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The Badds Meet Ferris Wheel Freddie

by Dave Fisher

Tow-the-Line Rusty lay under the old willow tree where Clem Badd Sr. had moved him earlier in the summer when the sun kept flooding the dog’s little corner of the world.  Rusty was a reddish color with darker patches of liver, and white tipped feet and tail, but you could never tell it now from laying around in this pool of dust all summer.  Rusty was itching to get back to wabbit huntin’, but he never let anyone know it.  He was from an old beagle line, distinguished, blue blood.  So when Jake came wheeling in to the yard Rusty would raise one eye … look across the red-dog of the drive and give that long basset-type sign.  Oh, he wanted to jump up and strain at the chain like one of his partners in crime Off –Line Louie but he maintained his calm exterior.

No one is quite sure where the Badd family came from.  They just showed up one day at the old, Murphy place and moved in … that was nearly 40 years ago.  Rumor had it that they came from some teeny town down in North Carolina, and that they had to leave town rather quickly.  It was also said that old Ray Murphy moved them in to help take care of the place, but even after years of living there little changed.  Murphy later died, and as the Badds began to keep the taxes paid on the place, the farm was one day put in their name.  It wasn’t much of a place, maybe 40 acres or so.  No one ever knew what they grew there, except rocks and weeds.

Those Badd boys, however, never gave anyone any trouble, and the town folk got a kick out of them, walking around with several dogs always under their feet.  Those dogs, like all the Badd boys, were a strange lot.  They looked like ‘beetles’, but you could never be sure.  Some of the neighbors complained about them running the corn fields and keeping them up half the night, so old Clem Badd got the boys to tie most of them.  There was even a rumor that some of those silly dogs could talk to each other … but it was never proven.

Jake Badd was the oldest of the youngins.   Jake had a little more fetchin up than most of his brothers and he had taken a job with a local logging company.  Most of the other brothers, Roscoe, Zeek, young Clem, Sam and Billy Bob, had all taken jobs in the small towns around Shaffer’s Corners, New York.

                As the door banged and Jake disappeared inside Rusty rose slowly and shook vigorously showering nearby bushes in a grey haze and causing a dusty cloud to rise skyward. Rusty knew Jake wasn’t himself lately and he gave little thought to the dogs harbored here and there around the crumbling homestead.  Things weren’t going too well for Jake.  Things were tough down at the logging company and Thelma Lynn was barely paying much attention to Jake lately.  Oh, they still talked and exchanged pleasantries when Jake strolled into the market for his usual lunch sandwich, but she remained distant.  Once in a while she might ride along on a deer spotting outing or on very rare occasions she’d show up in the yard and give Rusty and the other hounds some real attention.  Scratching behind their ears and brushing them off, sometimes she’d even bring a real store-bought treat from the market.

          Jake wanted more.  He wasn’t sure what or how much more, but he just knew that he wanted more. He wasn’t very good in matters of the heart he just knew things weren’t going the way he wanted them and he knew enough to know that Thelma Lynn was going to find another beau soon if things didn’t change.  He could feel it.

          Things were changing, however, at least in the eyes of Tow-The-Line Rusty, Louie, Silly Sue, Serious Sally and the other dogs that still took up residence at the Badds’.  The poplar trees have begun shedding and dew laden morning grass and cooler nights gave hint of fall to come.  A new dog, Ferris Wheel Freddie was also tied out back behind the barn.  He was some new hot shot that Rusty really didn’t like much and the hair on the back of both had stood erect on more than one occasion on the rare times the dogs had been turned loose this summer.  Ohhhh, Rusty really didn’t have anything against Freddie.  He had seen his type before:  A new, young dog that was going to unseat the old master and take over his comfy spot in the front yard and shade of the old willow. 

          Young Clem had brought the dog home from the county fair one evening, and it stirred up quite a commotion at the Badd household.  Pretty soon the whole yard was full of the Badd clan and Clem had to tell the story over and over at the delight and jeering of the whole crowd.  It seems that, as usual, Clem and Zeek were in some kind of contest at the fair and Zeek, as was usually the case, was beating his brother unmercifully when Clem gets in a lucky shot and the tide turns.

 For his efforts, Clem wins a giant stuffed bear, which he recognizes instantly he has no use for.  Fortunately, however, the contest has not gone unnoticed from a young couple waiting in line for the Ferris wheel.

          As Clem is about to pass by with the big stuffed animal a hand reaches out and takes his arm. 

          “Hold on,” the young city fella says, “I want to talk to you!”  He apologizes to the girl on his arm says a few more things to her in her ear then ushers the pretty blond onto the ride.  “Just a few minutes,” he yells as he turns back to Clem.

          “What you going to do with that big bear ya got there, Son,” he says to Clem.

          Clem is a little offended at the ‘son’ title as he can see the boy is barely older than he.  But he has already come to the conclusion that this big white stuffed bear is not going to last too long around the Badd house!

          “What did ya have in mind?”  Clem asks.

          The slick, well dressed youth says little more but leads Clem and Zeek to the parking lot where he stops at a shiny, new Chevy truck with an aluminum dog box on the back.  Both Clem and Zeek look at each other suspiciously and are about to back away from the truck when ‘Slick’ slips a key out of his pocket and it mysteriously fits the dog box. 

          “How about this one?” Slick says as he pulls one of the beagles from the back of the truck.  “Freddie’s his name … pretty fair hound.  I’ll bet you boys could use a ‘good’ huntin’ dog!”

          Clem was offended again.  They had ‘good’ huntin’ dogs:  Rusty, Sue, the rest. Why was this sleek male any better?  Clem shot a glance at Zeek.  Zeek, only raised his nose a little, but Clem knew that Zeek was thinking the same thing; this worthless stuffed toy for almost any beagle couldn’t be a bad trade.

          “I don’t know,” Clem says reluctantly, “ya know I had to do some serious wrestling to win this fine bear.”  [I mean they were the Badds but they weren’t stupid.]

          “Ok, Ok,” Slick says.  “I’ll tell ya what … I’ll give you each $5.00 too, just what it took you to get into the fair.  You ain’t out nothing and that bear will go along way to impressing my lady friend if ya know what I mean?” 

          They all broke out in laughter as Clem motioned for Zeek to take the leash as he shoved the $10 into his pocket.  No mention was made of any papers to the dog, and although Slick had the keys to this beautiful pickup Clem and Zeek thought it best to make a hasty retreat.

          As they headed for Zeek’s old pickup buried somewhere in the maze of vehicles parked in the field they both began to laugh. 

          “You believe this guy?”  Clem snickers.  “I’d of given him the bear for just the $10!  What a fruit!  We’ll call him ‘Ferris Wheel Freddie’ !”

          They both roar with laughter.

          “Yeah … I’ll say!” Zeek replies.  “Yeah, you can sell almost any Beetle for $50.  Ya think that bear’s gonna git him anything from that girl anyway?    Say, Clem, ya know $5 of that money is mine ya know …Clem … Clem?”

          Rusty heard the story several times and for a few days ‘Slick Freddie’ was showered with attention as Clem and Zeek go through the story several more times to various callers.  Rusty and Freddie just lay and snarl at each other.  Rusty doesn’t really want to get into it with Freddie, but he has to play the game.  Look the part.  Soon, as Rusty knows is coming, Freddie is taken behind the barn with a few of the other hounds and Rusty regains his place of authority alone under the willow.

          It was always easy to tell when it was wabbit season and all the boys were gearing up for days before the big day.  Almost the whole pack was turned loose as Clem, Jake, Roscoe and the whole gang took to the woods.  Rusty felt good this morning and with the weeds and brush hanging heavy with dew, it would only be a matter of an hour or so and all the grey dust would be washed off.

          “Sue … Sally … Harry, How are you guys this morning?  Louie ya better settle down or you’ll be dead by sun high and left in the dust,”  Rusty said to the other pack members.  He also managed a low snarl at Freddie, and Freddie kept his distance.

          The Badds were off already and shots were being fired along the skirmish line.  As always the boys didn’t care if the dogs did much but shot at anything they saw.  Young Clem quickly misses a rabbit with his .410 and just as quickly starts to whine about it.

          “Well I had a decent shot at it … it’s probably those worthless paper shells Sam gave me … Here dawgs … Here dawgs!”   Sam just snickers and shows the dogs which way the rabbit went.

          Rusty was anxious to do something and he cut into the track with his nice, low bay and the other dogs fell in behind him.  No one dog ever did much on his own, but by some stroke of sheer luck the Badds had but together a pretty good pack.  Ferris Wheel Freddie was out of place in this rambunctious herd, but Rusty noticed he wasn’t a bad rabbit runner.  He even helped pick up the check when the rabbit jumped the stream and started the turn back toward the boys.  Rusty was busy with the actual smellin’ of the track to protest much, but the hair did rise on his back and neck when Freddie tried to take the front.

          Even though Louie swung wildly off the line, the rabbit race steadily progressed back to the firing line.  Heck, the rabbits always ran the same way here, so it didn’t take a genius to run one.  They’d always follow the stream for a couple hundred yards, jump over where it was shallow, and then come back the edge of the corn.                   The dogs knew it, but the Badds never seemed to get it, or would fight over open spots that didn’t mean anything.  Whoever was standing at the edge of the corn usually shot the rabbit.

          The pack was still methodically coming up the corn edge when Zeek cuts loose with the 12 gauge.  “I got the critter!” He reports.

          “Hey, ya know Zeek that’s my rabbit!”  Clem calls out.  “I’m sure that rabbit was hit!”

          “In your mind maybe son,” Zeek taunts back.  “Ok, here ya can carry it! If it will make ya happy.”

          The day went pretty smooth and by early afternoon with the sun blazing the Badds had fulfilled their personal limits.  Even Billy Bob had a couple quail and one hen pheasant.  The boys voiced their approval of the pack work that morning and even gave them a torn up rabbit that Zeek had destroyed with the tight bored 12.  Rusty and Freddie got almost none of the meat with the time they wasted snarling at each other.

          “That Jay Bird wasn’t wrong after all,” Clem laughed.  “Old Freddie is a ‘pretty fair hound’ !”

          “Yeah … I wonder if he got his wishes with that pretty blond when he presented her with ‘at bear he paid dearly for?”  Zeek choked through laughter.

          Rusty and the pack were also amused.  Heck, old Freddie was a pretty fair hound, but he wasn’t anything special.  He looked better than he hunted.  Pretty, sleek, with one ear brown the other trimmed in white.

          The pack was hunted around the old homestead for a couple more weekends, and then Rusty, Serious Sally, and Blue Moon Molly over heard the boys talking about taking some of the dogs over near the county line to some fresh territory.

 After all, the Badds pretty much decimated the game around the farm in just a couple days hunting.

          On Saturday Rusty, Molly, Sally and Freddie were thrown in the back of       Jake’s pickup and some of the other brothers followed in Zeek’s old, bucket of bolts.  Jake had been in a much better mood lately and Rusty noticed Thelma Lynn had visited more often as the cool weather set in.  It had something to do with a ring or something Jake had given her.  No matter, Rusty didn’t care, but he liked when Thelma came and scratched behind his ears, and brought those darn, sweet-smelling treats he liked so well.  He liked Thelma Lynn.

          This was a new place for Rusty and the motley crew of hounds.  More open, more fields, with fine smelling alfalfa, and less jaggers to punch at the eyes.  And there was a lot of game here; many rabbits to chase and pheasants everywhere.  Freddie seemed to know more about this open country than the other dogs and Rusty could see Sally and Molly following his lead.  But the hunt went well, and the boys were banging guns all over the place. 

          “Now I know ‘at’s my rabbit Zeek, ya know I shot ‘at one !”  Clem cries.

          “Ok .. Ok …son, ya can have that one … here you take a few of these back to the truck so we can keep huntin’.”

          “But why do I always have ta carry this stuff to the truck Zeek, you shot most of it?”

          “That’s it … I shot most of it ... at least ya can carry it to the truck and clean it ... geeeessssh!

          Clem goes sulky away toward the vehicles when Freddie strikes another rabbit.

          “The kid’s starting to get on my nerves,” Rusty says to Sally.  “We better go see what we can do to help the newcomer.  He’ll be getting all the credit this afternoon.”

          It was another nice and easy run.  The pack took the rabbit east then swung around the alfalfa field back to the west.  Sally and Molly, always a good team didn’t pay much attention to the squabbling males but stuck more to the chase.  The grass was low here and it was a beautiful meadow.  Rusty took a look around as the girls were about to enter high brush again and start the turn back to where the Badds were waiting.

          What’s this?  What’s he doing?  Rusty sees Freddie tonguing along a ghost track a hundred yards from the chase and is about to go over the next rise.  Rusty watches for a few seconds then snickers … “Pretty fair hound, huh?” he says as he trots along to join the girls now heavy back on the track.  It will be the last time the boys and the pack see Freddie. 

          Both trucks were heavy with game that night, but the Badd clan was a little sad.

          “Don’t understand what happened to that hound,” Clem says. 

          “Yeah, I liked that sleek male.  He was the best dog we had,” Billy Bob moans.

          ‘Well, ya could always go to the fair and see if ya could win another bear  ...  you wouldn’t be out nothin’ then,”  Zeek laughs.

          Rusty couldn’t hear too much of what was going on inside the trucks, but he wasn’t sorry to see the kid gone.  The pack didn’t need him, and he certainly wasn’t the best dog the Badds had.

          With October now upon them the Badds settled in for more hunting; deer, rabbits, and even a little fox trapping.  Jake was taking Thelma Lynn to the Chartiers County Fair on Saturday, the last one of the season, and just in the next county about 20 miles away.  Jake, was so happy now with Thelma, he offered to take any of the brothers that wanted to go.  Several opted to ride in the back when Saturday came.

          It was a great fair and within no time most of the brothers had spent their allotted funds and were hanging around the main gate, not wanting to miss their ride home.   In another part of the fair, Roscoe and Sam were involved in an arm wrestling contest and Sam, although a little younger, was presented with a big fluffy bear, almost exactly like the one Clem had won earlier in the year.  Before they could barely take a step away from the contest booth an arm reaches out and grabs hold of Sam.

          “Hold on,” the young city fella says, “I want to talk to you!”  He apologizes to the girl on his arm says a few more things to her in her ear then ushers the pretty blond onto a ride.  “Just a few minutes,” he yells as he turns back to Sam.

          “What you going to do with that big bear ya got there, Son,” he says to Sam.

          Sam is a little offended at the ‘son’ title as he can see the boy is barely older than he.  But he has already come to the conclusion that this big white stuffed bear is not going to last too long around the Badd house!

          Within minutes they are standing at a nice, shiny pickup with dog boxes on the back.  Sam’s thinking no matter what, this could be a good deal, and Roscoe also nods his approval.

          ‘Slick’ mysteriously has the keys to this truck and dog box that seems way out of his league, and as he chatters away he swings open one of the compartments and pulls a sleek male with one ear brown the other trimmed in white.                  

          “This here’s Freddie … he’s a pretty fair hound … and that bear will go a long way in impressing my lady friend … if ya know what I mean?”

          Roscoe, and Sam look at each other dumbfounded and say together:

          “Ahhh, I think we’ll keep the bear …”

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