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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, January 31, 2006



I can’t stop. Thoughts are piling up around me like pine straw against a chicken wire fence, and I can’t seem to get rid of them without writing about them. Thotman has a very poignant post today about the loss of a dog, that was actually handed to the dogcatcher. His post has a very vivid lesson about how pride can be so negative in our lives. It brought to mind a different dog story that reminds me of a totally different negative emotion.
I lived in the little village of Alameda, Idaho, as suburb of the somewhat larger city of Pocatello. I had a best friend who lived just across the street, and, until we got into Jr. High School we were closer than most brothers. Donnie had a little dog named Patty. She was brown and white and looked a little like a double sized Jack Russell terrier. I had a dog at that time too, but he was more of a homebody that stayed in the back yard and didn’t go out much. Patty followed Donnie everywhere, so she became a sort of “my dog too”, because Donnie and I weren’t separated by much at any time. In front of Donnie’s house, but on my side of the street was a big box elder tree. The tree had very thick foliage on the end of the limbs, but not much in close to the trunk. Donnie and I frequently used the box elder tree as a sort of tree house, because there was a lot of space near the trunk, and no one could see us without standing directly under the tree and looking out. We had a lot of adventures in this tree which I will write about sometime soon, but generally we just sat up in the tree and read comic books, or other books, and often smoked cigarettes which Donnie stole from his dad. When we sat in the tree, Patty often, even usually sat at the base of the tree and waited for us to come down.

One day we were up in the tree when an old pickup truck screeched to a halt below us.
We heard a male voice calling “Comeer dog, come on, come on dammit!! It was an angry voice and we quickly shunted down to the ground. It was Mr. Haines.

I have to explain a little about Mr. Haines. Alameda was a village. It had about ten employees total, including the fire department. The city clerk was sort of an ex-officio mayor or city manager, and all the other employees except the fire chief kind of followed his orders. Mr. Haines was one of three or four employees who did about everything, including police work. I think he was officially a city marshall, but he drove the garbage truck and went out with other men to fix pot holes in the streets, as well as investigated what crime we had, and even chase down speeders in the old pickup truck that he drove. He appeared to boys to be a skinny vulturous creature with a high sharp voice who really seemed to enjoy yelling at boys who came to close to his pothole repairs or watermain repair trenches.

When we got to the base of the tree, he was yelling at Patty, who was cowering behind the tree. “This yer dog, boy?” he yelled, more or less at both of us.

“Mine,” said Donnie.

“Damn vicious mutt aint got a license”

“He aint vicious and he’s got a license. His collar broke, so he doesn’t have it on.” Said Donnie. I actually don’t think that either Donnie or I knew that dogs needed licenses—I’m not sure, even at this time that Alameda offered them. But Donnie would defend Patty the best way he could. Mr. Haines was holding a stick, and made a kind of dash at Patty yelling “Come here, ya damned dog.”

Patty responded with a yelp, and a snap at the stick. What happened next is still a bit fuzzy in my mind, but Mr. Haines went back to the pickup and brought out a small rifle (probably a twenty two, but I wasn’t sure then, and I am not sure now.) My memory says that he pointed the rifle at Donnie and told him to pick up Patty and put her in the truck. My good sense says that not even Mr. Haines would draw down a gun at a eight or nine year old boy. Whatever happened, Patty started to run away, and Mr. Haines shot her. She was hit in the side and fell, then pried herself up and tried to drag herself away. Mr. Haines calmly went over and shot her in the head, then picked the lifeless body, threw it into the back of the pickup and drove away.

Two boys were absolutely traumatized. Donnie started to run tell his mother, but we could see that she had a customer (She had a small beauty shop in her house), so I yelled “Come on!” and we ran to my mother and told her what had happened. She said, in a consoling way, “Now boys, I’m sure Mr. Haines wouldn’t do a thing like that” and she walked out into the street with us where we showed her the frothy pink congealing mess that was on the street where Patty’s head had laid. She got quite excited, and went in to call the town clerk to complain. After a number of phone calls Mr. Haines was contacted, and he stated that Patty had been hit by a car and was so badly injured that she couldn’t have survived, and he was real sorry that he had had to put her down in front of us.

That was when we two boys discovered hate. We didn’t feel that our parents would ever believe us over Mr. Haines. (I think they did, but couldn’t prove anything), so we focused on hating Mr. Haines. We would get together and walk down the bank of the irrigation canal thinking of ways to get even. We talked about puncturing the tires of the old pickup he drove (it was actually a village owned vehicle), of going to his house and throwing rocks through his windows. Most of all we just simmered in hate.

This actually lasted for two or three years. I am not sure it isn’t one of the reasons that Donnie and I didn’t hang around together much after we got into Jr. High. Every time we got together we jointly hated Mr. Haines so much that it encompassed our relationship. Mr. Haines lived several blocks away, near the Alameda Park, and we used to go there, stand in the park and think of terrible things to do to him. We heard from somewhere that if you could get some “skunk juice” (the real stuff that skunks use to defend themselves) and put in on the cast iron block of a car that it would be unremovable, soaking into the block and stinking up the car so much that it would be impossible to use.
We didn’t know where to get a skunk, but we put out the word that we could pay five dollars for some skunk juice. We did get some, and it had the right stink, but in trying to get under the hood of Mr. Haines’s car, we got it all over ourselves. (Have you ever had a bath in tomato juice? That was my fate when I came home stinking of skunk). In the mean time, we soaped his windows, not just on Halloween when it was customary, but several times over a two year period. We actually pulled several Halloween tricks on him, on one occasion, putting some fecal matter that we shoveled up out of an outhouse in a paper bag, putting some lighter fluid on the paper, then lighting it on fire on his doorstep and knocking on the door. When he came to the door, he stomped on the bag to put out the fire and got both his porch and his shoes ( and who knows what else) covered with outhouse residue.

One thing we decided to do but that we did not do (I think) was to wait till he went on vacation, open a window in his house, put in the hose and turn on the water. I say “I think” because I had a very vivid dream that we had done this, and sometime later, talking to Don (as we got older we shifted from Dickie (me) and Donnie (him) to Dick and Don) about when we had done it, and he looked at me like I was out of my mind, and said “If you did that, I don’t want to know about it, but I was never involved”. I went away a little confused, but then I, subtly as I could, asked around about it to see if such a thing had happened to anyone in town, and no one had ever heard of such a thing, so I determined that I had just dreamed it. (I will guaran-darn- tee that my memory of it included Don, and that he was serious about not remembering any such thing.)

The point I am trying to make, is that hate like that will eat at you, ruining many of your life experiences and the relationships that are involved. Certainly it poisoned the relationship between Don and myself, that even living less than a hundred yards from each other, we reached the stage that being together, even just to play checkers, became an unpleasant experience, not that we hated each other, but that we had shared such a virulent hate for such a long time.

I can honestly say that I have never hated anyone since that time. Being in the company of someone who hates just make my stomach upset. I wish Mr. Haines were still around so I could ask his forgiveness. (Though remembering that poor little dog lying in a puddle of blood in the middle of the street would make asking forgiveness difficult.—


At 6:35 AM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Yes, hatred is bad but I sure hope Mr Haines was punished in some way. It was HE who was consumed with hatred. What a horrible man and a damn liar too. May HE rot. (Sorry, I'm not a real Christian so I'm allowed to say that.)

At 7:10 AM, Blogger exMI said...

If it had been me and my dog there would not have been simmering plotting but out and out warfare waged to destruction.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Kathleen said...

I think this is my favorite post. I am choking back the tears.

Children are so innocent and vulnerable. More then than now, children had very few legs to stand on when an adult chose to abuse them. Two small boys couldn't help but have mountains of hatred for this abuser . . . they were so powerless.

Nothing satisfying grows or flourishes in hatred. How sad that two little boys were robbed of a little more time to be innocent before it was gone. My father said; never take anything from anyone that cannot be repaid. I always applied this to time. Now, innocence, too.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Thotman said...

well that is much like the son of the man with the sheep...how can I even talk about the reaction of that springer spaniels owners...three little boys who found her dead from a shotgun blast...in the face...there are some things you just dont forget...like a man who embezzles half a million dollars from ya...and causes you to lose things more precious than a dog out of the stress and conflict it creates...like a business ...like a wife and children...like family who had loaned you money...the list goes on...how does one pretend to forgive such things..but men who are one step below pond scum on the food chain...I am not a believer in grudges...but I dont think YOU have anything to appologize to him for...that he killed the dog is one thing...that he pretended that it was a merciful act was the kicker...if I had been you..I would have published that story to half of the state of Idaho..with sworn and notarized statements to the truthfulness of the story...if he had sued ...it would have had the perfect platform to remind him who/what he really was...

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Thotman, those are ambitious acts for an eight or nine year old. By the time I was old enough to go after him legally or even in a newspaper, he was long gone. I saw Don (who has now passed on) about ten or so years ago, determined not to even talk about Patty, but she came up in conversation. Some things never die.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

A very moving story. I'm not sure if Haines had done that to my dog that I wouldn't have seethed in hate for years afterwards too. I probably would have done something very un-Christian like that I would have to regret later.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Miladysa said...

When I started to read this story I was thinking "Please do not let anything happen to the dog!"

As far as I am concerned Mr Haines got off lightly!

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Miladysa said...

And I used the term 'Mr' lightly - very lightly!

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Miladysa said...

I agree with you about hate though, it is not good.

Great post despite the fate of poor Patty :(

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Hate may eat at you, and it's tough to shake, but I'd sure have helped you with Mr. Haines. There are some things that deserve repeated payments and it takes a long time to mark them "paid in full".

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

You are an absolutely wonderful writer. This story also moved me to tears.

What you and your friend did was natural. There's no recourse for children at times like that! There was nothing left for you to do but plot. I'm not sure that it was your shared hatred of this disgusting man that split you and your friend. I think it may have also been your shared grief and sense of injustice.

My daughter had two best friends when she was 15. They were like the three muskateers, always together, and hardly ever apart. Then one of them died of leukemia. My daughter and her friend could not handle the shared grief. They still like each other and talk in school, but they don't hang together anymore. They couldn't take the shared grief. They couldn't look at each other without missing the girl who had died.

So you see my point; you and your friend couldn't look at each other, ever, without remembering that horrible deed that this man had performed; and I truly believe that your anger and disgust, and need for some sort of vengeance was a natural thing. We adults have the courts; you two boys had nothing but your anger to sustain you.

At 5:29 AM, Blogger t_cole said...

my mother has always told me there is a special place in hell for people that abuse animals and children. and this of course is not based on any biblical teaching - but her own personal sense of justice and what's right and wrong.
i must confess, i more or less subscribe to the same belief. and it applies here.

and while i do not condone hate - i can certainly understand it. i harbor hate for a boy/man that tormented me in High School (not scott). when the minister preaches about forgiving and forgetting - the same face, the same incidents come to my mind.
i hope one day to let it go. and to then forgive myself for all the waisted time and energy it took to carry this negative energy around with me all these years.

you owe that man nothing. forgive yourself.


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