An­i­mal Tales

My best present ever was black, white, fluffy and friendly.


Acou­ple of weeks be­fore Christ­mas in 1938 or 1939, my fam­ily was in­vited to our neigh­bors’ house for din­ner. Af­ter we fin­ished eat­ing, the fa­ther asked if I would like to go down to the base­ment to see their pup­pies. They had four or five re­ally nice black-and-white bor­der col­lies— they were so cute! One that was just a bit smaller than the oth­ers re­ally took to me. When I asked his sons how much the pup­pies were be­ing sold for, the re­sponse was $5 each. I went home that night and counted my sav­ings; the to­tal was ex­actly 54 cents. I of­fered to do ex­tra chores, but I was al­ready fill­ing the wood box and mak­ing sure cob bas­kets were full be­fore dark. It just wasn’t pos­si­ble to earn enough. Ev­ery time I asked over the next sev­eral days, the neigh­bor boys re­ported that the pups were sell­ing fast. So I put that lit­tle dog out of my mind as best I could. Christ­mas Eve dawned bright and clear, and a cold wind car­ried sounds a long way over the snow. We heard the sleigh bells com­ing down our road be­fore we saw them. A pair of large dap­ple-gray workhorses were hitched to a bob­sled, with our neigh­bor hold­ing the lines. The har­ness was clean and per­fectly fit­ted. The big hip bells rang out deeply, and the smaller belly bells chimed in with a beau­ti­ful higher-pitched tone. Our neigh­bor ma­neu­vered the horse-drawn sled to the walk­way in front of my house, climbed down and handed two boxes to my mother. His wife had sent over some food and a few other things for Christ­mas. Just as he turned to go, he reached back in the bob­sled and handed me a box tied with bin­der twine. I heard a whim­per. One of my broth­ers pro­duced a pock­etknife to open the box; out popped my lit­tle dog! I’ll never for­get the sound of the bells as the horses made their way down the hill, back to their farm. How my mother came up with the money, I’ll never know. On Christ­mas morn­ing, she found me fast asleep on the couch with my lit­tle dog. Lassie and I chummed around to­gether on lots of ad­ven­tures— I even taught her to sit in front of me on my sled when we went coast­ing. Many years later, I had to say good­bye to Lassie. It was a cold win­ter day, much like when I first met her.

A sweet sur­prise awaited me on Christ­mas Eve.

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