This is a story I've held off on since I began writing these stories of my childhood. It is the story of my best friend, my dog named Ricky. I still feel the same guilt, remorse and sorrow that I felt on that day of which I write.
To the right is a picture as close to Ricky as I could find. Someone said he was a Feist, but I think that is simply hear say and conjecture.
It's hard to explain the love I had for this little full blood soup-hound. He and I roamed the woods together, hunted together, wrestled together, played tug-o-war with tow sacks, chased birds and squirrels . . . Just a kid with his dog.
While he wasn't so much trained in the way of tricks he would spot a snake in a tree in the front yard and worry it until someone came to remove the offending varmint.
He would dance and run around excitedly when Dad would bring out the .22 with which to shoot the varmint. Ricky was on it the instant it hit the ground and would shake it violently until he thought it had enough. Then he would trot off into the woods with it to return later without it.
You could reach up and shake some low hanging branch and he would twirl around in a circle and then jump straight up in the attempt to grab it with his teeth.
One habit I wish I hadn't gotten into was using the word "sick 'im!" on whatever moved. Squirrels, cats, other dogs - didn't matter how big the varmint was, Ricky would go for him. If I sicked him on someone he would harmlessly grab their pants leg and shake it until kicked off. It was always funny and done in fun and with much laughter.
In the pasture next to the house there was a herd of cows that dad tended. One day they managed to get out and without even thinking I said "sick 'im Ricky!" Instantly he was after the cows barking and growling and proving rather well his bark was a whole lot worse than his bite.
After they were well scattered over the neighbors property he prompty and proudly pranced back for the praise he knew was coming from his master for the good job he'd done.
The origin of Ricky I never knew. Visiting relatives always bragged on him to me making me proud of him. Grandpa said "He's a dandy dog Porgie Earl." Uncle Claybourne said "Man he looks like a good hunting dog . . ." Ucle Burl who had a farm further on west of us said "man that's the best dog I ever seen!"
Uncle Norm had a dog similar to him named Bounce. They lost him when he chased a rabbit in front of the combine one day and actually went through the machine. There was little left of the dog. I loved that little dog too.
But yeah. I was proud of my dog! Leave it to the Shelton Uncles who visited quite often to make someone feel good. They were all my heroes - and still are. I admired each of them, their wives, their kids - all were perfect and could do no wrong, and if you said something bad about them, you had a fight on your hands cuz I was gonna give you a lickin like what you ain't never got!
I was somewhere around seven years of age give or take a couple of years. We lived down south of Marmaduke just West of the Baptist Church on the corner of 49 Hwy and the little gravel road on Calvin Fair's property. Dad worked for Calvin in the fields driving tractor and just doing whatever needed doing. In the field right next to us was a fenced pasture on which Calvin kept some cows. They got out numerous times and one time I remember vividly, in fact so vividly I wrote a LBIAS about one of those incidents.
One day Calvin had a bunch of sheep delivered to the ranch, one of which promptly got out. I'd chased it trying to herd it back away from the road and succeeded but was unable to get it into the barn where I could shut the gate. In frustration I yelled "sick 'im Ricky!"
And he did. But that sheep was a fairly young sheep which had just been shorn and was quickly brought down and killed by Ricky. I'd yelled at him to stop but they were too far away for me to reach him in time, and, I don't know that Ricky heard me yelling at him in all the ruckus.
So, now we have a dead sheep that was my fault. My dog had killed the sheep. At my order. What to do? I couldn't think of what to do or how to get out of the situation I'd caused. I figured dad would have to pay for the sheep and we were so poor the moths that flew out of dad's wallet had their ribs showing.
I was just sick. My daddy had red hair and an uncontrollable temper. That's about all I'm going to say about that here. I may write about that aother time . . . well . . . probably not.
But, it wasn't too long til I saw him coming up the road on an old tractor. Tractors were a main stay on transportation in those days.
There is a paralyzing feeling that goes up and down ones' spine when they know they're in big trouble. And that feeling was on me right then. What was dad gonna do when he saw the dead sheep?
Ricky was bouncing around and barking excitedly like he did every time someone drove into the little gravel road that constituted the driveway to the house. I was nearly sick to my stomach watching Dad playfully greet and play with Ricky. I was afraid he was going to hit Ricky with a stick, or perhaps kick him. What he did I never dreamed he would do.
When he saw the sheep he just looked at me, walked into the house and got his .22 rifle. When he walked back outside with it, I knew what the sentence was. Ricky was oblivious to the fact of his fate and soon coming demise. He was just happy-go-lucky Ricky. Dad loaded the old single shot bolt action rifle, pulled it to his shoulder and followed Ricky around waiting for the shot.
I was completely immobile; disbelieving what I was seeing. I couldn't believe what was about to happen.
It seemed as though it was an hour before Ricky calmed down enough for Dad to take the shot. Then suddenly the air was split by that hair raising sound of death.
Ricky yelped and laid over but he wasn't dead. Dad reloaded and the same deafening thunder split the silence amidst the yelps of a dying dog - my dog . . . Ricky.
A third shot rang out. Ricky was going crazy with the pain, yelping and howling, blood going everywhere, then the fourth and final shot. Ricky fought no more.
That scene did something to me . . . I don't guess I ever got over it. I felt like the world had come to an end, heartbreak, knot in my throat I couldn't clear. I was so devasted and hurt I couldn't even cry. Supper that evening was extremely quiet. I didn't have much of an appetite, and went off to bed early. Next morning I got up and looked for Ricky but he was gone. And so was the sheep. Even the blood was gone and the scratches Ricky had made in his final struggles had been erased.
I went looking for the graves but was never able to find it. But the scenes of the late afternoon before - the sounds, the smell of the fresh blood, the crack of the gunshot, the acrid smell of gunsmoke - all vivid in my memory, even to this day, some sixty two years later.
I owned several other dogs after that - prior to moving to California, and a couple I named Ricky. But there was really only one Ricky. I loved that little dog and I held that deed against my Dad. He could have simply loaded him in the truck and took him off somewhere, perhaps disposed of him there, and perhaps he may have wished he'd have done things a little different. I never knew if he did because we never spoke of it again.
Neither did he ever say "I'm sorry for that . . ."
Perhaps I'm just an old man now reliving good and those not so good memories. But throughout the years I always tried to be careful in the raising of my own offspring to prevent the hurt and the results to them that I experienced. It's these kinds of memories that helps one to understand the sentence below:
It's a lot harder to put the cat back into the bag than it is to let him out in the first place.
Note: The last mutt pictured is almost identical to the real Ricky. The other dogs are also actual Feists, called a Mountain Feist. The one at the bottom is called a Squirrel Feist. But it you look closely at him, you can almost identify a killer instinct. Still, he was my most favorite dog of all times.
I have never fired a gun since then that I did not think of Ricky.