Saturday, May 3, 2014

Me and Junior

by Pa Rock
Gentleman Farmer

When I left the Arizona desert and arrived at my little farm in the Ozarks, I did so with intentions of very gradually building up a livestock presence on these ten peaceful acres.  I knew that I would need to get the chicken coop cleaned out quickly and make it ready for some chicks - if I wanted to have farm fresh eggs by this fall.  That has been accomplished, and though I ordered extra chicks with the realistic expectation that some would perish to predators and natural causes, that hasn't happened.  So far, nearly two weeks later, all are still present and accounted for - so I may be in the egg business in a really big way by this September!

The other thing that I wanted to accomplish early on was to acquire a farm dog.  I didn't necessarily want a puppy, and I absolutely was not in the market for anything with a pedigree.  My dog was going to be as coarse and common as his master.

I suspected that I would acquire this dog one day when he just happened to come ambling down the lane, and it looks like that is happening.

I had been here just a couple of days when a fairly big black-and-white mongrel came trotting across the back yard - and Junior was suddenly a part of my life.  He didn't like me at first, and I have come to learn through observation that he doesn't like anyone when he first meets them.  Junior is very stand-offish with strangers.  But he slowly stepped forward, gave me a good sniff, and apparently decided that I could stay on his land.

Junior didn't hang around too much at first.  He roamed up and down the countryside, with reports reaching me that he was seen several miles in each direction of my house.  Although Junior likes to lope cross-country, he is wise to the ways of the road and looks both ways before crossing the fairly busy lane in front of my house.

One evening the neighbor walked Junior over to my place and said that he figured the dog must be mine because he showed up about the same time that I arrived at my new home.

Nope, I told the neighbor.  He's not mine.

But Junior didn't get the memo.  He began showing up more regularly.  On the days when I had scraps, I would share - but Junior never begged for food.   If food was there, he would eat - otherwise he would lay on the porch, usually right up next to the door, and snooze.

Now Junior drops by about every other day.  He was here yesterday morning and did not leave until late in the evening.  Today he hasn't come by, but I am not concerned.    He will likely be back in time for tomorrow morning's breakfast scraps.

Junior has no collar, but I suspect that he has another "for real" home from which he is gradually distancing himself - physically and psychologically.  He seems to like it here, and will sleep right at my feet when I sit on the front porch and read.  A dog could have a worse life.

I decided early on that Junior should have a name, but I struggled in coming up with one that seemed to suit his unique character.  Then earlier this week, while reading the May 2014 issue of True West magazine I came across an article about Steve McQueen filming the movie, Tom Horn, in the Sonora Desert many years ago.  The movie set was just outside of Nogales, Arizona.  McQueen was accompanied by his beloved dog, Junior, who was part shepherd and part collie - and extremely protective of his master.  Junior disappeared during the filming of the movie, and McQueen spent hours walking in the desert looking for him.

Steve McQueen never found his dog, and he was ultimately forced to assume that the coyotes had gotten him.  McQueen's girlfriend reported that was the only time she ever saw the actor cry.

But worry not, Steve.   Junior's legacy lives on in the form of a very street-smart Ozark mutt who is in the process of moving to Pa Rock's Roost - a place where he knows he will be welcome.

And Junior seems to like his name.

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