Casey remembered a Veterinary Clinic’s sign east of town. He would call Grandpa Fenton from the clinic and let him know he would be late. What a way to end a morning turkey hunt.
The tan-and-white Bassett Hound lay in a small puddle of blood on the rubber floor mat. Sporadically the dog’s white-tipped tail thumped the pickup’s door panel as they jostled over the rural road, it’s sad eyes following Casey’s every twist of the steering wheel. A shudder ran through Casey as he remembered yanking the arrow through the left haunch of the exhausted, trembling animal. Whoever did this deserves the same fate.
Glancing in the rearview mirror Casey was startled, and then thrilled to see the flashing lights of a highway patrol car racing up behind him. “Hang on Boy, we’ve got help.” Pulling over on the grassy shoulder he popped the door open and jumped out.
“Hey!” he said as the uniformed patrolman spun him around and shoved him against the vehicle.
“Put your hands up and spread ‘em” the officer ordered, patting Casey down as he complied. “Turn around. Where’s the fire, boy?”
“Fire? I, I, I was tak – taking…”
“Do you always run Stop signs?”
“No, sir. I, I, I was tak – taking…”
“Give me your license and insurance card. You better have ‘em or you’re going to jail.”
Casey fumbled his license from his wallet. “My, my insurance is in the glove box.”
The officer walked around the pickup with Casey. When Casey opened the door the dog’s tail thumped the floor and the officer looked at the bleeding animal. “What the heck have you done? Did you shoot that dog?”
“No, no, no Sir. That’s, that’s what I’ve been trying to …”
It took a while. Casey didn’t usually stutter but the officer intimidated him. After the officer handed him a ticket he told Casey to go see Judge Henderson tomorrow. “You better show up or you’ll see me sooner, rather than later” the officer promised.
He doesn’t believe me. I did find the Bassett in the ditch beside the road. Casey had produced the blood streaked arrow to support his story. The only weapon in the pickup was his shotgun. The officer was more interested in who Casey’s grandfather was, where he lived and how long Casey would be visiting him.
“I’ll decide tomorrow if I’m going to give you a ticket for animal cruelty.” Then he told Casey to follow him to the Veterinary Clinic.
The next day Judge Henderson listened to Casey’s explanation. He seemed kindly, but firm.
“Casey, while Officer Downs is trying to locate the dog’s owner and find out who shot someone’s pet, I’m going to keep your citation on my desk. I want you to write a paper on the history of Stop signs; somewhere around five hundred words. You can use either the library or the internet for your research. Bring it to me at ten o’clock tomorrow morning. Hopefully, I will hear from Officer Downs before then.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll be here.
After the secretary ushered Casey into the Judge’s office the next morning she placed a fragrant, steaming cup of coffee on the desk. Casey handed over his report and the judge pointed toward an oak chair. After picking up a pair of reading glasses and settling them on his thin nose, the judge took a sip of coffee and began reading Casey’s paper.
“The first stop sign was in 1915? Black and white -- that’s interesting. And it was located in Detroit, The Motor City.” When he finished reading he laid the paper down. “You did your research well. I’ve learned some things.”
Judge Henderson tossed his glasses on the desk and ran a slender hand through his graying locks. “Casey, I’m going to dismiss your ticket and give you a stern warning: never run a Stop sign again. Your life is worth more than any animal, as much as we love them.”
“Thank you, Sir. I promise to stop every time.”
“Officer Downs located the dog’s owner. A boy shooting arrows at a target accidently shot it and it ran away. When they couldn’t find their pet they posted reward posters.”
The judge stood and so did Casey. Placing an arm around Casey’s shoulders Judge Henderson gave him a hug.
“Two years ago Officer Downs’ son ran that same Stop sign. He was about your age. He’s singing tenor now in Heaven’s Choir and his Dad sure misses him.”
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