The echo of baying dogs reverberated over the hills and hollows, sounding like symphonious music to Martin and his son Trevor perched on Johnson Ridge. A dying campfire, popped and cracked, cutting the chill as father and son listened to the pack of hounds hunt. The Harvest Moon spotlighted the valley below giving periodic glimpses of hunting dogs rumbling through thick brush and briars, zipping into ravines after a skittish possum or raccoon.
“Hear that son? Sounds like O’l Blue’s running point,” Martin announced proudly. “He’ll teach those pups to tree soon.”
Martin’s four year old took a long drag on his NASCAR sippy cup and smiled hugely, wiping milk pooling on his chin. “Sounds great daddy. I like hearin’ Blue howl. Can you tell th’ story of how he got his name again?”
Taking another swig, Trevor crawled into his father’s lap and leaned into his dad’s shoulder.
“Sure, son.” Martin wrapped an arm around his son, cuddling him close.
“Two years ago,” Martin began, “Blue was still basically a pup…just a feisty, frisky pup. But at 7 months, I learned that I had quite a dog. In fact, at 7 months I changed his name to Blue.”
“I forgot that part, daddy. What was his name before Blue?” Trevor asked, yawning.
“That’s right, Rusty,” Trevor nodded.
Martin smiled. “Anyway, on a cold winter’s morning, two years ago, your mommy bundled you up nice and warm and I packed you up in the truck to go feed cows.”
“Don’t forget Blue,” Trevor reminded.
“Yes, O’l Blue scampered in the back and tagged along as well.”
Trevor eased off his daddy’s lap and set his cup on a stump. “Then what Daddy?”
“Well, I hopped out of the truck and started breaking up bales of straw. Those cows were ready for breakfast. It was a pretty normal morning, as far as feeding goes, but I learned something new about you that day kiddo.”
“What’s that Daddy?” Trevor asked grinning ear to ear.
“I learned you could escape from your car seat and get out of the truck.”
“Yes,” Trevor fist pumped enthusiastically. “Then what Daddy?”
“Well, while I was feeding the cows, you toddled down to the pond.”
“And I went swimming?”
“Well, sort of,” Martin answered tousling his son’s hair. “You fell into that icy water. I heard your screams and I came running. O’l Blue was already at the edge barking his head off. When you went under, Blue dove in after you. By the time I waded in, he was dragging you out by your coat.”
“I was cold, wasn’t I Daddy?”
“Yes son,” his voice caught. “You were choking and gagging…your teeth were chattering…and your lips had already turned a shade of blue. I rushed you into town and the doc said you’d be fine. If it weren’t for the grace of God and Rusty, things might’ve turned out a lot different.”
“You mean I might be in Heaven,” Trevor commented, matter-of-factly.
Martin nodded, unable to speak.
“So, why did you change his name?”
“Well,” Martin began rubbing his eyes, “Rusty nearly froze that day as well. Like your lips, his skin even looked bluish after he played hero. I figured I’d change his name to Blue as a reminder to thank God for you everyday…and to never take His goodness for granted.”
Blue and the other dogs scrambled up the ridge, ready for ear scratches and treats.
“Come here Blue,” Trevor called.
Blue obeyed, tail thumping. Trevor giggled as he willingly endured a tongue bath.
“He’s a good dog, isn’t he Daddy?”
“He sure is son. He sure is.”
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