The little redheaded boy found his grandfather on the porch swing, late at night. The old man was whittling basswood, listening to a ballgame on the radio. The kid let the screen door slap behind him. The boy wore Evel Knievel pajamas.

“What’re you doing up?” said the old man. “Couldn’t sleep?”

“Had a bad dream.”

The old man patted the swing. “Step into my office, Kemosabe.”

The kid climbed onto the swing and leaned against the old man who smelled like burley tobacco, Old Spice, and sweat. The crickets were singing their aria.

“I’m scared, Granddaddy.”

He resumed carving. “Hush now. Ain’t nothing to be scared of. Just a dream.”

The ballgame droned in the background. The Braves were playing the Cardinals and getting shelled.

“What’re you carving?”

The old man held up the block of basswood. “It’s a dog. Hunting hound. This is Shelby.”

The boy looked at the crude canine figurine. It looked more like a deranged ferret than a dog.

“I know it ain’t pretty,” said the old man. “But she ain’t done yet.”

“Who’s Shelby?”

“My old dog. I got her when I was a little older’n you. I found her. She was caught in a mess of barbed wire in our east field. Nobody knowed where she come from so I took her home and kept her.”

“That was a long time ago?”

“You have no idea.”

“Was she a good dog?”

He inspected his wooden handiwork. “She was.”

“Tell me about her.”

“Well. Old Shelby came ever’ where with me. One time I took her to a church dinner on the grounds. She embarrassed me so bad when she jumped on the table where all the fancy dishes were. Looked like she was surfing. Broke ever’ piece a china.

“I had to work a custodian job at the church that summer for punishment, sweeping the floors, touching up the pews with wood stain.”

The boy watched the old man man’s hands move like an artist’s with his butter yellow Case XX knife. It was witchery watching him work.

“‘Nother time, me and Shelby was walking through town, and I’s talking to this pretty girl, and Shelby—she was a jealous dog—got right up between us and knocked that poor gal down. Got dirt all over her dress, I thought that girl’s mama was gonna gut me. Had to pay for a new dress.”

The old man laughed.

“Shoot, in some ways, that dog didn’t do nothing but cost me money. But she was a good animal. Best animal you ever saw.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, when the hard times came, when ever’ body lost their jobs, when people was standing in breadlines, my family was about to starve. My daddy was dead, we didn’t have no food. Know what Shelby done?”

The boy shook his head.

“Mama would look out the window to that east field in the evenings and see old Shelby come walking up, carrying a rabbit in her jaws, or a raccoon, or a squirrel. Sometimes even a chicken. Shelby brung it right to the porch.”

The old man pointed his knife at the boy. “She fed us.”

“Are you for real, Granddady?”

“Am I for…?” The old man held his right hand upward like a Boy Scout. “Have I ever been known to lie about anything except fishing and taxes?”

The little boy shook his head.

“Few years later, along came the big war. Your granddaddy got called up. We all got called up. We had to go fight and…

“Tell you the truth, we were all real nervous. The day I boarded the bus to go to Amarillo Air Field, Mama, my brother and Shelby was there at the station to say goodbye. Know what happened?”


“Shelby bolted onto the bus with me and sat beside me, she was gonna go with me to basic training. All the fellas were laughing and cheering. But I had to tell her to go on home. ‘Go on, Shel,’ I told her. ‘Go on now, watch over Mama for me.’”

“Then what happened?”

“First time in my whole life that old dog listened. She got off the bus and sat beside Mama, and watched me drive away. Looked to me like that dog was crying. Wouldn’t have blamed her. I know I wanted to.”

The ballgame rose to a crescendo. The crowd roared through the tweed speaker. The old man briefly paid close attention to the radio.

“I was so scared over there in France, you wouldn’t have believed how scared I was. Then I got shot.”

He raised his left arm. “Took a bullet right here.”

The boy inspected the scar. “Did it hurt?”

“Use your imagination.”

“Did you cry?”

“Well, I sure as hell didn’t laugh, if that’s what you mean.”

“What happened to Shelby?”

The old man smiled. “When I got home from R-and-R, I’ll never forget it, I’s walking up the drive, I saw Shelby come running toward me. Her big ears looked like wings. She was old. Her snout was getting white, and she couldn’t see worth a dang, but she was my girl. I got down on the ground and we just rolled around together.”

The old man’s chin began to quiver. This grizzled veteran with the gunshot wound and the soft spot for creatures with collars.

“Shelby died that same year. She went peacefully. It was like she was just waiting for me to get home. I buried her in the east field where I first found her.

“You see, boy, once in every man’s life, he’s lucky enough to find special love. A true love that surpasses life itself. If he’s real lucky he’ll find that love twice. But once is enough. Don’t ever take it for granted once you lay holt to it.”

But by then I was already fast asleep.


  1. David in California - September 12, 2023 2:03 pm

    Great story. Written like a master. 👍👍

    • Alma Taylor - September 15, 2023 8:27 am

      Love this story got big old tears falling down.thanks sean

  2. Natalie - September 12, 2023 4:59 pm

    Hello Sean and fellow fans, I love your blog so much. I enjoy your stories. I am a writer too. I mostly write about my experiences.
    I have shared a little story, I hope you enjoy it.

    This morning I needed to get some groceries, so I took a trip to ShopRite. ShopRite is a big hypermarket in Zambia. They stock everything from groceries to garden equipment. It is a one stop shop. ShopRite is also my sanctuary, my favourite place to be. I have had many an “ah ha” moment while walking the aisles and selecting my groceries. I have learned many life lessons while wandering along the isles.

    Anyway, on one particular morning last week, as I was walking towards ShopRite to do my weekly shopping, I saw a short, fat lady walking towards me. She had on the same exact dress as I did. I thought to myself, that chick is fat, a real big mama. As I got closer towards the “big Mama” I realised that it was actually actually seeing my reflection in one of the big glass doors at the entrance of ShopRite. I shook my head and had a good laugh.

    I haven’t been working for quite some time so I’m wearing flowy summer dresses all day every day. I hadn’t even noticed my weight gain.Girl it’s epic.

    In Zambia, where I come from, if a woman gains weight when she is married, it means that she is well loved and taken care of by her husband. Judging from my weight gain, I must be super loved.

    I have struggled trying to lose weight for quite some time. I gain it, I lose it and then gain it all back again- oftentimes with mbasela (a little extra).

    After I gave birth to my last born son, who is now 17 years old, I went on a very popular, strict carb restricting weight loss plan. This plan really, and I mean really, restricted my carbs. I also joined a gym and exercised like a mad woman. On this plan I went from 72 kg to 53 kg in just 8 weeks.

    I looked good but I felt terrible. I was constantly hungry from too small food portion size and exhausted from all the work outs, but hey I looked good.

    One day I needed groceries so I headed off to ShopRite, and just as I entered the store, I smelled bread. I have been to ShopRite on many occasions and have never before noticed the smell of bread, but this time the smell was intoxicating. I followed my nose and grabbed a French baguette.

    Needless to say, once I tasted the carbs, my body demanded more, and before I knew it, all the weight came back plus a few extra kilos for mbasela.

    My next attempt at losing weight was when my son was about 5 years old. We were in the kitchen and he says to me, ” Mummy, you are so fat, when I grow up, I’m not going to choose a fat wife like you.” I asked him what he would do if he got a skinny wife and she got fat. His answer was that he would take her back to the wife finding place and exchange her for a skinny one. Hahaha.

    I laughed at his comments, but on the inside they stung. Im I was well aware of my weight gain. I’m short, 152 cm, I was currently looking like a big round ball.

    Did I learn from my previous weight loss attempt? Nooo. I went on a juice diet that promised me miracles. Did I lose weight? Indeed I did. BUT once I got back to eating normally, all that I lost came back, with a few extra kg as usual.

    A friend of mine told me about a herbal tea, which when drank daily yielded fantastic results. What did Natty do? Well as you have probably guessed, she I went to buy two boxes of fat burner tea and made myself a big mug before bed time. It tasted vile but I told myself there’s no beauty without pain.

    The next day I went to ShopRite to get some groceries. While walking down the aisle, I felt the most gut wrenching cramps ever. Things were about to explode. There was no way that I would be able to make it to the malls public toilet. I had to waddle with my but chicks squeezed together and to ask one of the aisle assistants to take me to the staff toilets. I made it just in time.

    I have attempted many fad diets over the years, needless to say, none of them worked out long term.

    My final attempt, (which couldn’t really be called an attempt as I didn’t put much effort into it, this one worked without a gimmick) was when I was working at a job that required me to walk around a lot. The weight peeled off gradually, being too busy to snack helped too.

    Seeing my reflection now, in the ShopRite glass door has motivated me to try to loose weight again. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson and will do it in a healthy way (…. but I doubt it)

    Have you tried to loose weight? Let me know your experience too.

    Lots of love,

  3. HavasuFlash - September 13, 2023 12:21 am

    God tarried awhile when He created them doggers❤️

  4. gwenthinks - September 14, 2023 11:54 am

    What a wonderful compelling story!


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