Not So Youthful Exuberance

by Curt Kovener

Charley the office watchdog had an invigorating moment Saturday morning. You’ll remember that it was in the 30’s for the first time this season and there was some scattered frost.
But perhaps I should provide you with some background first.
The cooler temperatures and occasional wind gusts of October have been bringing to earth the hickory nuts growing in my secret woods. (For those who want to know where it is located, you tell me where you find mushrooms and I will give up the mother lode of jumbo hickory nuts year in and year out.)
I have brought several buckets of hulled hickory nuts out of the woods for drying and shelling for holiday pies, cookies and breads.
A by-product of the shelled nuts is that sometimes a fat little white grub worm chews its way out of the nut and squirms around on the floor. To prevent their escape, I have been putting potato sacks of hulled nuts in metal pie tins to contain the little rascals.
I have watched one chew its way to freedom and birth itself to the outside world. In doing so I have thought “How can a creature chew through the harder than wood encasement of a hickory nut shell and not inflict a painful bite when I pick them up?” Just another wonder of nature, I suppose.
The late “Bayou Bill” Scifres would use the little grubs as bait for ice fishing. I just use them for a treat for the larger than usual bluegill in the pond.
So Saturday morning as the sun making brilliant the fall color of the trees, the fog rising from the pond and able to see our breath as we exhaled, Charley and I headed for the dock to provide a light breakfast to the bluegill.
I often feed the fish a floating fish chow which Charley likes to eat as well. (Of course as I have written, Charley eats everything he even thinks resembles food…and some that definitely is not.)
I stomped on the wooden dock to attract the fish and tossed a grub into the water to see if the fish were around.
Charley saw me toss the want-to-be insect into the water and thought it was the floating fish food. He started his happy dance hoping I would give him some of the treat but his moonwalk started too close to the edge of the dock. In his exuberance, his right rear leg slipped off the dock. With the law of gravity kicking in, the flabby labby couldn’t hold himself upright and the left rear leg began trying to stand on air.
Then, just like in the movies, the slow motion camera began rolling. He curled his front toes as he tried to claw the wooden dock to prevent the inevitable. He looked up at me as if to say “Don’t just stand there, save me.” And I thought about lending a hand but he is a 90-pound Lab and my back and center of gravity told me he got himself into this and he would get himself out.
If you remember that scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” where Butch and Sundance, attempting to evade the Pinkerton Posse, jump from a high rocky cliff to a river far below with a long drawn out (a word that sounds like spit)!
That’s what I heard Charley say in his facial expression as his claws gave out and he, with a loud “ker-splush”, went butt first into 12-feet of chilly pond water.
I watched as the dog completely vanished from sight. I hoped Charley knew which way was up. (Though I confess, I have been around friends who after too much to drink can’t find up.) While it seemed like a long time in that slow motion mode, like a bluegill rising up to get a bit of fish food, I saw my yellow lab dog paddling (what other kind of stroke do they have) up from the abyss.
When his head broke the surface he snorted and seemed rather miffed at me as his swam to the shore…like I should have not allowed any of that to happen.
As soon as he made it to shore, he quickly shook off and headed to the nearby woods where he immediately hunkered and took a dump.
I guess the experience did scare it out of him.
I laughed at him the entire time I was toweling him off. With a final shake, he sent a spray of pond water in my face undoubtedly to let me know he did not like being the punch line of a joke.