I am twelve years old and this is a Monday..a Monday I have looked forward to for so long. Our class in school can attend a portion of the annual Town Meeting and that is something I have always wanted to do. This morning Ma came to me and asked if I would stay home with Dad, as he is not feeling well. She cannot afford to lose time at the mill and I know she hates to ask me. I don’t tell her about missing the Town Meeting and I know I can ask Rex tonight about it and if there were any good arguments.
Every one has gone. Roland has gone to work at Vallee’s store, Ma off to the mill and Rex and Curt climbed on the bus. The house is quiet and Dad is in bed asleep, at least I think he is asleep.
I have read about everything I can find from Ma’s True Story magazine to an old Police Gazette Dad left laying around and it is almost noon. I peek in and Dad is awake, but says he isn’t hungry, but thinks he will try and get up and sit in his Morris chair for awhile as he does feel better. Maybe the sleep did him some good. I have the stove going and there is some water hot for his coffee. Maybe he will want a cup. Sick or not,he usually drinks it.
There is a pawing at the door and I know Keno, our husky, wants to come in. She has been outside all morning and probably wants to come in and see what is happening inside. She loves it when it is cold and sometimes burrows in the snow until all you can see is her tail. The snow is all gone now, except for a patch or two here and there, so she probably is bored….if dogs get bored.
I open the door and the first thing I see is Keno’s face. My legs go weak as I see her face is full of porcupine ( or hedgehog) quills. She never learns and this is not the first time it has happened. Usually we have no problem because she sits while Ma pulls out the quills. She won’t let Dad near her or anyone but Ma when she gets quills. Ma is at work and won’t be home for hours and now she is whining. I don’t know what to do. I run to tell Dad where he sits, fully dressed now, in his chair. Show me, he says. I take him to the front door and Keno is gone. She has gone under the house through a big hole she dug years earlier. In fact, that is where she had her puppies. Dad doesn’t know what to do. I am going for Louie’s rifle, he says. I guess my face looks awful because he says, there is nothing we can do, Muff. If he gets Uncle Louie’s rifle, that means he is going to shoot Keno. He can’t do that. He just can’t. I run into the house and hide my face in some blankets on Curt’s bed.
Dad is back and he has the rifle. I can’t get her out from under the house, Muff. That is what he says. I breath a sigh of relief and then he says, you have to help me. No, I won’t, Dad. This is the first time I have ever disobeyed my father and I know in the end I will have to do what he wants. He tells me to go get a bowl of canned milk and go to the hole and call her and she will come for me. I feel like I am numb all over. This is not fair. I cannot do this. Do you want her to suffer all day, Dad is yelling at me now. I take the bowl of milk and go to the hole and call her softly. In a few minutes, I see her start to come out. I put down the bowl and I run into the house. In what seems a split second, I hear the gun shot. When you live in the woods, a gun shot is not unfamiliar. In another minute, Dad is behind me and puts his arm around me. I had to do it, Muff. He leaves the house and I go upstairs to my bed. No you didn’t, Dad. Right now I do not like my father at all. Tomorrow and the next day maybe I will understand and know he was doing what he had to do and there was no one else to help him. I may understand but I will never forget this day until I die.
***Dog in the picture with me is Keno’s puppy, one of her litter we kept. She, too, was named Keno and lived to be a ripe old age. I was 14 in this picture.