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Travels with Maggie: Recognizing Limitations

Updated on May 16, 2019

Just a man and his dog, walking down a country road.

Here’s something Maggie and I have in common: we both dislike hot weather.

I mention that because we are currently having record-high temperatures this week in May in usually mild Olympia, and neither man nor dog are too happy about it. The area where we raise the chickens is tree-less, meaning no shade, meaning grumpy man and dog as the afternoon feedings occur.

Now grumpy is a relative term. My “grumpy” might be considered light-hearted to a complete ass. On the other hand, my “grumpy” would seem to be a product from hell for Mother Theresa, so there you go. And Maggie? I’m not sure what “grumpy” is to a dog, but I’m foregoing logic and stating to all, here and now, that Maggie is not her normal “care-free” as the temps soar into the high Eighties. To her credit, she gives her best effort while herding, and she is willing to suspend logic and head on down the road with me for our walk, but her tail is down and her steps sluggish, so she’s not fooling me one bit.

A dog named Maggie
A dog named Maggie

Dogs “get It”

Maggie does what I ask of her, in hot weather, out of loyalty. If left to her own system of logic, when the temps soar she would find the coolest shade around and camp out there until I finished my choirs. That’s what dogs do. That’s what dogs have always done. During the dog days of summer, dogs can be found under the porch, or under a maple tree, or under just about any damned thing which provides relief. Meanwhile, man is out there sweating his balls off, trying to accomplish something for God only knows what purpose.

You tell me which animal is smarter.

We were in the hay barn the other day, looking for eggs because, well, the chickens love to hide their eggs on the hottest days, miserable little fowl that they are. And in the barn the hay bales are staggered around, no conformity at all, the product of different people grabbing the nearest bale, or the one easiest to dislodge, so that it looks like a giant incomplete Lego creation. Searching for eggs means climbing around on the bales, looking for solid footing, and hoping you don’t come tumbling down with ten loose bales.

Mind you, I’m seventy years old. I really shouldn’t be climbing around on those precarious bales. One false-step and I’m looking at a broken ankle and a cast because, well bones get brittle in time, but still I’m climbing around in search of eggs, ignoring the obvious. Maggie, on the other hand, will only go so far and then she forsakes the hunt for logic. She eventually turns around, returns to the bottom of the hay stack, and waits for me to return, intact or broken.

You tell me which animal is smarter.

Truth be known, I’ve always been like that. I have always taken risks. I have always forsaken logic and found a need to reach for a higher ledge, to go faster than my machinery was built for, or to crash into fences when going around them would be prudent. It’s how I’m wired, and it is an absolute miracle that I have never had a broken bone or suffered any serious injury. I’m not a fool . . . I know my time is coming . . . I know that Fate patiently awaits the actions of a fool . . . but where is the fun in caution? And when I was drinking? Oh Lordy! How did I survive the crazy-assed stuff I did then?

Maggie is having none of that. If I am standing on the top of that hay bale stack, calling her to join me, she will take a few tentative steps and then return to terra firma, as if to say “I’ll be down here, Bill, to assist you when you do your Humpty Dumpty routine.”

Blame the Biological Family

I recently found out about my biological family. Quite a group they were. My biological mother died of liver disease in her forties (can we assume chronic alcoholic?); one of my brothers died in a motorcycle crash; my biological father died a con man in prison; and yet another brother died young in a knife fight. It would appear I come from some rather unsettled DNA. Lol

But without that information I had to learn, over time, that taking risks does not make a man, and ignoring common sense can have serious repercussions. I had to learn the hard way, at times, but the hard way eventually softened me and allowed me to grow.

Somehow Maggie understands all of that instinctively.

Only the strong survive? Don't count on it!
Only the strong survive? Don't count on it!

Understanding the Forest

On our walk yesterday, under perfect powder-puff skies, I was looking at the surrounding woods. There were quite a few dead trees within those thick stands, and reflection overtook me. Why did those trees die? I suspect they starved. I suspect they lacked the necessary nutrients in that packed area, and I suspect the over-crowding simply claimed a number of them. The phrase “only the strong survive” came to mind as I was walking, but then I saw a tall, healthy Douglas Fir, a good hundred feet in height, maybe one-fifty,the tallest of the bunch, full branches, healthy limbs, shattered and splintered at the top twenty feet, a victim of a lightning strike, the telltale burn marks on the bark.

And I thought that even the strong . . . even the mighty . . . will eventually fall from grace, for Nature has no favorites and all must live, and die, eventually, according to the same rules of randomness.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor there, hidden deeply, for those willing to search.

Me and Maggie, though, we are just content to walk our walk.

Another Walk Comes to an End

I made it back to the farm without breaking any bones, a win for me, and Maggie made it back with more valuable information she can call upon in the future. We grow closer on these walks, Maggie girl and me, and I value them for that reason. Our bond strengthens, as does our love for each other, and that fills me with happiness. I can’t do a damned thing about my biological family and the “gifts” they left me, but I can continue to take positive steps leading to a contented life ahead. I think I’ll do just that. I’m sorry my biological family, my mother, father, and brothers, did not make that same choice.

The wind picked up as we walked the last thirty feet. Maggie stopped, nose to the air, and filled herself with impressions, looking beautiful in that moment, a picture of youth learning on the fly, a reminder for me of days in fading photographs, the wind in my hair, running free, no cares, no worries, an endless landscape before me, just hoping against hope that lightning wouldn’t hit me, clinging desperately to grace.

What are you doing next week? Maggie and I would love to have you join us on one of our walks. The only thing we ask of you is silent contemplation while we walk. Words are not necessary among friends. Love will provide all the communication needed. We’re easy to find, Maggie and me, just a man and his dog, walking down a country road.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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