At least once in every lifetime, a special pet comes into your life. There have been a couple in my lifetime, but the one that took the cake was Ralph. Ralph was just a mutt we got from a neighbor for free. They were glad to get rid of another member of an unexpected litter and we were looking for a puppy. He initially belonged to my son, who was about 9 at the time. But he soon became the favorite of the entire family, and was admired by many. Including the President of the United States.
Ralph was a cute little pup on our farm. He stayed outside in the spring and summer in a wooden doghouse that looked amazingly similar to Snoopy‘s. In the winter, Ralph slept in the farrowing house, which was a well-heated barn which housed the mother pigs and their litters. He learned quickly not to mess with the momma sows, who were quite protective of their piglets. He never really made a good farm dog. We had other dogs before him that could actually herd a group a pigs into submission, back in the days when we had pigs in the pasture field. Ralph was just a good all around pet and he was always there when you needed someone to pet and sometimes when you didn’t.
After a year of being the cute puppy, he discovered the highway that ran in front of our farm and began to chase cars. He stayed down in the ditch that ran along the highway and never went onto the highway. If Ralph was outside and the kids and I left in the car, he ran along side of us until he got to the corner. Then he would turn around and head home and wait for us. He also began to enjoy chasing the semi trucks that traveled the highway. In fact, he seemed to like them better than cars. He would bark and chase the big trucks. When one of our dump trucks or semis entered our driveway, he would run right along side the truck tires and bark and snap at the tires. He got caught up a few times and was run over several times, but always survived to do it again. He became well-known to anyone who drove past our house. Everyone looked for Ralph when they drove past, probably trying to make sure they didn’t run over him, maybe just to see if he had still survived. There were truck drivers that watched for him too. They would blow their big airhorns when they went past, especially if Ralph wasn’t there waiting for the chase.
Don’t get me wrong, we did not condone this car-chasing behavior. We tried every trick in the book to stop Ralph from this dangerous pastime, but he was a bit stubborn and couldn’t be broken. He finally wore us down and we gave up.
Ralph also discovered that he could jump in the back of a pick up truck, and take a ride. He did this several times but once he rode all the way to town with my husband, then jumped out when they were stopped at a stop light. Luckily, h e found his way home (3 miles or so). One summer I was hauling grain to the elevator which was about 2 miles down the road on that same highway. I was driving an old grain truck we had nicknamed “Black Beauty” mainly because it was black but it wasn’t a beauty. It was old and beat up, but it still ran. It had a stick shift on the floor that would go in any number of directions and it took a pretty skilled driver to shift from first gear to second gear, to third….. I finally mastered it and was immediately “hired” to haul grain.
One afternoon Ralph decided to chase Black Beauty and me to the elevator. When Ralph chased vehicles, he would eventually give up and turn around, because the vehicle sped up to the point that he couldn’t keep up anymore. Not so with Black Beauty, She did not have a high gear. Top speed she could go maybe 40. But not with a load of grain on the back. So as Black Beauty and I made our way to the grain elevator, Ralph trotted alongside the entire way. When we got to the elevator, there was a line of trucks waiting their turn to unload their grain so I took my place in line, jumped out, and got Ralph to jump up in the cab of the truck with me. I figured he would be safer there. There were deep pits where the grain was unloaded and a dog running around loose was just not a good idea.
When it was our turn to unload the grain, Ralph and I pulled Black Beauty on to the lift, put her in gear so she wouldn’t roll, and shut her off. I got out of the truck to stand off to the side while the grain truck was tilted upward, and the grain rolled out the small door in the back of the truck into the pit. I thought it would be better to leave Ralph in the truck because I had no leash or collar to control him. So I stood there watching Ralph sit in the driver’s seat and watch out the window as the truck tilted upwards, praying that he wouldn’t decide to jump out. He didn’t. After the truck was emptied and weighed out, we headed for home.
(to be continued)