R.C. is an animal lover. Maybe not the kind of animal lover that the term has come to mean in this era, but the kind that requires a greater commitment.
He would tell you he's a farmer. But he's a horseman and trainer, cattleman, hog producer, corn grower and great-grandfather. He's also a dog man, with the patience and persistence to deserve a good stock dog.
R.C. has had a wide variety of dogs in his life. One day he asked his wife, Doris to keep an eye out for a Blue Heeler. They appealed to him but he'd never had one. 'Kinda rough dogs.’ he thought.
Soon she found one advertised in the Albia paper; a two year old male lookin' for a home. R.C. was suspicious. Takin' on a dog that old was risky. Bad habits would be developed, old loyalties established. One just never knew. "Well, it wouldn't hurt to look," Doris chided him.
Finally, three weeks later R.C. went by to look at the dog. As Doris was introducing themselves to the lady of the house, the two-year-old blue merle walked right up to R.C. and looked at him. They exchanged studious looks - something unspoken passed between them. R.C. picked the dog up under his arm and took him to the truck. He just knew. The way some people know when a guitar string is in tune or a steak is cooked just right. R.C. knew the dog would be fine. And, I think the dog must have come to the same conclusion because they became constant outdoor companions. He named him Bud.
Two months after Bud had moved in with them, R.C. was out feeding. He slung a bushel basket of ear corn over his shoulder and walked into the pigpen. Bud was dawdling by the gate.
Sixteen sows came squealing from the corner as R.C. approached. His foot hit something. He slipped, went down on his back, cracked his head on a rock, and was knocked unconscious. His last memory as he fell was a three-ton wall of hungry sows charging.
He woke to find himself looking skyward in the pigpen with sticky blood on his face, in his hair and on his shirt. Bud had worn a circle around his sprawled out body. Just a few feet away the sows waited, watching, a dark look in their eyes. Several ears of corn still lay by his head. Bud stood guard.
Another true dog story like we hear so often. If R.C. had not been an animal lover, would it have had a different ending?
But from their first meeting, dog and man somehow sensed that they would be there for each other. I can't explain how it works, it's beyond me. But it wasn't beyond Bud . . . he just knew.
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, ex-veterinarian and sorry team roper, who now lives in Arizona and travels the country, tormenting cowboys instead of cows.