Chapter 5> March 2011: The Country

Space and scent. Even if they picked up and left tomorrow these two things about the country Rydell would never be able to forget.

Rydell sat on the floor surrounded by mounds of half empty boxes. They seemed to be never ending. Just as she thought she was reaching the end of the flatware, dishes, or decorations another box would show up out of thin air. She needed to get out of the house… stretch her legs.

It had been almost a full week since they had arrived. Yet every time Rydell stepped out into the “wilderness” of her back yard she was struck with awe. There was so much to explore, so much to see. She had spent every spare second she could, stealing away into the country. Today she decided to follow the road and venture past her home. She wanted to make it at least to the neighbors before turning around.

“Mom, I’m gonna to take a walk down the road. I’ll be back in a few,” she yelled from the porch.

As she started to walk away her mother shouted back, “If you’re not back in fifteen I’ll send out a search party.” It sounded light hearted but she could hear the hint of truth beneath it.

Rydell paused on the last step and visualized her mom looking down at her watch now and setting a mental alarm for fifteen minutes into the future. She knew it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that should the alarm go off and she wasn’t back home her mother just might sent out that search party.

The road outside was nothing but dirt and rock. All pavements ended about a mile before you fond their house. It was a meandering kind of road. Its lazy curves and homey scenery begged you to pause and reflect. Sometimes, without warning straight-aways abruptly met 90 degree turns, or curves seemed to have no other purpose than avoiding a 100 year oak or split-log fence line. According to her father, much of rural America’s roads were made this way to fall between various landowners’ property lines. Rydell added meandering roads to her mental list of things she was learning to love about the country.

The road complemented this place and its slow rhythm of life. Here, there was no rush, no sirens, no horns, no hurried drivers or walkers; even the birds and bugs seemed to fly by in slow motion. It wasn’t that everything seemed lazy, but rather calm, collected and at peace.

As she was strolling along the road and taking in the scenery something caught her eye. She stopped for a moment to focus on a small moving blip at the top of the next rise. It was a dog. Rydell froze!

Dog’s were not her favorite of God’s creatures. Once when she was very small she had been walking down the sidewalk hand in hand with her father. A dog was sleeping behind a wired fence. As they stopped to wait for the light to change and cross the street Rydell bent over to stroke the sleeping dog through the fence. The moment her hand caught the top of the dog’s head it woke and came up snapping at her hand. From that moment on Rydell maintained her distance when she encountered a dog of any kind.

Now she was unsure of what to do. Not wanting to turn and run back to the house, drawing attention to herself, she froze watching as the dog trotted closer and closer. Long black and white hair swayed back and forth as the dog jogged forward. Its tongue lazily bounced outside of its mouth. Now no more than a yard away Rydell held her breath and prayed that it would pass her by. When it was a foot away she closed her eyes and imagined herself as a chameleon, turning shades of green and brown, seamlessly blending into her environment.

A cold, wet surface made contact with her hand and her eyes shot open. The dog now sat at her feet and pressed its snout into her palm. In shock she lifted her hand out of the dogs reach. It made a pitiful whining noise. Refusing to lower her hands out of fear the dogs tongue retracted into its mouth as it cocked its head sideways with a look of confusion. Its big brown eyes stared up at her and a paw batted softly at her hip.

Rydell tensely lowered her arms and placed her hand palm outward toward the dog. It took a quick sniff, licked it and then pressed its forehead into it. She cautiously began to stroke the top of its head. Still nervous she knelt down to the dogs level. Without hesitation the dog stuck out its long tongue and swiped it across the bridge of her nose. Rydell gave way to a giggle as she wiped the slobber from her face.

“Well you are quite friendly, I’ll give you that. And what do I call you?” She searched through layers of shaggy hair around its neck for a collar. When she found it she spun it to reveal a small metal plate engraved with the name Hawkeye. “Hawkeye, huh? What kind of name is that?”

The dog plopped down in the middle of the road and rolled over exposing its belly. Rydell first began to pat it and then relaxed into scratching its stomach. When she reached a certain spot its leg went into an erratic shaking motion. Rydell laughed again, maybe dogs weren’t so bad after all.

“So what are you up to all alone out here on the road, Hawkeye? Isn’t someone afraid you’ll get lost out here?”

Time continued to pass. Eventually Rydell took a seat on a large dirt clod on the side of the road. Hawkeye sat next to her both of them peering out into the horizon. Staring at the lowering sun it hit her: How long had she been out?!

Popping up from her seat she looked down at the surprised dog, “Well Hawkeye, I guess this is where we say goodbye. It was nice to meet you buddy!” She turned and ran down the road toward her house.

She was disappointed that she had forgotten about making it out past her neighbors. “Oh well,” she thought, “at least even the dogs are nice here. Imagine what the people must be like.”

Coming around the mailbox her mother was there just as she had imagined, anxiously tapping her foot on the porch. “20 minutes! You were gone 20 minutes, Rydell. I told you 15!”

“I’m sorry mom, I lost track of…” Rydell stopped when she heard something approaching from behind her.

“Rydell! Get on the porch.” Her mothers voice took on an anxious demeanor and became instantly protective.

Rydell slowly turned around. There was Hawkeye turning the corner into their drive. “What are you doing here? Why’d you follow me? Go on, go home Hawkeye!”

Hawkeye ignored her order, walked up to her and sat down. He tilted his head in that same quizzical manner.

“Whose dog is that?” called her mother.

As Rydell bent over to give Hawkeye a pat and she responded, “I don’t know. He just showed up on the road whining until I’d pet him.”

“Well, come inside. Maybe he’ll figure out he needs to head back home if you’re out of sight.”

That night after dinner Rydell looked out the window of the front door. There on the porch was Hawkeye curled into a ball. Even though she knew her mother would disapprove Rydell snuck out of the door and placed some table scraps next to him. “Might as well not starve, but just this once! Let’s not make this a habit boy.” She gave him a quick stroke and tiptoed back inside.

Rydell and just made her first friend in Sanctuary Missouri. Little did she know Hawkeye, already friends with nearly every person in town, would be the one to introduce her to the two people who would change her life forever.

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