All scrubbed up and fed, Tuf and I head out into the day. We make our way up through the back yard and into the woods. There is a stand of mountain laurel that creates a low level canopy under which is a wonderfully shaded and effectively hidden area to serve as our headquarters for the Summer. Our planning session begins. First up is to lay out a strategy in our hunt for Clint. I’m thinking we should start in the western hill.
We gather a single bottle of water leaving our spare at headquarters to drink when we regroup after our day’s adventure. Heading out from the stand of mountain laurel, we head toward the single path that leads up to the western most hill. We pass by what appears to be an old trash dump. Not very big and mostly covered with years of tree droppings. We are making our way around the west side of the dump when all of a sudden Tuf darts around to where we cam from and to the other side of the dump. I quickly scurry around in the same direction to cut him off from whatever it is he thinks he saw or heard — or smelled.
I come around a large Pine tree and see Tuf heading into the thick of the dump. Oh, no. I pick up the pace and grab Tuf’s collar just as he was about to start digging. He spins around and catches my gaze, plops his rump down right there on the dump, tilts his head so innocently and lets out a triple toot. “Good gracious, dog! And you want more of that?” I hesitantly let go of his collar and we return on our way toward the western most hill.
It is a wonderful day. Not very hot although plenty of sunshine. Tuf and I come to a break in the forest and we both stop and look out into a wonderful field of tall grasses and wild flowers. We notice a path that seem to go around the outside of the field to our right and decide to take it. As we are strolling along this path I notice something out of the corner of my eye. There on the ground at the edge of the tall grass – long and still – the most perfect walking stick. I pick it up and shift it from hand to hand. A thing of beauty. The perfect weight and balance. “Can you believe our luck, Tuf?” A single toot. We march on.
Our first turn in the path brings us to the base of another rise in elevation. This time the path if covered in baseball size rocks and stones. This will be slow going, but I now have my walking stick. Tuf and I hug the left side of the path where the footing is about as sturdy as it gets. We step with some caution and concentrate on each stride. With our focus on our walking we had little awareness of anything else going on around us. This is turning out to be quite a workout. We reach a level patch and decide to rest. Tuf throws a peculiar glance off to the right and both ears focus straight forward. A suspicious growl and a quick toot. I look in the same direction and see nothing. No moving brush or any other signs of movement. “Ahh, that gut rot is effecting your head now.”
I take a quick drink of water and offer some to Tuf in the palm of my hand. At that moment there is a quick rush through the tall grasses and then silence. Tuf stops in mid slurp and swings his head in the direction of the sound. I quickly grab his collar, “easy, boy.”
Must have been a bird or something because I don’t see anything now. We gather our water bottle and walking stick and continue on. The breeze that had accompanied us so far today disappeared. The air is suddenly a bit stagnant. “Oh good gracious dog!”
We can see the top of the hill and pick up the pace ever so slightly. As we reach the top we first look at each other and then out over the valley. In the distance is the town. I even see the drug store. It was at the drug store, at the counter towards the end where the fountain drinks are made, that Patricia Kusnolski made her intentions clear. Oh, the thought of that moment still makes me shiver. She had decided that boys are not all disgusting and that some are even rather pleasant. The way she looked at me almost made me want to leave my cherry-vanilla coke right there on the counter and high-tale it outside as quick as possible. I think my mistake was to just sit there. Apparently, listening to what she had to say just made everything much more complicated. “Tuf, too bad you won’t still be tootin’ when Patricia gets back from her Grandparents’. We could leave some toots outside her window.” I laugh. Tuf looks confused.