October 25, 2006 Times Edition
At the end of his career, Albert Einstein was asked to identify the most complex subject that he had ever tried to understand. The group of newsmen settled in for a long and complicated reply. The one-word answer from the genius was: "Nature".
The reporters may have been puzzled, but those I have known who spent lifetimes working and living in the outdoors would say, "You're right. Welcome to the club, Dr. Einstein!" Meanwhile, the writer is still struggling to understand the roles that animals play in the equation.
My earliest memory is looking through iron bars. On the wall next to my crib was a painting of a sleeping boy who had gotten lost in the woods. Not to worry. Patiently sitting and guarding the little kid was the large and loyal family dog. You somehow knew that everything was going to be O.K. Day after day, I studied every detail of that picture. Thus imprinted, my lifelong close relationship with dogs has followed.
I point this out since some readers might see an example of animal cruelty in an event which occurred many years ago in Liberty County. Bear two facts in mind: 1) The incident involved an emergency situation, and 2) These were working animals. Totally unlike pets, instant obedience to commands are necessary for the safety of all team members.
Before the "fencing laws", livestock could be turned loose in the swamps and forest. It didn't matter who owned the land. If not fenced out from a particular
parcel, the animals had legal "free range" to roam and graze wherever they chose. From time to time, the cattle owners needed to locate and round up the animals for updated inspection and branding.
Offering round-up services were teams of men, horses and dogs. In Liberty County, there were two such teams, which competed for the jobs. However, to fulfill this unusually large contract, they decided to pool their resources and work together for the first time.
On the appointed morning, the two groups assembled. The leader of one team was a man named "SEAB". The other team was led by "Bill". One of the trucks contained a single cage large enough to transport all of the dogs. Each pack had one "catchdog", a special cross breed of bulldog with longer legs than the English bloodline. While the other dogs drove the herd, a bulldog might be assigned to catch, throw, and hold a particular animal which was disrupting the direction of the herd. Frequently, these rebels were large bulls with dangerous horns.
The star performer on SEAB's team was a famous catch-dog known as "Buster". He demanded respect from the "rank and file" dogs, including being the first to enter any transport cage. Not being aware of this procedure, a member of Bill's team began loading an unsuspecting hound past the bull dog. Without warning, "Buster" launched a savage attack, seizing the dog by the neck.
SEAB shouted for his bulldog to release! There was no response, with the powerful jaws shutting down harder with each command.
The men stood in tense silence, aware of the Liberty County protocol. It goes like this: In the West, you don't take another man's horse. In the South, you don't take or even Scold another man's dog! Bill, the other team leader, quietly asked, "SEAB, do you want me to make your dog release?" SEAB hesitated . . . It was obvious that the helpless hound's life was measured in brief minutes. "Yes . . . yes, if you can" SEAB cried. Bill leaned down and gave his command to "Release". It fell on deaf ears. In one swift motion, Bill picked up a long lightwood knot and swung it down on "Buster's" thick skull! The big dog rolled unconscious to the ground. Nobody moved or spoke. Then SEAB shouted: "Blast you, Bill . . . You have killed my dog!" Bill replied, "Well, if I did he wasn't much good like he was . ."
Both the catch-dog and the hound survived, and led long and active lives.
However, theincident was not totally forgotten. The men frequently commented that "Buster" was quick to follow any later instructions that Bill ever gave him . . .