“So, what brings you and your dog all the way up here?”
I consider how much detail I should give in my answer. “We intend to find Clint.”
“There’s a bear in these parts and my Dad calls him Clint.”
“Oh. The bear, huh?”
“So, you’ve seen him?” I ask with obvious excitement.
“Not exactly. In fact I wonder if anybody really has.”
“But, what about all the stories?” I insist.
“They are just that, stories.”
“Well, I think Tuf and I came pretty close today. Climbing the stony path of the hill we both heard something move through some nearby brush. I’m bettin’ it was him.”
“Well, young man. I certainly hope you are mistaken. I mean what in the world would you do if you in fact did meet Clint face to face?”
She asks a very good question. I don’t know that I actually thought that one through. “Well, I have Tuf.”
“Tuf? You mean that little bag of fumes?”
“Hey, Tuf can put that bear in his place. Why only last summer Tuf gave a couple of the neighbor’s cows a what-for. If it weren’t for that cheap shot one of them got in, he would probably still remember too.”
“My recommendation young man, is to talk to you Dad about what it is you want to do.”
I consider, for only a split second, her suggestion. Does she think I’m crazy? If my Dad knew what I was up to, there’s no way he’d let me. “Yeah, maybe I’ll do that.” I figure a good strategy right now would be to change the subject. “So, what were you working on over there before?”
“Oh that. That is a whirligig.”
“A whirliwhat?” I ask.
“A whirligig. Whirligigs are wonderfully fantastic gadgets that do little more than spin and dance when the wind blows. They’re quite fun. Would you like to see some?”
“Would Tuf like to join us?”
Given Tuf’s digestional issue, I decide against it. “No, he’s happier out here.”
As we get closer to the doorway of the shed I here rhythmic clanking, tapping and whirring. I step inside and allow my eyes to adjust to the change in light. “Wow, this is so cool! There must be a thousand of them in here. And so many different colors. Oh, look there’s a lumberjack. And there’s a guy sawing wood. Cool!”
“Why, thank you!”
“How long have you been making them?”
“Oh, longer than I would like to admit. Making them provides me with a very relaxing hobby and coming up here to ‘my shed’ in the hills is such a wonderful getaway.”
I make my way around the collection and am amazed at the variety and detail she has accomplished. What a treasure. Just then there was a sudden excitement outside; a terrible growling and barking. Tuf was worked up about something. We quickly scramble out of the shed and around to where we left Tuf.
Something has Tuf all worked up. Whatever it was it is gone now. I don’t know that I ever saw Tuf so frazzled. I calm him down and together we look around the area. We don’t see anything strange and I am prepared to chalk it up to s skittish dog, when our new friend suggests it may be best for me to get home and offers to give us a ride back. Considering our main purpose for this Summer is to seek out and find this bear, taking a car ride home now just seems counterproductive. I politely thank her but say no.
“Come on, Tuf. It’s time we head home.” His look suggests he thinks one of us is crazy.
Back into the forest we go; ducking into and under some of the taller brush. Quickly we are back on the trail that brought us here — Tuf by my side and my walking stick… “Hey! where’s my stick?” In the excitement I must have laid it down. I stop and turn around. Tuf stops, turns around and toots. I pick up the pace and jog back to the lady’s shed and find my stick quickly enough. She asks, “where’s your dog?”
“Tuf? Why, he was right next to me.” With that we hear a sharp yipe and the sound of Tuf scrambling through the woods. I quickly run back toward the path and see no sign of Tuf. I ignore the lady’s plea to hang on a minute and not to go so fast. By then I am in full stride.
I return to the dried pile we discovered earlier and continue further until I am back under the stand of pine trees. I stop to catch my breath and to look around and see if I can find any sign of Tuf. Not seeing anything I continue on; a bit slower now.
I reach the top of the stony path and look around. Still no sign of Tuf. Using my stick for stability I descend the path and only lose my footing once and that was near the bottom of the descent. Even with the poor traction I was trying to look around to the right and left, into the shrubs and even up into some of the trees. That dog. He’s probably already back at the house getting Mom to worry. That can only mean trouble for me.
I duck under some branches and make my way down the path that started the day off. Man, I’m hungry. Having missed lunch is not the way to get on Mom’s good side. I can feel it now, day two of Summer vacation and I am already grounded.
I come to the end of the path just before the break in the woods by the back part of our lawn. “Well, here goes nothing.” I walk towards the house. Suddenly, out from the swinging door runs Tuf, happy as can be. Just behind Tuf is Mom. I am so in trouble.
“Are you hungry?” asks Mom.
“Get inside and wash up.”
OK, not so bad so far. Although I know that sometimes the delay just makes it so much worse. I wash up and climb up on the chair kitchen chair.
“Feet down.” says Mom. “So, interesting day I hear.”
“You hear?” I ask. OK, what could she possibly know? Tuf, the rat. Probable gave us away.
“Well, when Tuf came running into the kitchen like his rear-end was on fire, I figured it just may be. Given the amount of tootin’ he’s been doing.”
I chuckle at the thought.
“When I gave him some water he started drinking so fast I figured he must have ran a mile. I reached down to rub his neck and I saw the scratches on his ear.”
Oh, this is getting worse, I think to myself. “We were just nutsin’ around, Mom.” With that Tuf give two sharp hacks and a toot for good measure. Out from his mouth come a wad of fuzz. Actually, it looked more like fur.
“Now, what do we have here?” ponders Mom.
I bent over and looked closer — dark brown, almost black.
“It looks like some kind of animal fur.” suggests Mom. “Surely, your Dad will know what it is.”
Oh great! We have gone from bad to worse. “Ahh, it’s probably from one of the cats. Likely the fat, slow one. It’s the only on Tuf can catch.” I propose. “No need to show Dad.”
“Hmmm…” is all Mom could muster.