A dog. A horse. A gun. A gal.

A dear friend of mine had for quite some time assured me it was a life well lived, if that during that time a gentleman had been privileged to have had an exemplary example of each.

A dog. A horse. A gun. And, of course, a gal.

Over our nearly half-a-century of friendship, we had enjoyed that specific conversation many times; along with a myriad of others.

This friend was an intelligent man; extremely well read. We often discussed the works of whom many considered the great writers, along with historical biographies of our great men.  

We had shared reading about the lives of Jefferson and Washington, Jackson and Lincoln. Had discussed the era of the Northern Invasion of the mid-19th century along with the country’s rebuilding after WW II and were both fans of Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation.

We bemoaned the present state of congress and the culture of entitlement that so pervaded our nation. Championed the actions of those brave enough to stand against what we both saw as a socialist tide.

We questioned the present practices of his beloved National Park system, as well as the future of public education. Despaired the hatred that had become politics and the farce that was modern journalism.

But, sooner than later, we would return to those favored topics. Ownership, or at least enjoyment, of a good dog. Horse. Gun. And gal.

If we are judged by the company we keep; we might also be considered by these four choices.

His dog was Spike, a Brittainy Spaniel with whom he bird-hunted his beloved Ozarks. When we had an abundance of quail, he spent many happy hours watching the little dog work the fields along Current River. Enjoyed the harvest he periodically took home and shared with his family.

His horse was Zorro, last male foal of the fabled Black Jack stud of real-life cowboy turned trail guide Buck Deatherage. Zorro, in turn, sired many a gaited offspring while also serving as one of the last mounts for when our Park Rangers visited campgrounds and patrolled our riverbanks astride a noble steed.

His gun was a Model 99 lever-action Savage chambered in their own .300 caliber. The first hammerless lever-action complete with the first rotary magazine, allowing for the use of more ballistically shaped bullets than the tube feeding designs of other companies. It was a rifle of innovation ahead of its time; built with the craftsmanship of the past.

Much like my friend. He was a far-sighted businessman; envisioning and even designing the park at Camp Zoe a full three decades before the DNR got involved; though his design was one more of historical preservation than what sits there now.

He wished our rivers more fully stocked and the practice of guided floats returned. Yet he was a man of outspoken boldness; a man for whom a handshake and one’s word was enough.

And there was the gal. A childhood sweetheart; a Michigan beauty that had captured his heart when she was but sixteen. A woman with whom he had raised a family, built a business and shared a life for almost fifty-eight years. He loved and honored Lois all that time.

In a final conversation; we added obedience to the Gospel and the company of good friends to that list of blessings.

We said goodbye to Jack Peters’ remains at the edge of the old Jeremiah field last evening. Shared a meal beside pictures of his beloved dog, horse, gun and gal.

(Rick Mansfield is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at emansfield2004@yahoo.com.)


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