It was Christmas time. It was snow country. Mom, Dad, kids and the huge dog that seemed to live just for the kids were ready to open presents.
First to be opened were the individual gifts. Then the gifts labeled “Family” received the attention of all. One of the first presents labeled “Family” to be opened contained a large sled.
Near the last to be opened was a bulky package with the name of the dog upon it. It was a harness, just the right size for the dog. In the early afternoon, after Christmas dinner had been served and put away, attention finally fell to the dog, the sled and the harness.
This was an amazing dog. He drove the kids crazy as they learned to ride bicycles. Just when the child had mastered keeping the bike upright and moving at the same time, the dog decided that his charge was too close to the cars on the road and “herded” the bike and the child off the road and to the safety of the grass or the ditch.
The wonderful dog was prone to interfere the few times one of the children needed firm direction from Mom or Dad.
South of Portland, Oregon (I’ll get back to the dog later), we were delivering hay to a dairy. We had picked up a stray flatbed truck whose driver insisted he could haul hay.
The hay did end up on his truck and it did make it to the dairy, more in spite of the driver than because of him.
You know the drill. As far as being helpful, we were to the point of ordering him to stay in his truck cab until we had him loaded.
A novice hay hauler who doesn’t really want to be a hay hauler can be a handful. One of these, over the years, was ordered to get in his truck and told that if he got out before we came and told him he could get out, we were going to just shoot him.
It was faster and easier to get the hay on his truck in a manner that it would stay on his truck that way.
This particular yo-yo had picked up a young red-headed female somewhere along the trip from southern Idaho to Portland, Oregon.
He thought he was being cute to show her off to the unloading crew. One of the unloading crew that the dairy had provided finally asked me why I never showed up with a hitchhiker. I told him that I had better sense.
He pressed the issue, so I told him that I had a beautiful wife at home who was the mother of our children. I went on that she loved me and trusted me, as I loved and trusted her. I told him that I would never show up with a hitchhiker because I did not want one. He avoided me until the remaining hay was stacked and the trucks left.
Take a calf. Put it in a pen that is a good solid pen, a calf pen that has a working gate that is secure and never left open. And a latch that works and is foolproof, or at least calf-proof. This calf will grow up knowing that gates and walls are boundaries.
Put another calf in a pen that is not secure. Leave the gate open from time to time. Let the walls of the pen fall into disrepair so that the calf can get out without a lot of trouble.
This calf will grow up seeing gates and corrals as challenges. It will always find a way out and, of course, lead others with it. It will be referred to as the outlaw – and other names that cannot be printed here.
An old country tune about trucks and way-back-when had a line that went “Before they painted lines ... ” Most paved roads these days have lots of lines painted on them. They define boundaries.
On a two-lane road, the center line is a barrier while the line on the right, often called the “fog” line, is a guide. By understanding these boundaries – and with the good fortune of sharing the road with others of the same understanding – motor traffic is relatively safe.
Those who consider speed limits as suggestions and stop signs as scenery are called outlaws – and other names that cannot be printed here.
The formative years – those before grade school – are said to be where the character of an individual is instilled.
On the news the other day was a story of some bags of money falling from an unsecured door of an armored car. Comments made were interesting.
Some of the most telling comments stated, “I would have stopped and gathered up some green if I hadn’t had kids with me in the car.”
Some time back I spoke with an old friend. He had visited with a young man who was in a real pickle. He had spent most of his life in the foster child program of the state in which he resides.
Rules of life had become suggestions until a probation violation removed him from society. He was in the pokey.
Reality was setting in and he realized that by not paying attention to the rules of life in a civilized society, he placed himself in a situation that may keep him in the “pokey” until he is 18 years old.
It gets worse. When he turns 18, a court will decide if he is safe for society, or if he will be transferred to the adult correctional facility. My friend was distraught. “How can I get him to understand that it just won’t work to be the model prisoner without changing how he thinks?”
To get back to the dog mentioned at the start of the article ... the big dog was happy to be the center of attention. He had never worn a harness before, but trusted his “pack” as they strapped it on him.
As the last buckle was fastened and he was held in position to have the harness attached to the sleigh, one of the smaller boys in the family came carrying a sizeable stick. The father asked what the stick was for. “To make the dog go,” was the answer from the 5-year-old.
The father took a break from the harness and took the stick from his son. Then he explained to him that the dog loved the children. He loved to run with them, to play ball with them, to just be with them.
“As soon as he realizes how much fun his kids are having riding on the sleigh,” the father explained, “You will need a stick to make him stop pulling the sleigh.” The child’s face lit up as he exclaimed, “You mean the dog will pull the sleigh just because he wants to?” “Yes, he will,” confirmed the father, “Because he wants to.”
I shared this story with my friend. He commented that his incarcerated young friend would never stay out of jail until he learned one thing.
“What’s that?” I asked. “He has been following just enough of the rules to make people think he is trying. That won’t cut it. That won’t keep him out of jail. He has to learn to live the rules of society because he wants to. Nothing less will do it. Nothing less will allow him to walk through life as a free man.” FG