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ROMEO

Micheal Dooley

 

CHAPTER 6, MONT EAGLE DIARIES
Lord, it sho' is quiet out here today. Hope somethin' turns up soon or I'll be late for services. Cain't seem to figure where all the critters went this morn. I'm beginnin' to think that maybe they all got religion and gone to hear Preacher Eljin fire off one of his 'thus sayeth the Lord' talks. That man's a puzzlement. One minute he's as cordial as a young man meetin' his gals’ folks for the first time and the next minute he's a firin' at you like you was his opponent on 'lection day. Yes Sir, I'll never forget the first time he come to the mountain. It was just after I lost Sally. I ain't never hurt so bad in all my life. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. Why, there wasn't a man in the valley that didn't spit when I walked away with her and brought her up to the mountain. Yes Sir, them days were the finest. We'ld get up ever morn ‘fore the sun and go strollin' all over this here mountain and sometimes when the moon was a full we'ld go out again just for the pure pleasure of each others’ company. Gosh, I sho' do miss her. No man could ask for a better partner in life. Her faithfulness was stronger than the smell of a spooked skunk caught suckin' eggs; it never left ya. I remember cold frosty morns out on the front stoop, snugglin' up tight to keep warm and her black hair a shinnin' in the early mornin’ sun. Them beautiful brown eyes sparklin' way down to her very soul. I could always a tell what she was a thinkin' without neither of us sayin' a thing. She'ld lean over and put her cold, wet nose in my ear and give me a lick. Man, I loved that dog!
Yeah, it was right after that ol' she bear crushed the life outa her that that skinny preacher came to the cabin the first time a totin' that there pup on a string. He'ld heard in town I was low and I reckon he thought it was a good time to start off his Pack-a-Pew campaign. If’n he could get us Perry's, that's me and ma and the eight youngin', to church it sho' would make folks think he was a doin' his job. That there fellar surprised me though. The whole time he was a visitin’, he never onced mentioned my showin' up to services. No Sir, in fact, what he did and said kinda took me off guard just like huntin' for turkey with a scatter gun and comin' up on the biggest buck ever. I just wasn't prepared. Now like I was a sayin', that there preacher came a strollin' up that day like I said with that there pup on a string.
"Oscar," he said, "just came by to offer my regrets for your loss. Name's Eljin. I'm the new preacher down in the valley. Figured it was time I got up here and met you and your'n."
There it was! I knew he's a settin' me up to fill that there front row with all us Perry's, but like I said afore as much as I had suspicion he never onced mentioned it.
"Oscar, I hear you and Mary Lou got you a fine brood of youngins’, all of them with Biblical names."
"Yes Sir, that's a fact, preacher. It weren't my first thought to name them that a way, but Mary Lou had her heart a set on it, so I went to pickin' names right out of the big book. We got Matt, he's the oldest, then there's Mark, Luke, and Johnny. Course the girls is Ruth and Ester. We thought that was the end, but last spring we had the twins, First and Second Samuel. I just hope it ain't in the good Lord's humor for us to use all sixty-six names, might be a strain on Mary Lou."
"Well," said the preacher, "it's good to give some thought to the names we place on things. Names has meanin' and they often tell folks what we's like on the inside. You take that there scrawny ol' pup, what you reckon his name is?"
"Well, if’n you was to name him by his looks I'ld say his name is Lester, after ol' Lester Collier down Murphsbourgh way. I swear ol' doc must have dosed off when Lester was bomed and dropped him smack dab on his head. That there fellar is about as useless as a fat rabbit beggin’ for mercy from an ol' she bear just comin' out of a winter's nap."
"Now this might surprise you," said the preacher, "but this here pup's named Romeo."
"Romeo!" I says. "What ever possessed you to name him such a fool name as that?"
"Well, I'll tell ya' how come he'ld to be named Romeo. Now that there pup, why he knows more about lovin' than anyone that I knowed of. I got that there pup from the Westerfield's. They's a trainin' him to spook when revenuers come a lookin' for their works. They'ld take that there pup about four or five hundred yards away from the still and tie him down, then they'ld sneak up on him and beat the fire out of him so's he'ld hollar at the first sound of anyone a comin'. But, the strangest thing would happen at night after they fed him. That there fool pup would just up and crawl in their laps and just lick all over them as if’n nothin' had ever happened. He never seem to hold no grudge or nothin' agin them. That puzzled me, so I asked the good Lord just why it was so. He told me that He made pups like that now and then just to teach folks about lovin' and forgivin'. And, you know, I studied on the matter a little more and you know how folks can just ohh and ahh over a new born pup, but once it's growed they don't pay it no never mind. They just soon kick an ol' dog lying in the way as to goin' around it. Wonder why folks is that away? Wonder how they start out lovin' somethin' so hard and then don't pay it never mind later?"
Well, I stopped that ol' preacher right there and then and said, "Preacher you're a gettin' at somethin', ain't ya?"
"Yeah, reckon I am, Oscar. Always figured comin' up behind somethin' put dinner on the table every time. It's hard to miss when they ain't a lookin' for ya."
"Well, preacher, I just been crepted up on and from what I can tell you're a fixin' to dress me and put me on the table for dinner."
"Oscar, why do you reckon you loved ol’ Sally so hard right up to the time you lost her?"
"Preacher, I reckon it's cause I needed her and I was depended on her too. She help to feed my family and that's important in this part of the woods. It was good knowin' that even when we never saw nothin' we's both content to just be out together lookin' around at what the good Lord made. She always made a fuss over me when ever I'ld come around and I kinda knew she'ld give it her all in any scrap that we got into. Fact is that's exactly what she done. We's a huntin' late one night when an ol' she bear with cubs came up on us. My ol' gun jammed and when that ol' bear come a runnin' at me, Sally just did what was natural for her, she jumped between us. She managed to run that ol' she bear off, but it killed her a doin' it. I sometimes wonder if'n it was cause she was a dog and dogs just do that or if'n it was cause she just plum loved me. Don't reckon I'll ever know for sho', but I'ld like to think it was cause of lovin’.”
"I speck it was cause of lovin', Oscar. Shame folks don't go around lovin' on one another and the good Lord like that. I imagine it would be a whole lot better if'n we did. Now you take the good Lord, Oscar. Why, He done showed us how much He loved us in the good book and yet folks just don't pay Him never no mind. Why, just a simple 'Thank ya kindly' for the sunrise would be enough to bring a tear to His eye knowin' that we was a carin'. Or it could be that we as folks just obligin' one another or maybe a 'Howja' do' now an then. I ain't a sayin' it gotta happen over night, but it's a place to start."
"Preacher, you might as well take me out of the stove 'cause I'm done. I get what you're a talkin' about and I can't quite put my finger on it, but I mossied down a path lately that ain't no one else is on. Not even the good Lord. And, sometimes it's a hard to see down the path; you get to feelin' that you cain't get back no matter what you do."
"Oscar, that's the time that you just have a sit on an ol' log and hollar for the good Lord and let Him come and get you out. Sometimes it's just that easy. Anyhow I was just a thinkin' these things. Well, I got to be a goin' and say, I knowed that this here pup ain't no Sally, but if'n someone was to take the time I reckon it might spook up a rabbit now and then. Why don't I leave this here pup with you? I ain't got no use for it. That is if'n you've a mind to take it on?"
"Yea, well, you’re right about it not bein' much count, but I reckon I'll give it a try."
"Give my best to Mary Lou and the youngins' .I'll be a seein' ya.”
And you know that ol' skinny preacher never onced mentioned us Perry's fillin' a pew. Yes sir, I'll never forgit that day that preacher came by and left that ol' pup. Romeo. "Romeo, Romeo, where are ya' Romeo? Oh, there you are. We'ld better git afore Ma gits ta frettin'. If'n we're late for services won't never you or me hear the end of it. Oh, by the way Lord, mighty purty sunrise. Cain't wait till tommorrow."