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Nancy J. Bailey

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Member Since: Nov, 2007

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Road Onions
By Nancy J. Bailey
Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A bevy of onions are free for the taking, and Clifford finds a way to get involved.

I am walking the dogs today and I notice something small and round lying on the dirt road in front of me. I pick it up. An onion.

It's harvest time and the big trucks are piled high with them, load after load of golden, peeling orbs. Now they are all over the road, scattered like apples, the air laden with their pungent scent. Some of them are split open revealing the smooth white surface inside, others have been flattened by tires. But most of them are firm and round.

I don't have anything to put them in, or I would squirrel some home. I decide to come back later with a bag.

So the day wanes, shadows lengthen and I decide it's onion gathering time. I select a plastic bag with handles, because I think Clifford should help me get the onions. It would be a good little jaunt for him. I take the bag to the barn with me and a couple of apples. Clifford sticks his head eagerly in his halter, and I lead him out and start to brush him.

A puff of air picks up the bag and moves it gently down the aisle toward his feet. He puts his nose down and touches it.

Seeing him do this prompts an experiment, and I talk to him much as I would have done with my trick dog, Scorch. After all, he has been clicker trained the same way.

"Pick that up," I tell him.

He lifts his head and looks at me. I use the same hand gesture that I used with Scorch, pointing at the plastic bag and saying, "Pick it up."

I am not sure he knows what that means. He has never been asked to pick up a bag, nor has he really been asked to pick up anything that wasn't first tossed by me. But he obediently bends down, picks up the plastic bag and puts it politely in my hand.

"Good boy!" I squeal. I give him an apple.

He crunches down his apple and then he wants to make out. He stands with eyes half closed and kisses my shoulder and cheek, blowing on me softly. The only long term man in my life. Sigh.

I put the saddle and bridle on him. Cajun and Ripple are ecstatic at the prospect of a ride, and they dart around the yard panting eagerly. Clifford stands still while I get on, and we walk down the hill in the warm Indian summer, amidst the soft bird song and goldenrod in the slanted evening light.

There are fewer onions now, as many have been scavenged, but there are still dozens on the road. I dismount and open the plastic bag. Clifford's ears perk up and he immediately tries to grab the bag. I am bending over by the roadside with the reins in one hand and the bag in the other, attempting to pick up onions. But all Clifford wants to do now is get that bag!

He bumps and jostles me in his fervor and nearly steps on me. I am beginning to comprehend the err of my ways, because how can I in good conscience now discourage him from doing this?

Finally we edge to the roadside and his attention turns to the tall grass growing there. Great. Another bad habit. But I let him pull up grass. He gets a mouthful and then walks along with me while I collect the onions.

Finally we have a bag full. I climb back into the saddle and we start for home. I decide to shorten the trip because the bag is heavy, so we cut through the neighbor's field to go in the back way. I can't hold the bag by the handles for fear it will break. I hadn't thought about the weight of all these onions. So I rest it on the pommel ahead of me. The bag swishes and crackles loudly with the motion of Clifford's shoulders as he walks along, but obviously it doesn't bother him.

We are almost back to the barn, when suddenly, the bag splits. Onions begin rolling down Clifford's sides, one after the other. Big ones. Small ones. They roll down Clifford's shoulders, past his knees and thunk softly into the grass. He keeps walking, turning his head this way and that. He cocks his left ear, then his right in corresponding direction to the falling onions. I am laughing so hard I can't hang on to them, and the bag is tearing more and more. Pretty soon they all have fallen.

It's a short distance, so I take Clifford home. He's happy now because he gets to gallop a bit. As I venture back out to the onions with a paper sack, Trudy stands with her head over the fence giving me an admonishing look. I am sure she knows that had I taken her instead, there would have been no such foolishness.

       Web Site: Clifford of Drummond Island

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