I spent one of the longest days of my life the other afternoon in two hours with my Uncle Clovis and his best friend, Bob.
My Uncle Clovis is just barely my senior; having celebrated just a bit over a single decade of birthdays more than my own.
Retired, a couple of times; he now spends his free time gathering and then selling camp firewood to the one and two-tenths million visitors that come annually to the streams and hollows we call home.
Though some of us question the accuracy of that number, it was in fact this statistic put forth by our Federal government that inspired his purchases of both a Stihl 66 chainsaw and Ford F-350 ton-truck with flatbed.
Both had seen the new worn off several years prior; but had a lot of good use in them. Especially at the rate my uncle was using them. Nonetheless, Uncle Clovis believed a third fortune was right around the corner (he’d previously given up of the attainment of the first two).
Last was Bob; Clovis’ companion for the past half-a-score of years. Bob’s entire life. For Bob was a beagle; black and tan on white. A bit gray around the muzzle, perhaps.
I’d not seen the little canine for any period of time until about a week ago. I had joined the two for a ride down some river roads in search of potential customers.
Maybe to take my mind off the spine-numbing experience of riding in the truck built to haul more than a ton, suffering one jar after another after each slab of limestone protruding from the roadbed was surmounted; I struck up a conversation.
“Does the little fellow still chase rabbits?” I questioned.
“A bit” was the answer, as the gray-muzzled canine stared intently at my uncle’s use of the brake to slow as well as the handling of the wheel to steer.
“He prefers treeing squirrels. Always has.”
I watched the diminutive hound continue to follow my uncle’s every move.
“Bob really likes to drive,” Clovis went on. “Do you want to see?”
By now my legs were numb, my feet hurt and I’d seen more limestone ledges than graced many a gravel pit. It seemed to surprise my adventurous relative that we’d yet to find a camper. Not so much myself.
Sure, off in the distance we had seen several tents pitched on gravel bars. The fact that no one had walked up to these visited campsites was no more surprising to me that no one had driven down to them. I declined the offer.
On the last couple of miles of our journey, I closed my eyes and silently dreamed I was in a plane crash or bicycle wreck — something more physically enjoyable.
It was during one such self-imposed blackout that the driving seemed to improve. For a moment, I thought I saw Bob with his front paws on the wheel!
Just yesterday I saw the pair once again. The two seemed none the worse for wear; the truck however was severely dented. A headlight was knocked out; a fender crumpled. I asked what had happened.
“Back on a ridge overlooking the river. Cutting and splitting some firewood for future sales,” Clovis was ever the optimist. He continued the tale.
“A red fox squirrel cut across the road. Bob cut through the woods. The bushy-tail took to the limbs of a hickory. Bob slammed into the trunk of a pine.”
I can’t say I was surprised. A lot of beagles are nearsighted.
(Rick Mansfield is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)