One of the saddest days of my life occurred on a hot summer Monday at Elk River in Missouri when I about ten years old. Our family had enjoyed a relaxing day of swimming, light fishing, meals of campfire hot dogs covered in mustard and relish, and baloney sandwiches with dessert of roasted marshmallows on gram crackers (the chocolate Hersey bars never lasted till evening). My sister and I had spent hours in the cold waters of Elk River trying to catch perch in our summer sand buckets. Oh, those wise parents of ours, who convinced us that we could catch them in tiny little buckets! What we caught, in the end, was a good night's sleep. Our little dog Ticky accompanied us on our Monday outings and never strayed far from our campgrounds. Late in the afternoon with the campfire roaring and sticks ready to grill the hot dogs our little dog failed to appear.
Ticky, our pet, had found us one summer evening a few years before, and I knew in my child's heart he'd find us again. This stubby short brown haired dog with the face of a pug that had been pushed out from the inside appeared in our backyard one night on E st SW about the time Dad hauled out the homemade trash barrel BBQ grill. The grill must have smelled like a dozen nights of steak and hamburger drippings. This nameless stray dog plopped himself down by the grill and watched Dad's every move.
Mother reached down to pet the little stray just as I picked him up. Then I heard her screech, "Ticks." Too late. I carried the dog in my arms over to my dad, who was now seated in a lawn chair with a beer in hand. On the ground beside my father I placed the little dog like an offering to a God, all the while my mother screeched in the background, "He's covered in ticks, let him go." At my dad's feet, this little dog began to scratch his belly and with his bucky teeth tried to clean himself before the man who might have a hand out. Even dad's hand jerked away when he saw the revolting ticks on the dogs back. Then we realized the poor little dog was covered head to toe in ticks.
Letty Stapp Watt
storyteller and historian