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The Adventures of the Dog Boy© (Short Story)

The Adventures of the Dog Boy© (Short Story)

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Published by Dick Croy
An only slightly exaggerated and comic portrayal of life in the country as Douggie the Dog Boy and his older brother experienced it growing up in Southeastern Ohio more than half a century ago.
An only slightly exaggerated and comic portrayal of life in the country as Douggie the Dog Boy and his older brother experienced it growing up in Southeastern Ohio more than half a century ago.

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Published by: Dick Croy on Apr 30, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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07/21/2014

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BR’ER COON & THE DOG BOY
 
...In Which Br'er Coon Gets His Licks in on the Mean Dog and the Dog Boy Abdicates
Since there was no one else his age living near us, my younger brother the Dog Boy could have been a pretty lonely kid when the two of us were growing up. That was more than half a century ago, on the edge of a hardwood forest bordering the Muskingum River in the Appalachian hill country of Southeastern Ohio. Imagination is what sustained him. It's too long a story to begin at the beginning so we'll start where Douggie has already organized the motley crew of mongrels who hung around our house, and our unspayed female collie, into a loyal gang of his own. He was a soft-spoken leader who, if he carried a stick at all, did so only because one could usually be found lying around in the yard, and a big stick just feels good in your hands when you're a kid. His lieutenant was another interloping non-dog named Br'er Coon, the masked member of this large, constantly shifting menagerie.
He thought he was a dog (Br'er Coon I mean, although this was equally true of my brother at the time), a sort of superdog actually, and even though they all knew he wasn't, none of the real ones would have considered contesting the issue with him. The canines themselves were all sex slaves in the male harem of Libbet, our female collie, who held court under a big apple tree in our back yard.
 
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The sole survivor of a family of raccoons felled with their family tree by loggers, Br'er Coon had been given as a baby to my father, a sawmill owner, who brought him home as a pet for Douggie and me. But within a few months Br'er Coon showed us all
 – 
 particularly our two dogs, who on command would open the screen door for him with their noses
 – 
 who the real four-legged boss of the place was. He kept peace among the brethren and was never reluctant to mete out a little justice when he thought it was due. Dogs generally don't ask questions of someone who makes his point by gnawing on your nose or swatting it with his sharp claws. There was a lot to do back then on those lazy summer afternoons. The woods had to be constantly patrolled of course, and exploration parties led into uncharted areas of the wilderness, like the Great Swamp (still there although actually a boglet about the size of a swimming pool) and the neighbors' apple orchard, a perilous climb through trees and underbrush to a ridge which to Douggie and me was an alpine meadow overlooking our house and the river. Even just the bull/dog sessions in the back yard had to be organized or there were bound to  be scuffles in which ears got bitten and feelings hurt. This was especially true when Libbet was in heat
 – 
 at which time Mom generally kept the garden hose coiled up close at hand just outside the screen door. One of Douggie's favorite tricks to keep all the dogs on their toes was to sneak off into the woods during the daily siesta and, after hiding in some remote, inaccessible location, letting go with one of his varied and credible assortment of barks. Everyone's familiar with the posse scene in the old westerns, where the stillness of a hot, stifling afternoon is suddenly broken by the sheriff and his hastily deputized band of cowboys and saloon riffraff thundering heroically out of town on another desperate mission, clouds of dust trembling in the air behind them. So you know exactly how that bunch of layabouts reacted to
 
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the sudden unfamiliar bark in their territory. Out of the yard they'd come, one long loud cacophonous bellow in reply. Then about half an hour later they'd all come trotting sheepishly back down the hill and into the yard, wagging their unkempt burr-infested tails with feigned nonchalance, the same way we humans yawn or glance down at our watches, to show that of course they'd known all along that it was just another of their leader's drills. One animal that had them all buffaloed, including my brother, was the Mean Dog who lived up on the ridge. Every once in a while he'd get loose, and it was all Douggie could do to keep panic from spreading among his canine corps. The Mean Dog, a huge part-shepherd, part-collie, was the antithesis of the kennel full of male and female collies billed collectively over the years as Lassie. He hated everything and everybody, from the tiniest freshly born bunny to the biggest dog in the gang: a toothless old St. Bernard who wouldn't even gum you in anger. On one particularly sultry summer day when all the dogs in our part of the woods had come over to collapse under the magisterial apple tree in our back yard, each ensconced on his own little corner of cool, shaded earth, my brother the Dog Boy was up to his old tricks. There he went, sneaking out of the yard, while Br'er Coon relieved his displeasure from the oppressive heat by picking fights with the underdogs in the gang. Soon, sure enough, one of Douggie's improvised and unfamiliar barks rang out in the heavy air. Chaos
 – 
 there went the dogs, tumbling over one another in their rush for the woods. Poor Br'er Coon, nearly trampled in the stampede, glared furiously at the cloud of dust marking their mad dash from the yard. Then, no sooner had they disappeared into the woods than here they came back again, even more frantically than they'd left
 – 
 with the Dog Boy leading the way. It seems the Mean Dog

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