Close to a thousand feet of elevation, he could look down on the valley floor below, and part of the neighboring city of Hemet, with its lights at night. And at a greater height, he often saw the stars scattered in the night sky
At that time he was nearing
60 years of age. The second born of the family, he was baptised
Francis Joseph, but had long been called "Joe" after our father.
Unlike most of us children, he was born in California, and he says he was named
after San Francisco, the city in which he was born, and St. Francis of
Assisi. I call him Francie, and remember him too as FJR, perhaps in imitation of FDR, the initials of President Franklin Delano
Sam was brought to my
brother's house at a time when Francie really didn't want another dog.
He'd had a crippled one, and the poor thing got around with a wheeled rig,
and eventually died. But Sam more or less adopted my brother.
He jumped onto his lap, stayed with him and was soon a real sidekick.
He'd come as a pup and in time, grew to be large dog and would weigh about
eighty pounds. You might say of him that he became top dog of
the hill. When a pack of a half dozen coyotes appeared at the lane to
my brother's place, all Sam had to do was stand, lower his head and stare at
them and the wild creatures would retreat from him.
He usually did not bark; his presence, bearing and look was enough. Francie believed what they were after was water in a bucket he set out for
Sam. And I'm told that such coyotes are so bold as to snatch away your cat when
you're at home (pictured right, Sam at 2 yrs.).
else in the sky caught his attention one time as a young dog. He saw
the moon and was barking at it from the back of the pickup, when he walked
over the open tailgate, became a bit airborne and of course subject to
gravity. He never did that again.
As a companion and a watchdog, Sam was a blessing. And his being there at my brother's side, may evoke a scene from the past, a scene from a time when we were children on the farm in Iowa.
The details are shrouded in the mists of years gone by and recollections differ, but it may have happened around the year of 1936. The Indian Creek ran through the north-south length of our farm, winding through a shallow valley. This particular time, the stream was flooding, whether from melt water from thawing or from rain is not recollected for sure. Francie, our brother Bob and my oldest sister Marie, had gone to get the cows from the pasture across the creek.
My mother had warned them to stay away from the creek. She wanted them to bring the cows home by the Dead Road, a local road that ran along the south edge of the farm, with a bridge spanning the high water of the stream. But they didn't listen, and attempted to cross the creek nearer home.
from the farm place, there was a plank bridge
which had no railings, and which at the time was apparently inundated
or the approach to it, flooded. Francie recollects it being underwater, and
that he was going to cross on its submerged span since he felt he knew where
it was. Marie remember wading atop rocks somewhere near the bridge, where
there were remnants of a dam, built of rocks during the dry weather.
Marie says, as they were crossing, they were up to their necks in water.
There was a movement of rock underneath, and even after all these years, she
can still feel a rock rolling away. Frightened, she and Bob turned back, but my brother Francie
was delivered into the power of the current, unable to swim. Francie
remembers Marie trying to extend to him a piece of barbed wire to save him, a rescue
effort that proved futile.
How he got out of the creek, sopping wet that day, he doesn't recall. Whether he rescued himself, or the dog helped in some way is not remembered. What is remembered is Buster was with him, running alongside the creek.
I have to wonder whether his guardian angel intervened, buoying him up when he went under and bringing his foot upon something, perhaps part of a bank that gave way. Like so much of the past, so many details seem to be swept away from memory. We're glad Francie wasn't swept away from earth, on that day so long ago.
My brother is now 82 years old, and no longer lives up on Polly Butte. There's a sad note to this, for he was swept away, from off his hill and down to the valley floor below, by a flood of medical costs. He took his wife Bunnie to the emergency room of the hospital where she died six days later. The insurance said it wasn't pre-approved. It seems to me an emergency shouldn't require preapproval and there could've been compassion and understanding of the circumstances that followed. There were thousands of dollars of hospital costs, some of which he was billed for twice. Not rich, he was paying the hospital $100 a week, but that wasn't good enough for them. They wanted it all and threatened to put a lien on his property. He sold it, paid the hospital off, and now lives in a mobile home. There may've been other reasons to eventually come down from off his hill, but he shouldn't have been pushed off like this. In recent years he heard from someone who worked there, that there was a high percentage of people who did not pay for treatment, but they charged others.
Not long after Francie left Polly Butte with sorrow in his heart, Sam stepped in some antifreeze, licked his paw to clean it, and sadly from then on Sam went downhill, physically. He died blind.
Francie has had his losses, but he keeps his spirits buoyed up. He
says you can't be like the bird who flies backward; you can't do anything
about where you've been; just turn around and see where you're going.
He still misses Polly Butte, but he
lives with the reality of now and of memories of time gone by. One of
those memories is of Sam, Sam with him amid the rocks of Polly Butte.
Sam will always be in his heart.
More pictures of Polly Butte