Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Commode Adventure
We moved to Mobridge in 1952 just before I started the second grade. Dad had barbered for a year in Harrold and had heard of an opening for a barber at a barbershop/bar/cardhouse in Mobridge, and thought it would be a good move. I wasn’t too happy about the move. I had friends in Harrold where I went to the first grade, and I had a pony that wouldn’t be going with us. Besides, I wasn’t doing well in school. I couldn’t seem to figure out reading. That part of my problem was solved shortly after I started the second grade in Mobridge. Mrs. Brown, my teacher, saw immediately I couldn’t read, and she took me under her wing and tutored me before school, during the noon hours and even during some recesses. I was thrilled to see the world open up for me when I learned to read.
I still missed my pony. I didn’t even have my dog Spot with me. He had been run over on Harrold’s mainstreet the summer before we moved. I didn’t have any friends at school, and there were no neighbor kids close by. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Dad would take me to the barbershop with him on Saturdays once in awhile, and I would sit in a chair near the door to the backroom where the card playing and drinking went on. It was really exciting when well known cowboys came in to spend some time, Casey Tibbs was barely past twenty when he was there, Bill Linderman and Jack Buschbom spent time in that back room too.
Dad brought a puppy home for me at Christmas time, trying to cheer me up. It was a mutt, but I loved him from the first moment I saw him. We were able to keep him in the house at first while he was still a puppy, but pretty soon Mom had had enough of his tail knocking things over and finding him curled up on her bed, so we moved him outside. The backyard was open, and the only thing back there was an old outhouse that was used to store rakes and shovels in. it was a curiosity to me. I had never seen an outhouse with a quarter moon cut high up on the door, high enough I couldn’t reach it. We decided the pup Laddie could make his home in there at night, so we put some bedding on the floor for him. During the day he would have the backyard to play in. He was a good pup, learned fast and never wandered out of the yard.
One afternoon I was playing with Laddie in the backyard when all of a sudden he stopped and stared at something moving in the alley. He barked a few times, causing me to see what he was excited about. Coming down the alley was this monster of a dog, a Great Dane, looking like he was searching for something to eat, maybe me and Laddie! I froze for a moment when the dog stopped searching and looked right at me, then I grabbed Laddie and looked for a place to hide. The outhouse! I pulled Laddie into the outhouse and slammed the door, begging the pup to be quiet. Moments passed, I could hear the Great Dane somewhere outside. My eyes were getting used to the dark in the old outhouse, seeing the beam of light coming in the quarter moon cut high on the door. Suddenly that beam of light disappeared. I looked up at the quarter moon window and saw the ears of the Great Dane just outside. I was sure he was going to push the door open and eat me and my pup in one bite. About then I heard a vehicle close by and voices. The Great Dane’s ears disappeared from the window and I heard him lumber around the outhouse and out towards the alley. I timidly stepped out the door, being sure to hold tight to Laddie’s collar, and saw several people in a pickup loading the Dane into the pickup box like you would load a horse. The people were gently scolding the big dog for wandering away as they drove out of the alley. I told my Mom about the adventure, and we later found out the Great Dane was well known and loved by the town, gentle and playful. We never saw him again, but if we had, we probably would have ended up back in the old outhouse, looking out the quarter moon window at his twitching ears.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 16, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News