Monday, August 16, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Come a little closer, sit at my paws.  I have a story to tell.  This is a story about my great great great great great great great great grandfather Ranger Festus Moss.  I have been told it is very close to the life of Buck in the great novel by Jack London "Call of the Wild".

Did you know I can read?  It is true.

Once upon a time there lived a handsome dog that answered to the name of Ranger.

Ranger did not read the newspapers that day, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every dog, strong of muscle and long in endurance from Puget Sound to San Diego.

Because men, groping in the Montana mountains, had found a rare sheep that outwitted every dog who confronted them to date. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were brilliant dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.

They wanted Ranger...

Can you believe that? They wanted Grandpa Ranger!

Ranger lived at a big house in the fertile Orting Valley. The Judge's place, it was called. It stood on the banks of the Carbon River half-hidden among the trees. The house was approached by graveled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall oaks.  There were great stables,  long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches.

And over this great demesne Ranger ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs.  They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Bonnie, the princess, or Beth, the high strung neurotic couch potato, strange creatures.

He had to live with B girls too! 

Ranger was neither house dog nor kennel dog. The whole realm was his. He plunged into the river or went hunting with the Judge's sons; on wintry nights he lay at the Judge's feet before the roaring library fire; he rolled with the Judges grandsons in the soft grass and guarded their footsteps through wild adventures  to the paddocks  and the berry patches.  Beth and Bonnie he utterly ignored, for he was king--king over all creeping, crawling, flying things of the Judge's place, humans included.

His father, Elmo, a huge Border Collie, had been the Judge's inseparable companion, and Ranger bid fair to follow in the way of his father. He was not so large--he weighed only fifty two pounds--for his mother, She, had been a small Scotch shepherd dog. Nevertheless, fifty two pounds, to which was added the dignity that comes of good living and universal respect, enabled him to carry himself in right royal fashion. During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat.  But he had saved himself by not becoming a mere pampered house dog. Hunting  had kept down the fat and hardened his muscles.

See, I told you I was descended from royalty!

And this was the manner of dog Ranger was in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North.  Those men needed food to eat.  The ranchers in Montana needed dogs to move the sheep and cattle.  One particular type of sheep was causing strife, deaths, and havoc in the Blue Mountains.  They had already struck down all dogs sent to bring them back.  These nefarious men where resorting to stealing dogs from all over.  Powerful dogs able to stand up to the demon sheep.  Thus was a fate awaiting Ranger, unbeknown to him.  

Since Ranger did not read the newspapers, and he did not know that Mortimer, one of the gardener's helpers, was an undesirable acquaintance. Mortimer had one vile sin. He loved to play Washington lottery. Also, in his gambling, he had one vile weakness--faith in a system; and this made his damnation certain. For to play a system requires money, while the wages of a gardener's helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerous progeny.

The Judge was at a meeting of the Hops Growers' Association on the memorable night of Mortimer's treachery. No one saw him and Ranger go off through the orchard on what Ranger imagined was merely a stroll. And with the exception of a solitary man, no one saw them arrive at Sumner Station. Another man talked with Mortimer, and money rustled between them.

"You might secure the goods before you deliver them," the stranger said gruffly, and Mortimer doubled a piece of stout rope around Ranger's neck under the collar.

"Twist it, and you'll choke him plenty," said Mortimer, and the stranger grunted a ready affirmative.
Ranger had accepted the rope with quiet dignity.  To his surprise the rope tightened around his neck, shutting off his breath. In a quick rage he sprang at the man, who met him halfway, grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist threw him over on his back.  Never in all his life had he been so vilely treated, and never in all his life had he been so angry. But his strength ebbed, his eyes glazed, and he knew nothing when the train was flagged and the two men threw him into the baggage car.

The next he knew, he was dimly aware that his tongue was hurting and that \he was being jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling a crossing told him where he was.  He opened his eyes, and into them came the unbridled anger of a kidnapped king. The man sprang for his throat, but Ranger was too quick for him. His jaws closed on the hand, nor did they relax till his senses were choked out of him once more.

Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from throat and tongue, with the life half throttled out of him, Ranger attempted to face his tormentors. But he was thrown down and choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing the heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then the rope was removed, and he was flung into a cage-like crate.

This story is SCARY!

Ranger was glad for one thing: the rope was off his neck. That had given them an unfair advantage; but now that it was off, he would show them. They would never get another rope around his neck. Upon that he was resolved. For two days and nights he neither ate nor drank, and during those two days and nights of torment, he accumulated a fund of wrath that boded ill for whoever first fell foul of him. His eyes turned bloodshot, and he was metamorphosed into a raging fiend. So changed was he that the Judge himself would not have recognized him; and the express messengers breathed with relief when they bundled him off the train at Seattle.

Four men gingerly carried the crate from the wagon into a small, high-walled back yard. A stout man, with a red sweater that sagged generously at the neck, came out and signed the book for the driver. That was the man, Ranger divined, the next tormentor, and he hurled himself savagely against the bars. The man smiled grimly.

Ranger knew then his life was forever changed.  

Poor Great Grandpa Ranger. 

In the months that ensued, Ranger's development (or retrogression) was rapid. His muscles became hard as iron, and he grew callous to all ordinary pain. He achieved an internal as well as external economy. He could eat anything, no matter how loathsome or indigestible; and, once eaten, the juices of his stomach extracted the last least particle of nutriment; and his blood carried it to the farthest reaches of his body, building it into the toughest and stoutest of tissues. Sight and scent became remarkably keen, while his hearing developed such acuteness that in his sleep he heard the faintest sound and knew whether it heralded peace or peril.

And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. It was no task for him to learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life within him, and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks. They came to him without effort or discovery, as though they had been his always. And when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolf-like, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. And his cadences were their cadences, the cadences which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stillness, and the cold, and dark.

Thus, as token of what a puppet thing life is, the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again; and he came because men had found a wild sheep in the Mountains.

One day he would stand up to those evil sheep, one day his fate would put him between a rouge sheep and a boy.  A boy that knew deep within the wild thing standing before him was a dog, a dog of character and great heart. 

End of Chapter 1

Can you imagine such a life?  
We are fortunate to have families that love us so much. Reading about how difficult it was for those who came before us, makes you realize how lucky we are today.  
Thank you Great Grandpa Ranger. 

Now, a nap.  My eyes hurt ...maybe I need glasses?


Lean said...

wauw Ranger what a story yes you are happy dog with a warm nest ...i dont know about your granny.
byebye,Lean ps smart dog you can read!!!!

julie said...

Wonderful wonderful wonderful story. Of course the fact that I love the Call of the Wild, ever since I was 10y old (though I could only read it in Dutch back then), and awesome Ranger pics that make me melt must have something to do with it. :)

Looking forward to chapter 2! ;)

An English Shepherd said...

Great tail :-)


PS great pics

Pat A said...

Ranger, what a great story teller you are. Can't wait for the next chapter.