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Dogging it around the campfire

10/17/2013

I stopped by Greta's house on the way home, and found her enjoying the cool, calm evening by a small fire behind her house. Her campfire has seats of stone posts and a nice view.

Greta Grunshoh lives on the plains, a mile away from her nearest neighbors, still spry enough to manage the country life. She noticed my arrival and put another log on the fire.

"It's about time I see your face," she said. "It's been a while." Always one for a big hug, she squeezed me with a chuckle. "You're looking good!"

"Are you surprised?" I asked her, and we fell into conversation with our usual ease.

"It's your favorite weather," she commented. It was damp and cloudy, with a bit of fog. "And you can have it." I laughed. Granny Greta holds nothing back.

"I heard about your dog, and I thought we might have a toast to the old girl," I said, pulling out a small bottle of tequila. Her eyes lit up.

"Why not?" she laughed, and we each took a hit from the bottle. "To Rowdy!"

Rowdy was her spotty dog, a vigorous prairie hunter. "I tried and tried to train that dog and it never took," she said. "Eventually, I just accepted that this was the way all car-chasing dogs were going to go and waited for it." She took another pull, and started to chuckle again. "She was 9 years old!"

That's a wait, huh?

"Well, owing to the kindness of strangers, really. Any one of the drivers she pulled up could have done it, she's held down her corner for a long time. Once, I was in the garden trimming iris when I heard a truck pull up and stop and the driver yelled at her, and all I could think was, yes, sir, I caused your pain, that's my dog."

Not so much pain, is it? An inconvenience at most. "Well," she said, "a pain in the neck. I hated that. But she was a good dog otherwise, she had a bright personality and she was good company. She was a hunter by nature. You can't fight nature, you know. She was a loving dog." She sighed. "The traffic has been high out here the last couple of years, and she's seen her share of tires. That's the way it goes.

"Not that I haven't had an uncharitable thought or two," she continued. The updraft from the fire set her white hair in motion as she stared into the pit. "I am kind of hoping she left some crumpled fiberglass. And I was tired of the flying trucks. Some of those fellas needed to slow down."

I asked if she knew who ran the dog under, and she said no. "I don't expect that kind of civility, ever. It doesn't matter; everybody that drives this road knows that dog. I'm thankful for all the people that dodged her. Nine is a ripe age for a car-chasing dog."

Did anybody ever cuss you out for your dog? She laughed again. "No, and by golly, I don't know what I would have done but throw myself on their mercy. I'm glad nobody made a fuss. That's nice. There's too much fuss in the world."

I asked if she'd been keeping up with the headlines, and she nodded. "I still get all my papers and internet news. I feel bad about it all. No matter what issue, everybody is in survival mode for their egos. Both right and left have taken the country holler to new levels. They're the same animal to me."

I was surprised. This is my most bleeding heart liberal friend. "Surely, you agree with the Democrats. You're always about feeding the poor and such. You must be leaning toward Obama's message."

"The Democrats let the Republicans gut the farm bill so the GOP could run SNAP into the ground. Doesn't sound like a family value to me, does it to you? Worse yet, they called it a negotiation. It raises the question whether an ethical thing like feeding the poor will meet its demise." She poked at the logs, breaking them down to coals.

I had to remind her that there were other services for the poor, what George called 'faith-based organizations."

"Yes, there are, and now they're having trouble keeping the lights on and the doors open. People that argue to decrease funding for WIC and food stamps don't stop to think, poor people go to non-profits when they can't feed themselves. These faith based organizations rose from a need. There are hungry people. It's even sadder to think that all this is happening right before the holidays."

She looked square at me, with a wisp of a smile, said, "Give what you can to the shelter and the community centers and the food pantries. There are going to be a lot of hungry kids this season."

Then she nestled into the blankets on her stone chair and sighed, staring into the low fire.

"I miss my dog," she said.

Mary Hart-Detrixhe is a lifelong resident of the prairie and Ellis county. Her work can be found at www.janeQaverage.com.

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