Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Mike Meets Mrs. Martin | TSLN.com

Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Mike Meets Mrs. Martin

Mike was in trouble, and I was scared. People were gathering around the weakened dog lying on the sidewalk outside the drugstore. He had stepped on a piece of glass while running through an old basement that had grown over with weeds, cutting a vein or artery that bled profusely, quickly causing him to struggle to even lift his head from the sidewalk.

Mike was a well- known character in the small town of Harrold. Kids would play with him, men would stop and talk to him and women would feed him cookies when he scratched at their door. He was everybody’s friend, and that day everybody was worried about their friend.

Uncle Willmer came over from his lumberyard and poured blood-stop powder on Mike’s foot, but it had no effect. Willmer then wrapped gauze around the bleeding paw only to see the blood saturate the wrap over and over again. Mike could no longer lift his head, his eyes were shut and his breathing labored. Hope was fading fast.

Florence, Dr. Martin’s widow, seeing the people gathered around the sick dog, stopped in the middle of the street on her way to the post office. Florence was always formally dressed, wearing a silk dress, hat, nylons and high heels. She had a take-charge personality no matter what the situation, and the sick dog was no exception. She surveyed the problem, got into her big green Buick and drove back to her home, which had also served as Dr. Martin’s office. Within minutes she returned, walking through the crowd and kneeling in front of Mike. She picked up his head, opened his mouth and shoved two huge capsules down his throat, stroking his neck to be sure he swallowed them. She comforted me, saying Mike would be alright, then got back in her Buick and continued on with her day. Sure enough, to everyone’s amazement, the bleeding lessened and stopped within minutes. The concern then became how to get Mike home. Someone backed their pickup up to the curb and we loaded Mike’s limp body into the pickup bed. Willmer and I rode with him to our house, then carried Mike, with his foot still wrapped with layers of gauze, into the garden shed, laying him on a rug Mom spread out on the dirt floor. Mike picked up his head long enough to lap some water from his bowl, then quietly laid back down. I sat by his side all afternoon. Someone drove into the alley behind the shed late in the afternoon, and Mike, hearing the sound, struggled to sit up. Florence appeared in the doorway, looking the prim and proper lady she was. Mike took the open door as an invitation to escape, and seeing the only path to freedom being between Florence’s legs, he took it. I think Florence must have been a mutton buster in her younger life, because she clamped her knees around the dog and wrestled him back into the shed, silk dress, high heels and all. She wanted to check on Mike’s progress, and I guess she felt his attempt to escape was a good sign.

The next day, Sunday, Mike made his escape and came hobbling down the street on his gauze-wrapped foot, tail wagging, to meet me after church. He was going to be OK. People asked about Mike’s recovery, which made me feel good, but what really warmed my heart was Mike’s visit every morning to Florence’s kitchen door, waiting for the treat and the pat on the head he knew was coming.