by Ruth Hammond Barrus

Back Up Next

"In town, Alma, he is a mischievous, destructive pup. He makes lace out of the neighbors' rubbers, tears to shreds their newspapers, and playfully pulls any clothes within reach off their lines. My neighbors are negatively impressed by his antics and have requested that I get rid of him. He is a good breed of dog - half St. Bernard and half Newfoundland, is friendly and intelligent. Now I feel that if he could be on a farm until he gets over this mischievous age he could come back into town and behave himself. Would you be willing to let him stay here until that time?"

The young, brownish-yellow pup, as large then as most full-grown dogs, awkwardly lay at his master's feet and gazed sadly up at his face, silently voicing objection to the suggestion. Dr. Boynton refused to look down at the dog, and firmly continued his speaking, more to convince himself than to persuade Alma Hale; for he knew Alma would never refuse lodging or board to any man or animal.

"You folks have to leave Sarah and Rachel alone a lot, and I feel you need a good watchdog. The railroad in back of your place and the road in front bring so many tramps to your home."

"Dr. Boynton," interrupted Alma, "it will be a pleasure to take the pup. We have need for a good dog."

Alma could never call his distant cousin anything but Dr. Boynton, whose serious dignified educated manner made abt other bane appear disrespectful,

Alma leaned over to pat the pup's head which was already showing its future massiveness and strength.

"What is its name?"

Dr. Boynton's face colored slightly, and he answered rather apologetically, "Rags."

At the mention of his name, Rags sprang to attention, causing both men to laugh at his ungainly attempts to attract attention and approval.

A few days after the arrival of Rags, the Hale family were forced to change many of their habits. Empty feed sacks had to be hung high in the granary or they would be torn to rags; clothes lines were propped high on swaying poles to preserve precious linens which were trimmed with either wide crocheting or knitting; and mother Hale was constantly watching to keep him out of her prized flower beds. Rags took his scoldings submissively, then merrily forgot them in some new adventure. He wanted to make friends with everyone - - especially did he like the horses; but his slow, ungainly actions around them often caused a flying hoof to send him rolling and yelping. Undaunted, he pursued this awkward friendship with them until they were convinced that he was harmless in spite of his size. He gloried in following the buggy or horseman, and his curiosity often led him astray examining some strange shadow or wild animal. As he outgrew his puppyhood he seemed to have learned all things and was content to follow in a very dignified manner, trotting with his head held very high. Jestingly, they now compared him with his first master, Dr. Boynton, the dignified man who had now relinquished all his claim on the dog in favor of the Hales.

One had to start harnessing the horses and Rags would be there, his eyes eagerly anticipating a trip; but often father Hale would have to say, "Not today, Rags. Mother needs you to take care of her and Rachel while the rest of us are away." Rags' expression would change, his tail would go between his legs, and he would walk mournfully into the house to lie at the foot of the big rocker, his eyes looking sadly up at mother Hale. As the team would drive away, he would give a soft whine of regret. Mother Hale would lean over and pat the big soft head and say encouragingly, "Now Rags, you know you must take care of me and Rachel." He would thump his tail appreciatively. And take care of her he did. Any stranger would have to be a brave man to force his way into the home past that huge animal and his terrifying growls.

Late one frosty winter afternoon a team drove up to the Hale yard, and a blonde-bearded man alighted decisively. Rags was there to greet him, his hair bristling, loudly voicing his objection. The man put his hands on his hips and just as loudly talked back.

"Why you gall-durn mutt! Who do you think you are trying to keep me from my own brother's house? You got no business bein' such a big thing anyway, and you don't scare me one bit!" The twinkling eyes that accompanied the loud words quieted the growls, and Rags' tail began to wag, and the man proceeded toward the house.

The man's words carried into the house above the dog's growls, and immediately the family chorused, "Uncle Aroet!" No one had a voice like Uncle Aroet. At ten it was heard above fife and drum while Aroet was a drummer boy in the Nauvoo Legion for the Prophet Joseph Smith; it was heard above the noise of long wagon trains while crossing the plains; it brought terror to ravaging Indian warriors while Aroet was "minute man" for Brigham Young; it brought gay movement to heavily shod feet on dance floors over the whole Salt Lake Valley as it called dances. Now this voice brought joy to the Hale family, for where Uncle Aroet was, there also was fun! It had also, of all things, quieted Rags!

Uncle Aroet and Aunt Louie were joyously welcomed into the warmth of the Hale home.

The next morning it became apparent to Rags that there would be a trip into town, as he watched father Hale harness the horses to the sleigh. His tail-wagging reached its peak when he was informed that he could go along, as there would be someone to stay with mother.

It was a happy Rags that trotted behind the sleigh that morning, his long legs gingerly stepping in and out of the loose-fallen snow. He was very annoyed, though, at the neighbor's little dog that was barking at him so furiously. He thought, I"ll just ignore him, and maybe he will go away. Rags continued his progress, completely ignoring the annoying animal at his feet. The little dog disliked this treatment and started to nip the larger dog's heels, and jump and bite his ears. By this time, Aroet's interests were aroused, and he turned and viewed with amusement the composure of Rags

Rags by this time was extremely annoyed by the smaller dog's behavior and decided that it must stop. He suddenly halted, grabbed the smaller dog by the nap of the neck like a mother cat her kitten, and shook it long and vigorously. The yelps of the small dog brought Aroet to his feet.

"Thunderation, Alma, stop the team! That big brute's going to kill that little cuss!"

Consternation turned to loud laughter as Aroet watched Rags plunge the small animal deep into the snow and, while holding it with one paw, he brushed with the other paw more loose snow on the writhing object below. After a few moments the snowy animal was released to penitently slink away.

Aroet was still chuckling as they drove into Smithfield where he was to see Rags repeat his performance. When the annoyance of a smaller dog became unbearable, Rags again grabbed the smaller one by the nap of its neck and shook it vigorously. In town there was no loose snow to plunge it in, so Rags stood on it, all four legs projecting inwardly. Aroet's loud laughter and the small dog's cries brought people rushing to the scene. Soon all were laughing. Rags stood there waiting for the fuss to stop.

Aroet, between wiping his laughing tears, colorfully described the justice of Rags to the merry crowd, and that day Rags became a character of note.

"Who would have thought," said one woman, "That that good-for-nothing dog of Dr. Boynton's could ever behave so intelligently."

Back Up Next