away within the last two years. “I really miss my dad. We went fishing a lot. He understood me.” Jeremy was trying to get to Billings Montana, “I was told the Salvation Army there will give me a free train ticket to Portland.” His brother still lives in Portland, where they grew up. He told me he has a hard time accepting that anyone could love him. “Why would anyone want to love me? I’m nobody.” The more I listened to his story, the more I wanted to help him.
I try to go to church every Sunday but thought, “God won’t mind if I skip today to help this guy.” I asked Jeremy if he was a Christian, he said he believed in God. I told him, “I’m going to stop in this town ahead to go to church. If you want to find something to do for an hour, afterwards I could take you as far as Minneapolis.” He seemed very interested, “Or, if you want, I could take you to Duluth. They have a shelter called CHUM, where you could stay for a few days. I’m going to California next week and I drive right through Billings. I could take you all the way there.” I could tell his was thinking about it.
As we got closer to Perrysburg, I said, “I don’t want you to feel any pressure, I’m just making an offer; if you’d like to go to church with me, you’re welcome to come along.” He asked if that would be okay with the people at my church, or if he would be out of place. I laughed, “It’s not my church, it’s God’s church and you would be very welcome.” He said he wanted to think about it. We drove on and kept talking.
My miles to empty were still dropping faster than the miles to my destination, but I was no longer worried about it. If God led you to it, he’ll get you through it. I knew I wasn’t going to run out of gas.
Not far from the church there was a place where Jeremy could wait for me. He would be inside and out of the cold. I asked if he wanted me to drop him off there. “I’d kind of like to go to church with you, if you’re sure no one will mind. I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.” I assured him he would be just fine.
As we walked toward the building, I said something about being Catholic. Jeremy stopped in his tracks. “This is a Catholic church?” I told him it was. “I’ve never been to a Catholic church,” he said, “I don’t know about this. Do they allow strangers?”
I’ve had people tell me they don’t think Catholic churches are very welcoming to strangers. I don’t agree but I can see where people who don’t understand all the standing, sitting and kneeling, can find it intimidating. I reassured him, “Jeremy, we’re in Ohio. I’m from Minnesota. I’m a stranger here, too.” I told him again, “I don’t want you to feel pressured. You can wait out here, or come inside the lobby where it’s warm and wait for me there.”
He thought for a moment. “Are you sure I won’t be intruding?”
I chuckled, “No more than I am.” I explained, “About all this standing and sitting stuff, you can follow my lead, or you can remain seated. No one is going to care. If you’re not comfortable, let me know and I’ll walkout with you.”
When we walked in a greeter in the lobby welcomed us. A girl at the doors leading into the chapel offered us a weekly bulletin; I took one, Jeremy shook his head to decline. The girl gave him a warm smile. Inside an usher approached us holding up two fingers. I nodded. There were plenty of places he could have seated us in the back of the church, but he led us about two-thirds of the way to the front of the church. The opening song was already playing. The band was amazing! We just barely made it on time.
Jeremy opted to stay seated with his hood up over his army green stocking cap. What I first thought was a red scarf, was a fleece blanket, still wrapped around his neck. His coat was zipped almost all the way up and he kept his head down.
When sending the little kids off, Father Herb asked how many had ever put their foot in a river. Several kids raised their hands. “While you’re at the children’s homily I’m going to tell the adults about a river. On your way home today, be sure to ask your parents about the river.” Wow, what a great way to get people to pay attention to the homily. Apparently, there’s going to be a test afterwards!
The gospel reading was about the baptism of Christ. Father quoted Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, who said, no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. The banks, the rocks and the trees might be the same, but as the water flows, the river is forever changing and the man changes too. It made perfect sense to me.
Father talked about the Sea of Galilea and the Dead Sea being connected by the Jordan River. The Sea of Galilea takes water in and passes it on through the river. The Dead Sea takes in water, but does not pass it along – thus the name. The gift of faith is meant to be shared, lest it should go the way of the waters in the Dead Sea. His message was really hitting home for me.
I was so caught up in the sermon I almost forgot I had a guest with me. He still kept his head down. I thought he might have been sleeping. At one point an usher came and whispered, “Is he okay? Does he need any medical attention, water or anything?” I thought it was very nice of him to ask. Jeremy was fine and occasionally looked up.
As the mass went on, he became a little more comfortable and would stand and sit whenever I did. When it came time, the congregation stood for the Lord’s Prayer. Holding hands for this prayer is optional. A lady, I suppose in her twenties, was sitting alone on the other side of Jeremy. She reached out and took his left hand while I took his right. The man on the other side of the aisle, crossed over and took my right hand. We all said the prayer together. I looked at Jeremy; there was a bit of a sparkle in his eye.
I’m not sure if the lady to his left had any idea what an impact she made on him. The idea that a total stranger would take his hand and pray with him, I believe, really made his day.
I spoke softly explaining to Jeremy, the practice of offering peace. “People may want to shake your hand and say, ‘Peace be with you.’ You can accept their handshake, or not. It’s up to you.” When the time came, I shook his hand, as did the lady next to him. The people in the pew behind us and in front of us also shook his hand, wishing him peace. I think I actually saw him smiling.
After mass, people gathered in the vestibule for coffee, donuts and conversation. I asked Jeremy if he wanted to get a donut and a cup of coffee. He respectfully declined, “I don’t want to take their food away from them.” I assured him they had plenty for all, but he still declined.
While I went to get a cup of coffee a person approached Jeremy. They talked for a few moments. Then another man stopped to talk with him, and another. People were stopping me to talk as well. By the time I got back to Jeremy, he was well into conversation with yet another lady and a man was standing to the side, waiting his turn to greet him. It was as if I had taken a kitten to show and tell, everyone wanted to meet him. My heart felt so full and warm. People not only welcomed Jeremy, but included him.
Before we left another man, I think his name was Paul, approached Jeremy. The man dug into his pocket and handed Jeremy a small metal cross. I thought that was very cool.
Afterwards, we went to IHOP and had pancakes for breakfast. Jeremy wanted to pay for the meal but I insisted, “This treat is on me.” He asked me how far it was to Toledo, Ohio. “I’m not sure,” I answered, “But it can’t be very far. I think Perrysburg is in the Toledo metro. Why do you ask?”
“My brother said if I could get to the train station in Toledo, he would buy an Amtrak ticket to Portland for me.” He went on to say, “I just hate for him to have to spend his money on me. It makes me feel like I’m taking something away from his family.”
I smiled, “Jeremy, if your brother is offering you a ticket, he doesn’t have to do this for you, he wants to. You should accept his offer.” He said he would, and I programmed Amtrak into my GPS.
I stopped at McDonald’s. “I’m going to grab a cup of coffee for the road.” I said.
He said, “Let me buy it for you. You’ve done so much for me.” I told him he didn’t have to do that. He replied, almost mimicking me, “I know I don’t have to. I want to.” I graciously accepted his offer.
I dropped Jeremy off at the train station. We said our farewells and I headed for the Kroger Fuel Stop. My miles to empty had been on zero for a while which was okay: now I could get a full tank of gasoline at just $2.17 per gallon.
Driving to Kroger, I related to Father Herb’s homily. Last week I was on I-75 in Florida. This week I was on the same highway in Michigan, and would be on I-75 in Ohio shortly. It’s all the same highway - but if a man never steps in the same river twice, would the same not be true of a highway where people are constantly flowing in traffic just as the water in the river?
I thought about my GPS and how it seemed to be senselessly taking me on a joy ride down back roads when I had neither the time nor the fuel to be doing so. But what if it hadn’t? I never would have met Jeremy, or found out just how truly beautiful the people are at St. John XXIII. With every new day, I’m reminded there is a reason for everything. I need to relax and see where life is going to take me next.
I turned into the Kroger fuel stop and filled the van. There wasn’t much gas left in the tank but there was plenty to get me where God wanted me to be. As I hung the nozzle back on the fuel pump, I noticed the fuel was only $1.16 per gallon. I compared the price to my receipt from the other day. “Hmm. The gas is one cent cheaper than it was two days ago.” I grinned, “A Penny Saved…”
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Just before leaving Florida my friend asked if I had checked the weather. I told him I had not. He told me there was a lot of weather coming in the next day from the gulf. I assured him I would be long gone by then. He said the weather could reach well into the mid-west and I should try to keep my route as easterly as possible. I thanked him for the heads up, and started north.
The overcast sky followed me whole drive north on I-75 through Florida and into Georgia. I was hoping it would clear as the night would bring the first full moon of the year – the Wolf Moon. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, I turned west on I-24 - so did the overcast. It followed me all the way into Kentucky.
I brought a can of beer with me and kept it in the cooler. I left one for her in the refrigerator at home. I thought, after dark, I would find a cool place to stop for the night and call my wife. Even though we were a thousand miles apart, we could watch the full moon together while enjoying a New Glarus, Moon Man brew. The overcast scrubbed my plan and I kept driving.
Melissa called around 11:00 to tell me how pretty the moon was. “I’m standing outside on the deck.” She told me, “The moon is so bright on the snow, it looks like daylight.” I was jealous; wanting to be there with her.
I wasn’t going to drive much farther before calling it a night. The rain was starting to fall lightly and I was getting tired, so I pulled into a parking lot in Princeton, Kentucky.
“We’re going to crash here for the night.” I told my dog as I let her out in a small grassy area before bed. June wanted to run across the road to a wooded area. “You can’t go over there alone after dark, this is Kentucky and they have wildcats.” I don’t know if they really do or not, but it is the mascot of their university sport teams and I wasn’t taking any chances.
“I’m not afraid of cats.” June assured me.
“Yes, you are. You’re afraid of Edgar (our cat at home) and she’s not nearly as big as the cats around here. And besides that, we already had an alligator scare today.” Earlier in the day, June jumped into a moss covered, swampy area in Florida…
…I was pinned between the two large animals…flash flood warnings…Elvis was singing…
WE ARE WAITING FOR THE WEB VERSION OF THE RST OF TOMS STORY THIS WEEK.
He has not submitted the rest of this weeks story.
For the rest of this story, visit our website at https://www.fairmontphotopress.com/tom-palen-archives
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The Sled Dog Wannabe
June Bug has an appointment with her veterinarian this week. Even though we’ve been in northern Minnesota for over five years, I still take her back to Ottumwa, Iowa, to Thomas Vet Clinic. Dr. Kylee has been taking care of June, since she was a puppy. To clarify, that’s since June was a puppy, not Kylee. However, I must say, Dr. Kylee was just a little girl when her Dad, Dr. John Thomas, was taking care of my previous dog, Harry.
Years later, when we moved to Minnesota, we established a relationship with the Ely Vet Clinic to treat our cats, Salem and Eve. When Edgar joined our family, we took him to Ely for shots, check- ups and such. We certainly feel a loyalty to both clinics, so June goes to Iowa and Edgar goes to Ely.
Dr. Jenn Freking, at Ely, is a great vet and such an interesting person. She and her husband, Blake, raise and train sled dogs. Both have dog teams and compete in dog sled races and events. If you’ve never looked into mushing, you should. There is a special bond between a musher and their dogs that is very heart warming.
I’ve shown June online pictures and videos of Edgar’s vet, Jenn, and her family, working with their dogs. June is fascinated by it all and assures me, “Dad, I could do that. I want to be a sled dog, too.”
I gave her a rub on the head. “You can’t be a sled dog I need you to travel with me. You’re my driving buddy. Besides, I’m not sure you know what the word ‘woah’ means.” We shared a pretty good laugh about that.
On a recent trip, June and I took advantage of a good night’s rest while pulled over in the mountains. When I let her out in the morning, a blast of cold air rushed in the open door. After we ate breakfast, I put on my coat for our morning walk. In just the length of the van, I knew I would need warmer clothing and we climbed back inside. The thermometer on the dashboard read -11 degrees. I decided we would walk later, when it was warmer and started driving south on US Highway 20.
Two and a half hours later, we turned off on Highway 33 for Rexburg, Idaho. We stopped to get coffee. When I stepped out of the van, the air felt great! The wind was very light and the sun was shining, making it feel much warmer than the actual temperature of 9 degrees. “Wanna go for a walk, Bugs?” June wiggled her body and wagged her tail; her head moved back and forth like a bobble head doll. She was excited to get out for a stroll.
I had never paid much attention to Rexburg. Hosting the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University, the town is quite nice and very well kept. June and I noted how clean the sidewalks were and clear of ice and snow. I set a timer on my phone - I wanted to walk out 15 minutes and back the same to get our thirty-minute walk. In the brisk air we set out walking on North 2nd East Street; an odd name for a street, but who am I to judge. After a couple blocks west, we came upon a paved walking path and followed it alongside the Teton River. The setting was beautiful.
Water rushing over rocks in the river, created white rapids on top of the water that looked tropical green. But the color was deceptive. You could tell the water was clean and very cold. The tropical feeling was enhanced because I was very warm – almost too warm. I loosened the top of my coat and pushed my hood back to let some heat out. Trees along the trail seemed to block what little breeze there was. Part of my warmth was coming from the sun and part from June on her leash, who was pulling me along.
When walking on a leash, June has three speeds; very brisk, fast and faster! Sometimes we will pretend she is a sled dog – a team of one, pulling her sled-less musher along behind. June keeps me on a good pace for exercising.
I started making whip noises, “Wwha-kish, wwahkish! Come on girl, show me what ya got!” June knew what I was doing and started pulling a bit harder. My walk became a jog, then we ran for a while. “Whoa, June, slow down girl!” I called ahead, pulling back on the leash to slow her pace. We were coming up on an intersection. The trail continued straight ahead, or we could take the walk bridge to the left, crossing the river.
We opted to turn left. After the fast run, I was ready for a little break and slowed down to take in the beauty of the river, the blue skies and everything all around me. Very warm now, I lowered the zipper on my coat a bit more. June tugged on the leash, “Come on, Dad! Let’s go, the other sled teams are going to catch up to us!”
I imagined the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon; an annual race from Duluth to Grand Portage, Minnesota. Blake Freking won the race last year, his wife, Jennifer, (Edgar’s Veterinarian) came in second place. I looked behind us, they weren’t even in sight, yet. “June, you have to learn from the real mushers. We have to pace ourselves accordingly to finish the race.” June looked at me with disdain, as if to say we ARE real mushers. “Okay, Bugs, let’s go a little faster.”
The trail took us alongside a large open field, then led to another city street, West 2nd North Street. That’s an odd name for street, but who am I to judge. A bit puzzled, June asked, “Didn't we start on second street?” I explained, that was a different Second street. June insisted, “Are you sure, because…”
I interrupted her, “You pull the sled and let me navigate, okay?” Although June is an excellent navigator, she was good with that and we turned north on the sidewalk. Across the big open field was a waterpark, Rexburg Rapids at Riverside Park. It looked like a pretty fun place...for the summer months.
The sidewalk took me across the end of the waterpark driveway, which wasn’t well plowed, but why should a waterpark driveway be plowed in the winter months? The opening had that gritty, coarse mixture of snow and sand where cars have driven through – the stuff that doesn’t pack tight. As I walked into it, I could feel it was very icy and slippery under my feet. I was trying to get June to slow down for me, due to my unsure footing.
Just then, June saw a rabbit. “Oh God, no!” I prayed and yelled at her, “No June!” In her excitement to quickly switch modes from a well-disciplined sled dog to a great hunter, she was confused. Did he say, “No June, Woah June, or Go June?” It didn’t matter what I said, she heard “Go June,” and began a hot pursuit.
June lunged toward the furry critter with lucky feet. Reaching the end of her leash, it jerked her backwards and also gave me a good tug forward. Without steady footing, my sneakers slid out from under me and I went down to the pavement. I managed to get to my hands and knees. With my bare hands in the dirty snow, I held the leash tightly in my right hand and started to get up. June lunged toward the rabbit again when I was almost upright, taking me down again. This time I managed to fall backwards into the fresh clean snow at the edge of the field. Trying to get up and hold the leash, I seemed to move more into the field before falling flat on my back yet again.
In the mayhem, my hat came off. The snow was really cold on my somewhat bald head. The hood on my jacket was down, which allowed snow to reach my bare neck. Brrr. Something was pulling on my right arm strong enough to spin me in the snow – it was the confounded dog on the other end of the leash.
When a water skier goes down, it is important to let go of the tow rope otherwise it will pull them under the water. I was afraid if I let go of the leash, I may never see that dog again. I held on tightly.
As she continued trying to go after the rabbit, June dragged me, snow plowed down my neck into the back of my shirt. Apparently, my coat had worked up during the fall as the seat of my pants was taking on snow as well. Snow was working its way up each pant leg. I wondered if this is what it feels like to be caught inside an avalanche. Laying on my back in the snow, holding onto the leash for dear life, I yelled, “June! Leave it!”
The tension on the leash eased as I laid still in the snow, trying to figure out what just happened. The leash began to recoil. I heard June running toward me; like a Saint Bernard coming to rescue the distressed man buried in the snow slide. Help was on the way.
June charged into the field of snow, but she wasn’t there to save me. Seeing me down, she assumed I wanted to play and started jumping in the snow around me and over my body, kicking snow in my face and now down the front of my open coat and shirt as well. “June! Stop!” Finally getting the point, I wasn’t playing, she sat and rested – on my chest, and began licking the snow off my face. “Stop it!”
Still sitting on my chest, she stopped licking me and looked down at me. “Why are you laying in the snow, Dad?” I scoffed and gave her a dirty look. “Are you making snow angels?”
“Do I look like I’m making snow angels?” I growled. “Get off me.”
Sitting in the snow next to me, June offered, “If you can’t get up, I could pull you back to the van. Just hang on tight to the leash.”
“You’re not funny, dog!” Sitting in the snow, I took off one shoe at a time to shake out as much snow as I could. “Sled dogs do NOT chase rabbits!” I put my other shoe back on, then got up from the snow to brush myself off. The snow in my shoes had partially melted. My feet were wet and getting cold. We needed to get back to the van; our walk was over.
Ironically, as I stood up, my alarm sounded. I reached into my snow-packed rear pocket and pulled out my flip phone. I brushed the white stuff away and silenced the alarm; our fifteen minutes had passed. I zipped my coat all the way up, picked up my hat, shaking off the snow and put it back on my head. I reached in my coat pockets, looking for my gloves, but all I found was more snow. The gloves were nowhere to be found. We started walking south, back to the van.
As we turned from the sidewalk back onto the trail, the light wind from the west was in my face. Even a light wind is really cold when you’re wet. I pulled the hood back onto my head over my stocking hat and pulled the sleeves downward to cover my hands.
June walked ahead of me. She is a good navigator. It’s amazing how she knows exactly where we came from. When we came to it, she turned left onto the bridge. On the other end, she turned right onto the path taking me back to the van. I stopped long enough to pick up my gloves on the paved trail. Apparently, they fell out of my pockets when we were doing our “dogsled run.” I struggled to push my cold, wet hands, into the gloves.
June looked like she was shaking. I called her to me to make sure her paws weren’t too cold. Hmfph. She wasn’t cold - she wasn’t even shivering. She was still laughing at me. “Not funny, June!” She continued to lead the way. The wind seemed to be picking up a bit, making it even colder. From the time I spent down in the snow, my wet cheeks were nearly frozen and my face was cold, too!
There was tension on the leash as June pulled me along. Occasionally, she paused, looking back to assure I was still with her. I thought to myself, except for the rabbit issue, she really would be a good sled dog. I started making whip noises, “Wwha-kish, wwah-kish! Come on girl, show me what ya got!”
It was a beautiful day for a walk