Monday, August 25, 2008

The Hound and The Furry

A shrill whistle pierced the air and awoke him from a deep sleep, a slumber that comes only from a fifteen hour work day that starts with milking Holsteins followed by toiling in the autumn harvest with time only long enough for breakfast of steel-cut oats, a hearty dinner and a supper of tomatoes and beans.

The promise of that whistle signified that this day was going to be special.

Before his cold feet hit the floor, John could hear the anxious whining and tap dancing of their dog Rex on the maple stoop outside the screened door a floor below. He yawned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Jerry and Joe were both sawing logs. Jim rolled over and mumbled something incoherently. A freight train couldn't wake baby brother Mike. John knew better. While he would get a reprieve from today's morning duties, his brothers would pay for their slothful indulgences in milking cows and sundry chores later.

As John hopped out of bed, the late August sunrise was struggling to burn off the cool mist lingering at the tree line of the Murphy farmstead in Crawford County just north of the home of Gideon's Bible in Boscobel, Wisconsin. He pulled his bib-jeans over his shoulders, grabbed a trusty but threadbare denim shirt and his rugged boots before bounding down the hardwood stairs. Through the murky window pane he could see they were beyond the weathered picket fence; his father Vince with his 22 and Rex gingerly picking a path through the cornfield's discarded chaff while steamy breaths dissolved into the azure-to-crimson quilted sky. With trembling hands John pulled up those worn leather Sears and Roebucks by the bootstraps and then ran like the wind to catch up to them.

As if sensing the excitement, Rex bolted away from him at a full sprint towards the creek that ran through their farm. Vince was stoic, glancing toward his son briefly before turning and walking resolutely toward the creek. At about 20 paces, he stood in his tracks while Rex barked and thrashed in the bushes dotting the stream. A furry rodent suddenly blasted out of a dirt cloud and the near-fatal ensnarement of Rex's canines--snapping shut a fraction too late. Up a cottonwood tree it went while Rex leaped at its bushy tail.

Stepping over that old cottonwood's gnarly roots exposed by erosion and time, Vince paused momentarily to give Rex a pat on the head, then lifted the rifle with a steady hand and took aim with his piercing blue eyes.


Squirrel meat never tasted so good.


Results from some black squirrel hunting I did this past Saturday while accompanied by Katherine, Grace, Shannon and Craig. Thanks for cheering me on!


  1. NICE!! Very impressed.

    Oh, and your placing at the race was ok, I guess. So what are you going to complain about this time? Do you think you should have gotten a 50:55 on your bike leg?

    Just kidding man. Great job there. Your run must have been so defeating to the others.

  2. Mike and I saw a black squirrel on Sunday morning. It was not wearing a Quintana Roo wetsuit.

    I was disappointed.

  3. and speaking of disappointment, why is there not an all-caps header about this victory?

    Sing when you're winning, man.

    Or, like a bike shop employee I know, sing before the race, get destroyed and then keep singing anyway.

  4. Three Things:

    1. Did Garrison Keillor guest/ghost write this post?

    2. Rex was famous for doing a hook/reach move up and around the back side of the tree to nab the squirrel with his paw as I've heard the story.

    3. Oh yeah, were you in a race this weekend? Nice job.

  5. I'm a mammal, could you milk me, Greg?

  6. Munson: Bike pace was good. There was only one point where I felt a slight cramping in my left calf. That's been problematic in the past. Also, this was the first triathlon that I didn't feel like total crap at the beginning of the run. This time I only felt slightly miserable.

    Bryan: this was also the first race that I only wore a tri-suit (no wetsuit). My swim was slower, but I made it up with a quick transition to the bike. As for singing, would you like to take the lead? I know how much you like singing and all. Anyway, it's easier to blog about a race when you don't win. Like making fun of the winner who stuffed his bib down his shorts and such for the run. When you win, what can you say without looking like an ass? Nothing, other than congratulations to all competitors.

    By the way: congratulations to all competitors-you all deserve a big hand!

    Murphini: My original blog was written in stream of consciousness to complement the William Faulker pun of title Hound and the Fury. But after re-reading it, I'm not sure if even Faulkner could appreciate the stream of my consciousness was attempting to say. Basically, it was a stream of micturation.

    I've been called a lot of things before, Fred, including Greg (as in Greg Steve McQueen Le Mans Lemond). Thanks for not calling me Gaylord.

  7. I see this as your ticket to being a total ass for at least a year. Go for it.

    I cannot sing, however, since I've never won. Well, at least not a bike race.

    Let me tell you about those two running races, though ...

  8. It was morning in the transition zone. So this is how it is, this is how it always happens in a transition zone in a triathlon in the morning before a race is won or lost.

    Curse the low sun in the sky, red with ocher tints, the sky had been dark as a black squirrel not long before.... reminding me of dawn in Seville and the achingly beautiful slender crank arms of the unattached Cannondale that I had for a while, then left without a word, but infused with longing and regret.

    With my last 2 burritos I purchased some true and honest Cytomax from Munsoned the day before; I took a pull from the bottle. It was good. It burned my mouth and felt good and warm going down my esophagus and into my stomach. From there it went to my kidneys and my bladder, and was good. I remembered then when I last saw Fredcube who was still a damn fine rider.

    It was in Omaha and we looked out the windows at the UP Bunker and drank cytomax in the morning. It was morning and had been morning for some time.

  9. You make a good point Bryan. Being an ass about winning, especially in a low key race, is terribly funny. I'm going to start practicing my obnoxious faces in the mirror.

    Speaking of which, you wouldn't be how stupid the grin is on my face right now, Murphini. You actually made the bad-hemingway worse by your personal touches. Your prose is welcome here, Papa.

  10. Brady, a good recall of the stories I have told about our mixed Collie Rex whose first love was hunting squirrels. At first glimpse of my Dad with the 22 rifle, old Rex would race into the stands of oak and hickory trees where the squirrels fattened for the cold Wisconsin winters. As a technical point, cottonwoods were rare - willows claimed space along the creeks. You are right - nothing finer than a squirrel dinner on a crisp cool autumn evening.

  11. Papa John! Welcome to the comments section, where the real party is.

    I'll admit that I intentionally wrote inaccuracies in the blog to draw you out of the shadows. So thanks for the updates -- I'll make sure that I smooth out the wrinkles before we go to press with this baby.

    Everyone, my dad. Dad, this is everyone!