I know everyone remembers a favorite pet or two while growing up. We were blessed to have several dogs and cats but there’s one dog that stands out the most. His name was Ole Mack and he was a full bloodied collie and smart as a whip. He was like a human in a dog’s body and instantly became part of our family.
He’d obey every command. If we told him to sit he’d be sitting there into next week if we didn’t notice but we never did do him like that on purpose. It’s just the way he was and so kind hearted. Every step we made he was there beside us. We used to pull the blossoms off of clover after it’d bloomed and tie them together and make a necklace to wear around our neck. We’d even make one for Ole Mack and he’d just sit there and let us put it around his neck. When mama called us in to eat we’d go running and he’d run beside us with his clover necklace around his neck. The first time mama saw it she said, “what in the world have ye put around that dog’s neck.” He was our best buddy and did whatever we did.
There was only one thing that scared him and that was thunder or the sound of a gun. Every time it’d thunder he’d run in the house and crawl under the bed. We’d leave him alone till it’d pass and coax him out. When we first got him we noticed that when my brothers or daddy grabbed the gun to go squirrel hunting we noticed the fear in him. We never did find out for sure but we always figured he’d been shot at before. We felt so sorry for him and he never did get over it.
Back then we walked everywhere we went and every time we’d start down the road he’d be right at our heels waging that pretty tail.
Daddy worked away from home a lot and didn’t get to come home till weekends if he was lucky. Sometimes it’d be two or three weeks before he came home. I reckon mama got lonesome even with all of us youn’uns round her legs cause just about every evening in the summer she’d say let’s go see pa and ma. That was her mama and daddy and they lived upon the hill as we called it. I later realized mama got lonesome for some adult conversation.
About sundown we’d take off to see pa and ma and Ole Mack would tag along till we got to the footlog where we had to cross the little creek and we’d tell him to wait and he’d lie down at the end of the footlog till we returned later that evening. We were scared to take him with us for fear he’d tangle with other dogs. After all, he was getting older and we feared he couldn’t take up for himself as good. When we returned, he’d see us coming and run across that footlog to meet us like we’d been gone forever just wagging his tail. We’d all bend down and hug his neck and tell him he was a good boy till I think he got the big head. We always tried to get back home before dark for fear of stepping on a snake, of course Ole Mack would’ve killed it right there on the spot. He was very protective of us in a good way and always watched out for us.
Back then times were lean and not to many folks could find work and some just didn’t wanna work, they’d rather steal their way through.
Mama always had chickens that run loose and they had their favorite roosts every night. Most of em roosted in the little apple tree that hung over the branch of water that run down by the side of the house. Mama’s bedroom was on that side of the house as well and she never had to sleep alone. One or more of us always piled in the bed with her when bedtime came. She was always a light sleeper and could hear a pin drop. Ole Mack knew where her bedroom was and he slept right beside her bedroom under the porch and it was cooler on him there in hot weather. If anything moved or someone came around he’d always growl or bark to let mama know. We always called him our guard dog .
It all started one summer night when a bunch decided they wanted to steal the chickens off the roost. Mama was halfway asleep when Ole Mack started growling and then barking. They grabbed a couple of hens and run after they heard Ole Mack growling and barking. Mama heard em too, but was afraid to go outside but she hollered at Ole Mack out the window to keep him from following em. She always said her being a woman she hated to go out on someone but if she had to she would. My oldest brother was big enough by then to use the gun but she wouldn’t let him for fear he’d shoot or get shot. But she didn’t have to worry about it cause the next night they came back.
Ole Mack first started growling and the next thing he did was tackle em. Mama and my oldest brother ran out at the same time and saw the shadows of em running fast as their legs could carry em and Ole Mack was right on their heels. They dropped the chickens in the middle of the road. On the way out the door my brother grabbed the gun and fired it straight up in the air. They run even faster and Ole Mack came running back towards the house so proud of himself. Mama said to my brother, “what’d ye do that for, they were already out of sight.” My brother said he did it more so for Ole Mack, cause he knew he was scared of guns and didn’t want him to get hurt by the chicken thieves.
Needless to say, the chicken thieves didn’t come back anymore. Mama figured it was a bunch that knew daddy was gone and could carry off what they wanted to. We really rewarded Ole Mack by trying to keep him in the house and feeding him anything he wanted as if he wasn’t fed enough. But he wouldn’t have any part of sleeping in the house at night.
Then one morning my brother went outside for somethin and he noticed Ole Mack wasn’t around. He called out his name and kept calling. We all went running out the door and joined in the search but no such luck.
We finally found him in the cow pasture later in the day and carried him back to the house and had the nicest memorial for him.
We buried a part of the family and our hero that day. Our hearts were broken and it was never the same anymore. He lived to the ripe ole age of fifteen and deserved his heavenly reward but there’s a place still void in our hearts today and we think about him often. I’m sure he’s up there where all good dogs go and having the best time of his life without any fears or worries about the thunder or loud noises anymore and running through the meadows with his clover necklace around his neck. Rest in peace Ole Mack, you’ll always be our Best Childhood Friend.
© Susie Swanson, 2018