Friday, July 12, 2013

Two Pals on a Hilltop

by Audrey Smith Barclay

The daily trek through the woods to the high, bare pinnacle of rock overlooking the valley was the highlight of the day for nine-year-old Mike and Butch. The two had been inseparable companions ever since the huge, brown-and-white Collie had appeared at the Andersons' back door one rainy October night two years earlier, shivering with cold and half starved. He was little more than a half-grown puppy, but even then his enormous paws gave evidence of his size when he reached maturity.

Boy and dog grew together, each idolizing the other. Mike was an only child so, to him, the big dog had taken the place of another human being; he took him everywhere he went, confided all his secrets--in short, Butch almost assumed the role of Father Confessor. He was always waiting to escort Mike home from school, waiting with teeth and tongue bared in happy anticipation. The short side trip to "their" rock always made the journey home something to look forward to.

Tousle-haired Mike knew, aside from the beauty of the scene spread below them, there were all sorts of interesting things for a little boy and his dog to see. Sometimes a toad, disturbed from its reverie, hopped across the path before them; often a lizard or a terrapin, perhaps a snake, would be sunning itself on the warm rock.

There was one never-to-be-forgotten day they found the odd-looking snake stretched across the path. When gingerly attacked by Butch in an effort to frighten it away, the odd creature began to shrink in length while at the same time it grew broader and flatter. Mike and Butch watched it, bug-eyed, then backed away and left that one in full possession of their hilltop. They never saw the strange snake again.

The view from the big rock never failed to fascinate Mike. He spent hours lying spread-eagled, chin on folded arms, or sitting cross-legged, with an arm around his beloved pal, gazing across the valley. A highway wound in and out between the few farmhouses and fields and made its way to the hill on the opposite side, where it disappeared among the trees. The dreamy-eyed Mike looked after the few scattered cars as they sped along, wondering what was behind the horizon. Then, Butch, waiting patiently, would gaze wistfully up at the face of his little master as if he were saying, "Come on, Mike, please! Let's go see what's over there." And Mike always answered, "We will, Butch, some day we will!"

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