Yep, Ole Buck’s a mighty fine friend for sure - my best friend.
I can’t rightly say why my parents named him Buck. I do know that his name seems to fit him very nicely. He loves to romp, run, jump, and buck like a spirited young stallion. Buck is a stout dog standing about two feet high. He has two black spots on an otherwise solid white short-hairdo coat. One covers his right ear and the other covers the area around his left eye, giving him an unique appearance as if he’s sporting a pirate’s eye-patch. His short nose and roundish face caused Daddy to conclude that he had some “bull dog in him”, whatever that means. For the sake of me, I can’t figure just exactly how a bull dog got inside of Buck. Anyway, I reckon that Ole Buck is about the best looking dog I’ve ever laid eyes on. He’s on-up-there in age though, probably two or more years my senior.
Occasionally a stranger will inquire, “What kinda’ dog is he?”
Always in my best authoritative five-year-old voice and repeating my Dad, I retort, “Why he’s a full blooded Mongrel-Mutt can’t ya see!”
Please understand, I thought that a mongrel was a unique breed like the Cocker Spaniel or the
Chocked full of energy, we relish gallivanting around in the backyard, roughhousing, wrestling and bounding about. Frequently Buck devilishly out paces me slightly while in a dead run. Suddenly and without any warning, he executes a dashing shift directly in front of me, causing me to lurch forward and spill over. As I tumble to the earth, he quickly scampers out of the way barking like mad and wagging his tail ninety-to-nothing, and all-the-while peering back at me with unmistakable amusement. He delights in this more that any of his other antics and believe-you-me, he has many!
Buck ain’t allowed in the house. He sleeps beneath the back porch where a special place has been built and prepared for him. Sometimes I fear for him at night, especially during the winter. He might catch a cold or maybe freeze out there. Mama assured me that Buck wouldn’t freeze on account that we live so far South that we hardly ever have any extremely cold weather. Daddy also said reassuringly, “Don’t worry son, we live way down South where sushi is still called crab bait - nobody gonna’ freeze down here.” Anything Dad tells me has to be so because he knows lots and lots of things, but “sushi”... what the heck is it?
Mom is the best of all Mamas. She is very pretty and much taller than me. I love her. Most mornings fairly early, she hastens me out the door to play in the yard. That’s when Ole Buck greets me by running in circles around and around. I drop to my knees to pet him and he, uncontrollably and quite successfully I must admit, attempts to lick my face from the top to the bottom.
One beautiful spring Monday morning, I ran from the house to the backyard. The birds were singing and the Mississippi sun was shining brightly. Expecting the usual energetic welcome from my best buddy, I froze. With an eerie feeling, I thought, “Where’s Buck, he must be sick or something.”
I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled under the porch. It was dusty and sandy under there and along the way I noticed numerous doodlebug pits. I mentally noted, “I’ll have to come back after finding Buck and fish for doodlebugs later. Doodlebugging is a bunch of fun.”
Finding Buck’s bed empty, I thought, “Is he hiding?” We sometimes play hide-n-seek together. I find a good hiding place and Buck finds me. “Tons of fun,” I mumble.
Crawling from under the porch and taking off as fast as my legs can carry me, I searched the back yard. The chickens were cheerfully clucking in the chicken yard. “He’s not in the chicken yard for sure or they would be screeching and fussing up a storm,” I thought aloud while rambling past the chicken house.
“HERE BUCK! HERE BUCK...COME HEREEEEE BOY!” I called over and over and as loud as possible. “If only I could whistle” I thought, “Buck always comes when daddy let’s out with that loud piercing whistle of his. I gotta learn to whistle. When dad gets home from work maybe he will teach me tonight”
I returned to our house lickety-split calling, “Mom! Help! Help me Mama!”
“Slow down Mike,” she said, What’s all the excitement about? You’re out of breath boy! You hurt?”
“Buck ain’t outside nowhere Mama! He’s missing...can’t find him. Do you know where he might be? Help me find him!” I cried.
“Oh don’t fret none, he’s probably outside somewhere. Let’s go. I’ll help.”
The two of us searched high and low. Buck was nowhere to be found. I went to bed wondering why Buck would just run off like that. Mama reckoned, as she tucked the bed covers around me, “He probably chased after a rabbit or something and got himself lost in the woods. He’ll be back by tomorrow most likely. Now you get to sleep. Tomorrow will be here before you know it.” She turned to leave as she switched out the ceiling light.
My insides were hurting. I can’t ever remember a minute without Buck trailing along next to me. Now it’s been a whole day without him. It seemed like a year! Why is he doing this to me? He knows I love him. He’s my best friend. My one and only sidekick. My only playmate for goodness sake. Why? I think he loves our long summer days playing and romping as much as I do. Perhaps he truly did wander down the road and taking off after a rabbit or a raccoon or something got his darn self lost in the woods. That’s not like Buck, but a likely explanation. Anyway...He’s lost. Maybe he’ll find his way home by morning.
Mama woke me from a fitful sleep and helped me dress. I took off outside to give Buck the biggest hug I have ever given him. Heck, I might even give him a licking of his life and I don’t mean the kissing kind! Buck’s a bad boy - chasing rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, cars and gracious knows what else!
Before I could get going good, Mama gently grabbed my shoulders and, on her knees, she said with a solemn look about her, “I’ve been up since daybreak searching and calling for Buck. I’m sorry Mike but he didn’t come home last night. Maybe he will show up here sometime today....” Her words trailed off as if she was entering into deep thought.
“This whole thing is beginning to anger me! Buck has found another friend and has dropped me like a nobody! I hate him! I don’t care if I ever see him again!” I lied as I ran from the house.
Outside I calmed down and wondered, “Why did my mama look so worried? I think she had been crying. I don’t want for her to cry but I guess she loves Buck as much as I love him. When Buck shows up, I’m going to dress him down - big time! He’ll think twice before causing a stir such as this...ever, ever,ever again!
We called and we yelled. Even walked up and down the gravel road in front of our house, searching and calling his name. Later, while in bed, I continued with my wondering and worrying. When morning came, I was up and outside before daylight. Buck still wasn’t home. We all ate breakfast in almost complete silence and Mama cried a bit. She must miss him something awful! I know I sure do.
Around noon, Mom asked, “Wanna go with me to search for Buck. We’ll take the pickup if needed.”
“you betcha, let’s go,” I replied with excitement and with certainty that we would find him this time around. Strolling up Ramey Road together, she suddenly scrunched her nose and turned to me saying, “Go on back to the house Mike, ya hear”. I think I have a hint where to find Buck.”
Delighted, excited, skipping and jumping for joy, I took off back to the house. Waiting for them on the back porch I imagined Buck approaching with his tail wagging. One troubling thing though, Mama didn’t seem as happy about learning of Buck’s whereabouts as I thought she should be. Mulling this over I came to the conclusion, “Oh well, after all is said and done - she is a complicated grown-up. Grown-ups are much too hard for me to figure!”
Mama rounded the right rear corner of the house. She was alone and boohooing like I had never witnessed before. I immediately began crying my eyes out. I couldn’t handle seeing my Mom so sad and crying so deeply. She picked me up into her arms. Crying I begged of her, “Don’t cry Mama. Please don’t cry!” I was hurting so much and so confused. “My five year old world seem to be falling apart!” I thought as a cascade of tears flooded from me.
Mama quickly gathered herself. She sat me down on the edge of the old, weather- beaten wooden porch and said, “I found Buck. He has been struck by a car or truck. He survived long enough to crawl to the side of the road and across the drainage ditch. Mike, I’m sorry but Buck died in the underbrush on the other side of the ditch almost in front of our house.” I stopped crying, and with a severe case of hiccups and in a daze, glared at her. My world became a vacuum. I couldn’t hear the birds singing anymore. The chickens stopped their clucking. The sunshine even darkened.
What did she say? Did I hear right? Buck has died?
I may be a kid but I think I know a great deal about death. I know that old people and pets sometimes die and that they go to a place that grown-ups call Heaven. In my few years of life I have learned that when someone dies, grown-ups will dig a hole in the ground, place the dead in it and cover them up with dirt. “I think that’s the meanest thing ever,” I retorted while wondering if they will do that my best bud?
“Buck’s gonna be scared if they throw dirt on him. That’s enough to scare anybody to death! What if he wakes up and can’t dig himself out of that hole”, I questioned, “I just don’t get it. Are there things about dying that I might not know about? Does Mama know or see things that I don’t? Why can’t we just put Buck in his bed under the porch. He will start feeling much better after resting in his own bed”.
I’ll have to talk with Mama and Daddy about this. I don’t want anything to do with this dying thing...it’s just too scary for me!”
From that day forward there was little said about Buck. I put it out of mind the best I could. My parents explained death to me the best they knew how but it didn’t make a lick of sense to me at my age! They ended their explanation with their old standby when at loss for words: “One day Mike, you will understand”.