The Rail-Fanning Dog
I wrote this story several years ago when I lived in Mobile Alabama. At that time I raised German Sheppard's and one of my pups had an ear that always flopped over. The CSX branch line between Mississippi and Mobile was about a half-mile away. As the pup grew up, every time he heard a train he always howled at it and if they blew the horns (which they did due to a road crossing about a mile away) he would sometimes jump the fence and run up to the tracks and chase the train. The road crossing was where the lineman from the movie, "Close Encounters of Third Kind," was stuck on the tracks. And then a small UFO hovered over his red truck.
The Rail-Fanning Dog
By Ron AKA: Switchman
COPYRIGHT Ron 01-25-2001
The Rail Fanning Dog
Well, me and my old dog used to go rail fanning three days a week and twice on Sundays. Why, he would bark, to tell me if an EMD-SD40-2 or a GE B23-7 was a coming down the line. And that’s the honest truth. Now you know me, I don’t lie, leastways, not so I get caught at it.
We don’t go rail fanning as much as we used to. He’s getting along in years and starting to make mistakes. Why he called a snoot nosed SD40 a F3. Can you believe it? Why, a few years ago I almost had to put him down. Set yourself down, open one a cold Kool-aids, and I’ll tell you all about it. Be the Gospel truth, every word.
Getting a Dog
A friend of mine, an engineer over at the Pelham Alabaster Southern Shelby Railroad's Tulfan yards, had this dog for sale. Now, the first time I saw that dog he was just a puppy. No more than two months old. He was kind of sitting back on his haunches, head tilted back, and that Left ear a his flopped over. He’d shake his head and both of them ears would stand straight up. Then that left ear just starts to lean on over. You could almost see him trying to will that ear back up straight. But, it’d go on and flop over anyway. His mouth hung open in a kind of grin and that tail of his, be just a thumping on the ground. Why, it was almost like he was a saying, ‘Hey, I tried my best and if that ain’t good enough, that’s too bad.’ I knew right then I had to have him. He was a mixed breed, a cross between a shepherd and one a them long haired red-boned tic hounds, with a little mongrel thrown in. He was my kind of dog, and a born rail fanning dog if ever there was one.
Right away I knew I had me a problem. My better half, now don’t get me wrong I love that woman. We been together nigh on to forty-eight years. And not a day goes by I don’t thank the Lord for giving me such a good woman. We got ourselves what you call, a real good relationship. We know each other like a book. And she lets me make all the important decisions. Why just the other day, when I finished washing the dishes, she said. . . Never mind, let’s get back to that dog.
So there I was trying to figure out the right way to bring up the subject with her. You know, thank heaven for women. But they just don’t think like men do when it comes right down to it. Why, they have been known not to forget anything and sometimes hold a grudge. Especially when a man occasionally strays from the path they feel he should be on.
Well, I just took the bull by the horns and asked her straight out. Lo and behold, she kind of acted like that dog. She sat back in her chair and grinned the biggest grin you ever saw. Now let me tell you I don’t scare easy. But looking at her grin, I almost got two inches taller, just a sitting in my chair.
In a voice as sweet as black-strap molasses, she said, “If you want that dog you can have him. But you have to let me name him. And promise that you’ll never change it or call him anything else.” I jumped out of that there chair and gave her a big ole kiss and a hug. I said, “That’s fine with me sugar lamb. What’s his name going to be?”
She sat there quietly for a minute or two. Then smiled that sweet little smile of hers and softly said, “Brucie.” I like to died. Brucie, what a name for a country boy’s dog. In spite of his name, Brucie turned out to be a train loving dog and never held his name again me.
Down in Calera they have this rail museum. The first time he saw a steam locomotive he ran all around it just a barking up a storm. They finally had to let him ride in the cab. He rode the whole 14 miles with his head out the cab. Just a howling every time they blew the whistle.
Meeting the Neighbors
To make a long story short, back in 00, this couple, from up north somewhere, moved in down the road. They had one of them sissified dogs. You know, one with all the hair shaved off, excepting for the top of his head and the tip of his tail. Yep, sure enough. It was a poodle named, oh me, named, Bear. Bear-lee was more like it. A poodle named, Bear. Now don’t that just beat all?
Any who, my wife, being the good woman she is, became friends with that city woman. Taking her places, showing her how to cook catfish and greens, and things like that. Just being a all round good neighbor. I wish I could a said the same for Brucie and Bear. But that was just not in the cards.
I rode out a hurricane on Dauphin Island and rode in a Big Boy. Believe you me, the power of them two, weren’t nothing compared to the first time Brucie and Bear met. I still get all shivery, just a thinking about it.
Well there we were, me and Brucie, just a relaxing in the shade, drinking a little something on the cool side. Say, did I tell you Brucie had a taste for kool aid now and again. That dog sure could lap it up.
The wife and her friend, the city lady, had gone off to the Watermelon festival, at the Watermelon Capitol of the world, GrandBay Alabama. I figured I had me about another hour or so before getting back to those honey do’s. You know, that’s when your partner for life says, honey do this and honey do that.
Any who, we was at our ease, me and Brucie that is. And here comes Bear, sashaying, and prancing down the road. That tail sticking up about as far as the nose of one a them high society ladies from up in Atlanta. Bear was just a strutting his stuff. Ole Brucie looks up and sees Bear for the first time. And I swear, Honest, I swear, I heard him say, “Huh?.” Did I tell you that dog could talk some? He’s what you call multi talented.
Anyway, Brucie looked at me with the gall darnest look I ever did see on a animal. Right then, I should a known. But, oh well, let’s get on with the gruesome part.
Brucie looked back at Bear. Bear looked at Brucie. Brucie looked at Bear and that Right-handed flopped-over ear shot up stiff as a board. Bear looked back at Brucie and lifted his nose so high, it’s a wonder it didn’t get burned by the sun, and he commences to prancing on down the road.
Now, they tell me, theres’ some kind a jet train in Japan, is the fastest train in the world. But let me tell you, the way Brucie lit out for the road, made me think that train weren’t so fast. Talk about your violence, it was like a varmint in a hen house. And don’t you know who had to come home at that particular time.
Yep, sure enough, you guessed it. So there I was, my kool-Aid all over the yard, two women just a screaming and hollering, and dogs a snarling and a yelping. Well me and that husband, of that city girl, managed to get them dogs apart. I guess giving the Devil his due, for a little fella, Bear gave almost as good as he got. For my own self, I almost lost my sunny disposition, when that husband, of that city girl, started to tell me that I had to lock up my dog, cause he’s a vicious animal. Now, don’t that beat all.
My better half said the fact that the city girl’s husband is the spitting image of that weight lifting feller who was the governor of California, had a lot to do with me keeping my sunny and pleasant disposition. Boy, ain’t that something, I would a told her a thing or two too, but I went on in the house, cause I thought I heard the phone ringing.
Building a Fence
Now for the longest time I been a trying to get somebody, besides me, to put up a fence around the yard. My loving spoonful, now I could a said something else. But that’s the difference betwixt men and women, men ain’t spiteful. And if a body happens to put on a little bit of extra weight. Why, that’s just good food and not laziness. Besides, women think just too much about weight anyway. Always talking about gaining a pound or losing a pound. This diet or that diet. If you ask me It’s more like twenty or thirty pounds. But nobody’s asking and I shore ain’t going to put my two cents where it ain’t wanted. My Pa always said that discretion, is the better part of valor anyway.
The wife sprung for the fence and the labor to put it up. I do know when opportunity knocks on my door.
Two days after the fence was up Bear came down the road again. The Wife was in the kitchen and I’m out in the yard with a rake in my hand. Brucie’s out back sitting in my broke down ‘52 Ford pick-um up truck. Bear comes to the fence and lifts his leg. And before Bear can get past the mail box, here comes Brucie. Why the wind from his passing almost pulled me right out to the road. If I’d not had the sense to drop the rake and grab a hold of the tree, it would have.
Here---we go---again. This is starting to get old.
We tried everything, barbed wire, chains, there was just nothing that could hold back Brucie when he saw Bear. After the last time me and the husband, of that city girl had a few words. It’s a good thing I had my reading glass’s on, otherwise no telling what I might a done to him. I just walked on away, leaving him standing out in the road.
The Final Solution
Well, my honey bunch said either do something and do it now or Brucie would have to be put to sleep. I was just about to read her pedigree, when she said to call my friend Bryan and see what he would say. Old Bryan said, the only thing to do was to get Bruce fixed.
Here I am a good ole boy, born and bred in good southern traditions, raised up on corn bread, buttermilk, and turnip greens. Why, I got my very own nineteen and fifty-two Ford pick-um up truck, a twenty-ought racked on the back glass, and a K-forty on the roof. And I’m going to have to drive around town with a dog named Brucie that’s been fixed. When he hikes up that leg, oh me, it’s sure going to be embarrassing. Boy let me tell you, life sure can be hard sometimes.
The old, ops I mean my wife said she would take Brucie to the vet if I wanted her to. But I told her, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Well, when I got him home, he didn’t seem none the worse for wear. But when I walked by him, he snapped at me, Darn near got me too. I guess women ain’t the only ones don’t forget things.
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