Travels With Maggie: The Fun is in the Chase
Setting the Scene
A perfect day, high-Sixties, powder-puff clouds, tall grass in the fields, the shadows shrunken, no breeze to speak of . . .
Just a man and his dog, walking down a country road . . .
Won’t you join us?
The grasses grow quickly this time of year, May showers, periodic warm sun, blink and you’ll miss six inches of growth, or so it seems. Thigh-high, they are, almost completely concealing Maggie once she leaves the road and enters them. All I can see is the tip of her tail rising above the swaying stalks and a change in the conformity of it all as she plows ahead, a four-legged John Deere, nose to the ground, in search of who knows what? Perhaps the goal is simply in the journey.
And off She Goes
Like a scud missile, heat-seeking, senses on full alert, her target just ahead, Maggie at full-speed, bounding now, not running, more hump than streak, and I can’t see a damned thing, no clue why my dog is so obsessed with whatever until I catch up with her and see the object of her attention . . .
A baby rabbit, no bigger than my fist, where her mother is I do not know, but there it is, sitting in the grasses, Maggie looming above it, nose to nose, no aggression from my Maggie girl, that’s just not her style. The chase is over, the object discovered, and now that glorious moment when disparate animals find common ground and once again show we humans what compassion is all about . . . Maggie licks the bunny, looks at me, and I swear to the gods my dog is smiling.
I’ve seen her do it before, with chickens, with baby goats, and with mice. The thrill is in the chase for Maggie. There is no aggression to be found, and once the chase ends she is content to study, contact, gather information, and be done with it.
Tobias Isn’t Ready Yet
Maggie’s brother, Tobias, stays at home where Maggie trains him at her leisure. When he has learned the lessons he must learn we will take him with us to the farm and he can run free and experience the distinct thrill of the chase, but not yet. He is still too uncoordinated. He is still a bit too wild in his desire to play with anything that moves, and I fear his “puppy zoomies” might injure some animal by accident. But his time is coming!
It’s fascinating watching Maggie teach her wild brother. In truth practically everything that Maggie does is a lesson for her brother, and isn’t that true of us all, parents and friends, sisters and brothers, we are all teaching each other with our actions and with our words, a constant exchange between us all. Bev taught me I was lovable without ever saying those exact words. I taught kids they had value, in the classroom and out, and my parents taught me the proper way to be a loving man. It’s been going on for thousands of years, this sharing of information, and this teaching, and on this day, watching Maggie teach me about compassion, it continues.
I find great comfort in the fact that I am willing to learn from my Maggie girl.
I’ve had people tell me that I appear grumpy. I’ve been called a curmudgeon. In truth I’m none of those things, but evidently that’s the message I send by being a tight-lipped introvert. Something to think about: what message do I want to send to others? If I truly want to send a message of love, compassion, and empathy, perhaps I need to work on the signals I’m sending.
There's always something to work on, isn't there?
Memories From Long Ago
Growing up in a very nice urban neighborhood, the Fifties, home, mom, and apple pie sort of existence, friends one and all except for one man, Mister Henry Streitz, directly across the street from our home, the meanest man I’ve ever known. All through my childhood I never heard a kind word from that man. If our baseball rolled into his yard he would take the ball and keep it. If we laughed too loud during playtime, he would come outside and scream at us to be quiet. Neighborhood block parties were joyous affairs, but Streitz was a no-show, and once he called the police because the festivities were disturbing his peace.
My dad died on a cold January night, 1969. Sorrow descended on the neighborhood, for my father was loved by all, except by Streitz. The funeral came and went, meals appeared on our porch, concerned friends doing what friends do, and time slowly moved on. One night, about a week after the funeral, there was a knock on our door. I answered and there, before me, was Mister Henry Streitz.
“Your father was a good man, and I’m sorry for your loss,” he said, and then he was gone. They were the only words I would hear that man say until his own death a decade later.
The messages we send . . . the lessons we pass on to others . . .
Back to the Dogs
So I watch my Maggie girl teach her younger brother, and I smile as I do so. There is simplicity in their daily interchanges. Maggie is much bigger, and she plays hard with her sibling, but never too hard. Tobias is rambunctious, and can be overbearing, but Maggie patiently endures it all until a line is crossed and then a correction is issued swiftly and with conviction . . . but there is no anger in the correction, only dog love, and I find that comforting as well.
On this particular day our time at the farm is coming to an end. Maggie says goodbye to the baby rabbit, albeit reluctantly. She herds a few peacocks and Guinea Hens out of Chicken Town, firmly but without aggression. Birds sing their songs from the fir trees, a sweet melody made sweeter by the warming temperatures and gentle breeze. The horses wander over, wondering if I have a treat for them, and Maggie looks up at them, tail wagging. I can hear baby goats calling for their mothers in the distance.
I was born for this. Not necessarily the actual farm, but the sense of belonging and the comfortable embrace of serenity. It’s something I struggled to find for many years, but now that I’ve found it there is no way I will abandon it. Maggie struggles not one bit. She has only known serenity since her birth. She is an integral part of this life, of her world, and she instinctively knows what that “part” is. I envy her that and yet I celebrate for her.
Words from my dad echo in my head as we hop in the truck for the ride home. “Never give up ground won, Billy Boy. Never retreat. You’ve fought hard for what you have, so hold on tight to it.”
I finally understand those words, Dad. Life has been a struggle at times, I won't lie, but those words would not allow me to quit.
You are always welcome to join us on our walks. Maggie and me, we love the company, so put on your walking shoes and head on out to the farm next week.
2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)