Buddy appeared as unexpectedly as he disappeared. A flash, a flame, and he was gone.
It was a steamy hot, summer day in northern Indiana, the backdrop to all of my childhood memories, when he came into our lives. Tar bubbled up from the road and squished underfoot. Birds sighed in their nests and old men carried around handkerchiefs to wipe off their sweaty foreheads and dripping noses. Everything felt hot, unless we were lounging in a tree or swimming in the “pool.”
The “pool” was actually a large, yellowed plastic container, originally used for farm chemicals with the top cut off. Nobody knew that chemicals absorbed into plastic at that time and if they did, it didn’t matter.
We were the invincible riff-raff. We ran around topless and barefoot, living on red popsicles and white bread baloney sandwiches and only coming in at dark.
Yes, we were those kids, living that life, if you happen to be wondering.
Brains, my brother, and I splashed around in the pool. We zipped back and forth across the plastic container, dodging horseflies and pretending to be otters, when Brains popped up from the water. We heard the same things, yipping and barbed wire banging against a fence post, the rustling and shaking of something big and wild.
“Puney, let’s investigate.”
I nodded at Brains. Investigate was our favorite word for adventuring into an abandoned barn or open garage. We jumped over the brittle, plastic edge of the pool and shook off like little wet dogs.
Like the little wet dogs that we were, we trotted off after the noise. We made it across the hot road, popping tar bubbles with each step and discovered the source. A dog with shiny black fur and white teeth, whimpered for help. Its powerful back legs were twisted up in the barbed wire fence. The more the animal fought, the worse its predicament became.
“Brains, this is bad,” I said.
My little brother nodded, “Let’s get Mom.”
He took off for help, a first responder and action taker from an early age, and returned with a basket of garden tools.
“There’s no time to find Mom. We have to do this now.”
With a pair of wire clippers and four little hands, the dog was liberated from the fence.
“There you go, Buddy. You’re free.”
The dog looked at us with gratitude in its deep, brown eyes. And like that, Buddy was off leaving behind only a ruined barbed wire fence, but that was for the grownups to figure out.