Greetings, good people! Boots here. I can’t seem to stay off the trail these days. The good news? I’m back in the office saddle again and ready to resume the 3 Rs: (w)riting, reading, and researching coffee hints and tips for you.
I used to work for an old-timer named Dinty at an isolated lake on some old homestead that had been pieced out of the surrounding government land — or guvment land, as Dinty used to say. Dinty’s cabin was perched on a rocky outcropping high above the lake — a location which increased the view dramatically but which also made the chore of hauling water quite the Olympic-style feat for anyone over the age of old-timer status. That’s where I came in: Dinty’s Personal Hired Girl.
Dinty was short for Dinsmore and, as you can guess with a name like Dinsmore, you just know that this gentleman was destined to be a character. And he was. Dinty lived a spartan life with his Airedale — the only breed of dog that Dinty would entertain sharing his cabin with. Dinty named every one of his Airedales Sandy “for that durned dog in the Little Orphan Annie cartoon.”
Dinty called all of the various Airedales Sandy to the dog’s face, back, or rear, but to the rest of us human folk, he would use the Roman numeral system, as if the dogs were the descendant kings and queens of some ill-fated, disinherited canine lineage. It didn’t matter if the dogs were male or female, as the name Sandy was one of those non-gender names like Chris or Jessie or Terry.
I happened to be working for Dinty the summer that Sandy VI was reigning over the homestead. For those of you who have long-forgotten the Roman numeral system, that would be #6. Now I am an epic dog lover, but I would not say that I was Sandy VI’s number one fan. The first time I met the dog, she bristled at me like a hedgehog and gave me that mean look that dogs give you when they want to mess with your mind. And maybe take a chomp out of your leg.
You would be playing a mid-afternoon game of backgammon with Dinty and, if you moved your foot just-so under the table, Sandy VI would come at your foot like a terra-firma version of Jaws. Because of Sandy’s threatening predilection to chomp on people and me being an exceedingly quick learner, I always made it a habit to don my steel-toed Wescos before engaging in any board games, partaking of meals, or drinking with Dinty. You never knew when that crazy dog was going to wake up from some nutty dream and sink its teeth into your ankle. It was kind of scary really.
Dinty was a coffee drinker like I was. There was no messing around when it came to get the pot percolating. Every morning I would build a fire, grab the water pail, and head down to the lake for water. Sandy would watch me from the front porch of the cabin with her beady eyes hidden behind her curly mop, all the while eyeing my lower legs while I walked backward down the trail to the lake. Can I just say it? I did not harbor any love or affection for Sandy VI.
Returning with the water was a different matter. I always felt like I had an advantage and that I was carrying protection. It was evident that some hired girl from a previous year had baptized the dog at least once.
I am surprised to say that that dog actually grew on me in an admiring sort of way. There was something about the tenacity and fierceness that she directed toward life. That summer alone, Sandy VI was bitten by a rattle snake, kicked by a horse, and lost for a week on the other side of the ridge. I watched as some nice person, who must have found her, boated her back to Dinty’s dock and dropped her off without a howdy doo to Dinty. He probably was so glad to be rid of her that he didn’t wait around for any thanks.
During a thunder and lightning storm, Sandy VI jumped over three ricks of split firewood in the woodshed and then couldn’t jump back over to freedom. It took an afternoon of taking apart the woodpile and then restacking it to liberate her. My thanks? She just went tearing off into the yard, barking at the sky and daring it to throw another lightning bolt her way.
After I figured out that she was just plain loco and not targeting just me, I relaxed a little bit. After all, what harm did it do me to keep my knee-high, engineer-style Wescos on the for entire blistering summer heat . . . my feet never once having opportunity to receive a single ounce of vitamin D while wearing any of my beloved flip-flops? And was it really that bad wondering if my hand was going to be snarfed off anytime I went to fill her food bowl? Or how about those daily chess games when my legs would go to sleep for fear of moving them and having my boots gnawed at? No, it was all good. The best summer of my life.
My hired-girl gig was over in late September and I gave Dinty a hug on the front porch, the walk down to the dock to see me off being a bit of a chore for the old guy. In spite of my relationship with his beloved Sandy VI, you couldn’t help but love Dinty. His was a personality that you don’t see much of anymore. A man who kept to himself, chose solitude over the madding crowd, and lived the life he had chosen for himself without complaint. I felt some tears roll down my cheeks as I gave him one last hug.
As I was backing down the driveway, one eye on Sandy VI, with my gear, Dinty called out, “You know. You’re the only one who made it through the whole season.” I think I could have told him why, when I saw Sandy eyeing me with her beady eyes for that one last opportunity to sink her Kujo jaws into my calf. But . . through all of this . . . I learned one important lesson. Never judge a man by the canine company he keeps. There is disparity all over the world that we don’t understand, and this was one of those moments when I felt as if it all made sense. Companionship sometimes trumps a little bit of unpleasantness. We’ve all done it. And we’ll keep doing it.
At that compliment/confession, I dropped my pack and gave Dinty one more hug. That was the one time that summer when I walked down the road to the dock facing forward. I couldn’t walk backward. Had I done so, I would have had to witness Dinty standing there . . . alone for the winter . . . with his Sandy pacing the porch in front of him. I kept my eyes looking forward to the dock and the pick-up boat that was going to take me back to the land of roads, cars, and grocery stores.
Dinty and I exchanged the occasional letter after that season. Two years later, I received an official-looking letter that I almost discarded as junk mail. Turns out it was from a lawyer’s office, Dinty’s lawyer. The letter instructed me to call the office, as I had been noted as an heir regarding some such item. I called the office, wondering what the heck, only to learn that I had inherited none other than Sandy VI. The lawyer read a brief note that Dinty had left saying that I was the one hired girl that Sandy had “loved the most.”
I couldn’t believe it. So what would you do? I gassed up my car and drove halfway across the state to the kennel where the poor dog was temporarily incarcerated. When I took one look at that dejected mess of heart-heavy dog behind that wire cage, I almost started to cry. All alone. Missing her only master in the entire world. Imprisoned. It was really sad. That is until the damned dog recognized me or my scent or something and she came out of her depressed state like a rattlesnake to lunge at the wire gate with her teeth showing.
Somehow, and I don’t know how, Sandy VI and I came to an understanding. She came home with me. I was living in a dinky cabin on some national forest land at the time and Sandy VI had acres where she could run and be a terror to the territory. We eventually found an uneasy truce, but I was still pretty careful whenever she was under the kitchen table. Some habits die hard.
In honor of Sandy and Dinty . . . and my love of boots, shoes, and sandals . . . check out this fabulous footwear. I still have that same pair of Wescos in the back of my closet. Yes, I could be considered to be a hoarder, but those boots speak to a time when I was young enough to have the world at my traveling fingertips and dumb enough to think that taking on an inherited dog would include a Hollywood moment or two.
Truth? There were no Hollywood moments. But I feel that I did the right thing by rescuing that dog. There are those times in our lives when we do the right thing and it doesn’t feel like much of a reward at the time. But I think that this is probably the reward within itself. Maybe rewards have a way of sneaking up on you. They hide in cupboards and closets like those Wesco boots.
I think I know why I have kept those boots.
Wesco Boss 11″ Engineer Boots 7700100
. . . and what would have been a good summer alternative!
Wesco Men’s Custom Jobmaster Boot BKBE106100F Black/Beige
. . . and the summer shoes I WANTED to be wearing that summer. . . the favorites that my Sissy always sends me for my birthday.
Teva Women’s Olowahu Flip-Flop