GOODBYE JOE, excerpt from the coming novel GRACE AND DREAMER
Jack sat on the porch bench, with the cold fingers of one hand wrapped around his hot cup of coffee. With his other fingers he held up the famous “barrel photo” of Joe and their old friend from the past Shiloh, the Tennessee Tick Hound. Jack looked away and noticed that Joe’s water dish froze over for the first time since the past winter.
Jack was pretty sure that he was going to call the vet and see when he could come by to help them with Joe. Jack talked with Doc’s receptionist, explaining the situation. It was their hound Joe, and she talked to Doc, and he remembered Joe. Everybody remembers Joe. She called back and said Doc could be there about noon. Jack looked at Grace who was nodding yes. It happened that quick. The decision was made.
Jack sipped the coffee and reached for his journal. He knew he had to write his way through this. Joe was what Native People called Big Medicine, the red dog in one of Jack’s dreams in which he watched a red dog and a white dog fighting, unsure which dog would win.
Joe was a Healing Dog in Grace’s life for over fifteen years, the kind of dog you are lucky to know once-in-a-lifetime. Joe had slept on his bed on the floor next to Grace, side-by-side for nearly ten years. His Redbone talking always, always brought a smile and an outburst of pleasure from Grace. It had been an absolute joy to see him talk to her while she talked hound-talk to him, in the middle of the house in the middle of the day, and they both relished it.
Jack watched Joe close in on old age. In the last days, Jack carried Joe up and down the steps out of the bedroom, the steps on the front porch, and the steps off the back. Joe came to trust Jack in ways he never had before and would wait for Jack’s assistance whenever he needed it. Joe was able to do his daily hunt, just a much smaller circle in the end, and the old boy still got excited about finding new smells and following a trail.
No coons in the high desert of Apache Wells, Arizona. Joe was a long ways from his birthplace of Bucksnort and the dense forests of Middle-Tennessee. But Joe compromised and followed his nose tracking a rabbit or quail to its hiding place and flushing it. He just could not chase the critters and seemed at peace with that. Joe would find the place Jack dumped out the last little bit of milk and corn flakes days earlier. Jack stood in awe of the beauty of such creation.
As he sat quietly Jack searched for the words that might help him get through Joe’s death. He figured Grace was bound to take it hard. He held the pen respectfully and felt his journal’s pages flutter with the breeze. As he always does, he let words bubble up, and he put them on paper, and they often flowed from his mind in illogical fashion. He found himself hearing the openning music of an old Hank Williams’ tune “Jambalaya.” Then he wandered off into related thoughts and a major decision, and he wrote.
Me gotta go
Me-oh-my-o . . .
With the melody in his head, Jack finished.
Are there Redbone Hounds in heaven?
I ain’t goin’
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To hear the song in Jack’s head,
click the link below, pause, scroll down, and click it again.
Hank Williams 19 Jambalaya (On the Bayou)