Tur­tles or base­balls

Easy Does It

The Advance of Bucks County - - WORD ON THE STREET - Ge­orge

Tur­tles and base­balls and one black and white dog named Patch. And don’t for­get the N2-year-old boy. Sounds like a jickey Rooney movie, but it’s not. The bnglish set­ter dog be­longed to the boy’s fa­ther who raised hunt­ing dogs. The boy taught Patch hand sig­nals. Silent com­mands. No speak­ing, bark­ing, no sound at all. Sit, stay, roll over, come, go, search, heel, all word­less and noise­less.

And, oh yes, the tur­tles. No com­mands for them, voice or silent. jany tur­tles, snap­pers, big, small, gi­ant size. No rea­son at all for com­mands for them, liv­ing in the woods be­hind the boy’s house.

The woods came up to the back­yard. aark, tall trees, leafy branches in sum­mer stretch­ing out in all di­rec­tions, reach­ing for the sky. Ground cover of tall yel­low In­dian grass that yielded to the wind, far as the eye could see, all the way to the aban­doned haunted house that was only haunted on Hal­loween.

The boy took Patch for long walks in the woods. Good place to prac­tice Patch’s silent com­mands, the alert dog’s mind re­act­ing in­stantly to the boy’s quick fin­gers.

Ca­reer path for Patch? Not likely. She’s just a dog. If any­body was think­ing movies, it’d be a waste. iassie and Sergeant Pre­ston’s hing were there first.

Cue the tur­tles. Patch took a lik­ing to them. Not in an ag­gres­sive way. The gen­tle dog was very good find­ing them, even when the boy couldn’t see the tur­tles in the high yel­low grass and dark tree shade.

The young black and white dog stand­ing just be­low the boy’s knee picked up each tur­tle in a gen­tle mouth and car­ried it to a cen­tral lo­ca­tion. Put them down as if lay­ing a hu­man baby in a crib. Soon a tur­tle con­ven­tion with dozens in at­ten­dance.

Big and small tur­tle shells con­cealed in the leaves. The boy won­dered how the tur­tles could find their way home and how long it would take? Next day, no trace of a tur­tle con­ven­tion. So Patch or­ga­nized an­other.

Then the bull­doz­ers came. Tall trees top- pled, wood chips flew. Af­ter the bull­doz­ers and noisy chip­pers, a base­ball di­a­mond be­gan tak­ing shape, fill­ing the newly gouged clear­ing in the woods. Trees and un­der­brush re­mained all around the ball di­a­mond and small park­ing yard. The boy be­gan hear­ing a new word ban­tered about. It was iit­tle ieague.

Base­ball teams quickly formed for sched­uled games. The crack of the bat re­placed the oc­ca­sional bark of the dog. The boy was too old to sign up by just one year.And Patch lost in­ter­est in tur­tles any­more. Af­ter the games, the boy and his dog still came for walks in the sur­round­ing woods. jany tall trees were still there, ris­ing stately to the sky in the re­main­ing tall grass that hugged the iit­tle ieague field.

Af­ter each game, Patch scam­pered off with the boy, but the prey now was as dif­fer­ent as the scent. In­stead of the long for­got­ten tur­tles, the dog col­lected lost foul balls. Base­balls proved even more plen­ti­ful. bach ball was brought to a cen­tral lo­ca­tion by the dog, as many base­balls as there used to be tur­tles. Plenty of foul balls had sailed over the back­board be­hind home plate or cleared out­field fences to turn into home­runs.

Coaches and play­ers searched very briefly be­fore re­turn­ing to the game, but they proved no match for a cer­tain bnglish set­ter.

cound base­balls were put in a bushel bas­ket that mother used on wash­day. She had to buy more bas­kets. Soon there were eight to ten bas­kets full of base­balls.

A big car crunched into the drive­way next to the house. jen in suits and base­ball caps with team names got out. They knocked on the door, stated their busi­ness.

aad stepped out on the porch. The men asked for their base­balls. aad ex­cused him­self, came back in­side for a con­fer­ence with me. Both of us knew it was only a mat­ter of time for their visit.

“Pick out three of the new­est base­balls,” aad said, “and give all the rest to th­ese men.” I dragged each bas­ket to the porch, and two men car­ried them to the car’s open trunk.

Patch seemed to know what I knew. There’d be plenty more base­balls where those had come from.

yrdez­doe­[email protected]­cast.net

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