River Bottom Beagles


Directions given with a southern Iowa drawl:

When you get out of town a ways you go south on four. You go a few miles and you go through a little peekenplum town and then you come to a tee and take a left…

Wait, wait, wait a minute. Peek and plum town?

Well, yea.

OK. What’s a peek and plum town?

Well, that’s a town that’s so small, if you peek around the corner your plum out of town.


Deer season. Almost a holiday around here. People come from near and far. Our yard is full of pickup trucks and four wheelers and old guys dressed in orange. The house is filled with good food. After dark when everyone gets in from the stand the table fills with ham and squash and baked potatoes and string beans. When you can’t eat anymore it’s time for pies. Pecan and blueberry and apple and pumpkin. All home made. Even the crust is made with lard Lisa and Donna rendered from home grown pork.

It’s a time to see people you might not have seen since last year and may not see again. Aubrey is 90, his son flew in from DC to take him hunting. He doesn’t get around very good anymore but he still hunted hard all weekend and will keep coming back as long as he can.

It’s time to hear the same stories you heard last year, even if they changed some since then. When I made the mistake of trying to correct him once, Marion said this is my story and I’ll tell it the way I want.

Lisa is not back on her feet yet but that can’t stop her from feeding a house full of people and keeping up with the conversation. She thrives on it. Before her last surgery I heard her tell one of the doctors that when they were through with her she was going up to the river to heal.

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It is what it is

Lisa has to have another surgery on Monday.

She summed it up when she was on the phone with one of the surgeons.  “It is what it is. We’ll just deal with it.”

In the mean time, we try to make the most of what we have.

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We let Rose stay in the house. When she wanted to go out we just let her run loose outside. I didn’t say anything when Lisa was feeding Rose bacon at the table. When Lisa wasn’t looking I gave her another piece.

I lifted her up on the bed in the evening and she stretched out and went right to sleep. You can’t believe how loud she snores. I even caught her sleeping with her head on my pillow.

When I went out to do chores in the morning Rose just stood in the door and looked at me. She stayed in the house.

I gave all the dogs medicine for heartworms. They hate the taste. Rose didn’t have to take any. When I was at work she slept in her own kennel with a big soft pillow and a nice thick blanket.

The last few days have been happy ones for Rose. We politely ignored the dry hacking cough and fluid build up in her chest.

Dogs have a larger heart in relation to their body mass than other animals. Studies done on sled dogs that have been trained and conditioned to run long distances found that the sled dog’s heart grew even larger in relation to their body mass than other dogs.

Over the years, Rose must have run thousands of miles following snowshoe hare through the woods. I’d like to think Rose had a bigger than normal heart. The heart that helped Rose lead the pack for all those years was wearing out.

It’s been a nice, long, easy summer. Fall came in with mild temperatures and lots of color. Overnight a front came down out of Canada bringing heavy winds and cold like we haven’t seen in months. Summer was definitely over Friday morning when I set Rose on the front seat of Lisa’s truck. She was happy to be going for a ride.

While I was doing chores and washing out Rose’s kennel for the last time an extra long and heavy gust of wind came up. The top blew out of that dead poplar tree with a loud CRACK! Branches rained down in the yard and banged on the tin roof over my head.

When I got in the house Lisa called and said it was over. She said when the vet shaved Rose’s leg and put the needle in Rose bit him. She didn’t go down easy.

Slimmer and Rose spent many years together. They hunted together. Traveled together. Lived together in the kennel. Now they will be together again. Forever.

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Fall rain

The clear sky gave way to heavy cloud cover that promised good weather to get the dogs out for a run. I filled up the truck and headed for the woods. When we stopped to check out the river a dead calm had settled over everything. Thunder was rumbling, the sky was black and stillness crowded out any thought of a breeze.

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Back in the truck and heading down the road, a wall of rain and wind came racing up to meet us.

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I drove back in the woods and waited out the thunder and lightning. Hail mixed in with the heavy rain hitting the windshield. Wasn’t long before the storm moved on and the sun came back out. I did a little sight seeing and shot some pictures before we got busy looking for a hare to chase.

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