Grandpa and the Groundhog

He trailed after his Grandpa and his dog through fields up of the wild grape gullies and the old forest. The dog, a beagle mix, roved under barbwire strands and through the tall grasses with his nose to the soil, disappearin for considerable periods, comin round again to sniff at grampas pant-leg.

They had started in the late mornin from their two mobile homes, set in the woods behind his cousins farm just four miles off the county road. His fathers side of the family, Greenlee, had lived in southern Minnesota since the day of the carpet-baggers. His Grandpa sharpened blades for farmers and tore down old houses for lumber and scrap. He was always doin something. His legs didn't enjoy sitting down all day.

The boy wondered who had built the shacks and shack-like houses back there, now just boxes a ash color slat-boards, windowless and hidden behind buncha brown and yellow leaves. Were they pioneers? Recluses living way back out here? He bet these were here before the County Road was put in. Grandpa and he were goin to an old abandoned house he wanted to show him. The people who used to live there just up an left. Grandpa told him when he first came with some of his friends there were dishes and the remnants of food layin on the kitchen table. China, lotsa stuff. Pretty well picked over now, though.

His Grandpa Greenlee had a knack for finding antiques an fish. He'd explore pits and old houses -- often retrieved the most unlikely things, barely broken or worth something just as they were. Tim and he considered themselves lucky if they were brought along. He would take the kids fossil hunting in creek beds and once he built a rock garden for Mable with fossil rocks. Only they had to leave it. That hill was too windy for their trailer home.

A voice lifted from beyond the wavering straw -- a bayin. A bayins not a howl like of a wolf nor a bark, but a voice like a coyote who had listened to the french horn.

"A coon!" his Grandpa shouted. "A coon!"

He burst into a run, taking a brown fence post under his hands and swinging his boots into the tawny straw on the other side. He tagged along as best he could. It was his big hope that the dog would hunt coon. It had this beautiful voice an Grandpa had been trainin him good. The last dog never had a chance -- where they lived an all -- but the pup was now hot on ones heels. Grandpa was gettin mighty tired of the farmers gopher foot bounty.

He caught up an he was hands on his knees eyes wide an grinnin a short distance from where they were circlin each other -- it was a a groundhog. Big one too. After some more circlin an fake lunges the dog saw her chance, broke its back leg. The groundhog, flippin in the dogs grip slashed teeth through the dogs face.

Grandpa had seen enough. He picked up a heavy branch and dealt the death blow to the animal. He didn't need to, he said, but as it was his hope that the dog would hunt raccoon. As soon as victory was assured, he ended the battle. So that the groundhog wouldn't tear at the dogs eye.

He and Grandpa strode through the straw colored feilds back to the house, the prize hanging from grandpas hand, the dogs head high, eyes bright and mouth open. All the cousins an uncles and ants were gathered round the extra tables they had brought, an watermelon was bein sliced an dogs and burgers were bein spatuled off the grills an

"Lookee here!"

The older folks looked up, an the younger stopped their rollin down the hill on the inside of innertubes. The boys his age had to touch the groundhog an all the kids crooned their pride with a pet to the dogs head, now held even higher. He could swear the dog was showin the girls the slash in his lip. He repeated the snarls an all an they wished they had been there.

After it was over their family piled back into the station- wagon an wavin an hollerin rolled out to Minneapolis, their house, an their school. He'd be tellin the story once again to the kids there.

Before anybody had seen the groundhog, Grandpa had made him promise not to tell of his part in the battle, but he didn't need to: he was proud of the dog for doing so well in the chase and for his part in the fight. After all, the old dog never did have much of a chance, an the pup had fought so well. Maybe the next time it could be a coon.