As a child, I only had one dog; his name was Butch. My brother-in-law, Cecil, gave him to us. He was a German police dog, or that was what I was told. I think I loved that dog more than I loved my sister Margie. I don’t know why Cecil gave him to us, but I was as happy as a clam when Butch came to live with us.
Cecil had been in the Army during the war. He was married to my oldest sister, Jean. I always liked him very much, but after he gave me the dog, I really liked him. We had a cat, too, a solid black cat. His name was Tom, of course. Well, he was a tomcat, after all. The cat was of no interest to me, but my sister liked him. But, when we got Butch, I knew what love was.
One summer day, Margie and I decided to go to Lincoln Park to the zoo. We made bologna and mustard sandwiches and filled a thermos with water, and off we went. My brother was supposed to be watching us, but that dummy never knew what we were doing. We just left, and he had no idea that we were gone. I put Butch in the house so he could not follow us.
We walked out to Lincoln Park in about thirty minutes. We were hungry, so we sat down at one of the picnic tables and ate our sandwiches. When we were finished, we pestered the golfers on the golf course a while. They would hit their balls, and we would see where the went and get them. They would be looking all over for them. We would hide in a shallow creek that ran through the course where they could not see us. For some reason, we really got a laugh out of them getting so mad because they could not find their balls.
We soon grew tired of that and walked around the zoo. It was not a very big zoo, so we could walk around it in about an hour or so, depending on what grabbed our interest. When we were worn out from walking, we decided we better get home. We had been gone for about three hours, and we figured that Junior had missed us by then and would tell Mother where we went. We really weren’t allowed to walk all the way to the zoo, but we did it anyhow.
Margie said, “I bet we are in trouble again, Ruthie, and it is all your fault.”
“My fault?” I said. “Why is it my fault?”
“Well, this was your idea, so it is your fault.”
“Well, you didn’t have to come, you know. You could have stayed home with the big dummy!”
“Well, I am going to tell Mother that it was your idea. She knows how you are.”
“Margie, I just hate you sometimes!”
It was hot summer in Oklahoma, and when I got mad, I got even hotter. We finally reached the path that cut across the field to our house. When I could see our house, I said, “Let’s run so we will get home faster.”
“No,” Margie said. “It’s too hot run.”
I started to run anyhow and left her behind. I could see something lying in the path ahead. I kept trying to figure out what it was. The closer I got, the more it looked like a dog. I looked like Butch.
I ran faster so I could see better. It was Butch. I thought he was just lying there and waiting for me and Margie. When I got to where he was, I got down on the ground and put my hand on him.
“Come on, Butch. Get up. Let’s go home.”
I tried to pick him up, but he wouldn’t move. That’s when I realized that Butch was dead. By then, Margie had caught up with me.
“What’s wrong with him, Ruthie?” Margie asked.
“He’s dead, Margie! He’s dead!” By then I was crying, and so was Margie.
“Go get, Junior, to help us carry him to the house,” I said to Margie.
Butch must have weighed forty or fifty pounds, but I picked him up and was carrying him home. I was crying my eyes out.
“He just can’t be dead,” I kept saying to myself. “He is my best friend. Why did I go to the park? I should have stayed home and taken care of him.”
I could see Junior coming. He ran up to me and said, “Let me carry him, Ruthie.”
He took him out of my arms, and I ran to the house as fast as I could to call my mother. I dialed her number at work. When she got on the phone, I was crying so hard that she didn’t know what I was saying.
“Put your brother on the phone,” she said.
Junior got on the phone and told her what was wrong. She told him she couldn’t come home right then.
“Where’d you put Butch?” I asked Junior.
“I laid him in the shade beside the house, Ruthie.”
I went outside and sat down beside him. I just could not believe Butch was dead. What happened to him? I was on the side of the house where my mother had morning glory vines covering the fence. I heard someone talking on the other side of the fence. It was Leroy and Lyndale.
“I guess we took care of that dog. He won’t be barking at us when we go by anymore,” Leroy said. “That poison Dad had in the shed worked good on that meat. He ate it before he tasted it.”
I ran around the fence and started screaming at them. Junior came out of the house and asked, “What’s going on out here?”
“They did it, Junior! They poisoned Butch! I heard them talking about it!”
Leroy said, “She’s crazy! We didn’t do nothin’ to her dog!”
“Yes, the did, Junior! I heard them talking! They didn’t know I was behind the fence!”
Junior said, “Go on in the house, Ruthie. Dad will take care of this when he gets home.”
I didn’t want to leave my dog, but there was nothing I could do. So, I just looked at Leroy and flew into him like I did my brother. I started hitting him and pulling his hair. I kicked him in the shins, too.
Junior grabbed me and said, “Ruthie, stop that now and go in the house!”
I thought my daddy would never get home. I wanted him to get those two boys and give them a good whipping for what they did. He finally got home, and so did my mother. I had cried all afternoon, and I was cried out. At that point, I was just mad.
Daddy set me down and said, “Ruthie, what did you hear Leroy and Lyndale say?”
“I was sitting with Butch beside the house, Daddy, and I heard them talking and saying that they took care of that dog with poison their daddy had in the shed. I went to the other side of the fence, and there they were. Daddy, they didn’t know I was there, but I heard them say that they killed Butch.”
Daddy looked at me and said, “Ruthie, you stay here now. I am going to talk to their daddy about this.” He looked at me. “I mean it, Ruthie. You stay here. I better not see you ’til I get back home.”
“I promise. I’ll stay here.”
He was gone quite a while. When he got back, he said, “Their daddy gave them both a good whipping. Now, he said, let’s go bury Butch.”
We dug a deep hole on the shady side of the house, and we gave him a funeral. All of us attended, Mother and Daddy, my brother Junior, my sister Margie, and me. We all cried because we loved Butch. He was a good dog.
A few days later, I heard Leroy and Lyndale walking down the path beside the house. They couldn’t see me because of the morning glory vines on the fence. The trash barrel was next to the fence, and I picked up a tin can that still had the lid on it. The lid was sharp on the edges. I just threw it over the fence, and I got lucky and hit Leroy in the head. He was bleeding from his head, and that night his mother came over and told my mother what I did.
Mother looked at me and asked, “Did you do that, Ruthie?”
I said, “No, ma’am, I did not. I sure did not, Mother. I don’t know who did it.”
Tom, our black cat and Butch were good friends. The always ate and slept together. Tom left after Butch died and was gone for about a year. He came back one day to see if the dog was there; I guess. When he saw he wasn’t, he left again that night, and we never saw him again. So, there you have it, another day in the life of little Ruthie.