Grandma thought our old dog Karo had gone mad. Karo was real old, and she frothed around her mouth some, but I knew she wasn’t mad. I tried to get in on the talk about Karo, but nobody listened to me. Grandma told Uncle Delmer they might have to shoot Karo. I thought it was something they’d talk about some more, and I went [End Page 144] to the front yard to play. But then I heard a gunshot, and I ran back, and there was Karo flopping on the ground by the coal pile, shrieking and crying and trying to pull herself along with her front legs. Delmer had shot Karo in the hindquarters with his .38 pistol. I wasn’t but nine but I knew that if he had to kill her he ought to of tied her to a post and took a steady aim at her head with a .22 rifle like you would a hog. Delmer had stood on the back porch steps and tried to kill Karo with a pistol from way across the yard, and her a-running. Soon as I came around the house there was another shot, and then another one. The bullets hit Karo in the belly and in the neck, and they still didn’t kill her. She screamed and cried and tried to crawl away. Then Grandma came running out of the house with the .22, cussing Delmer all to pieces. She was going to get up close and put poor Karo out of her misery. But then Delmer shot again, and this time he hit Karo in the head and she quit screaming. Delmer’s last shot almost hit Grandma. She stopped in her tracks and stared at Karo on the ground. Then she walked over to Delmer and took his pistol away from him. She said, “You leave my house.” Delmer looked like he didn’t know who Grandma was. But he obeyed her. When he went out of sight behind the house, I ran over to where Karo was laying. Her body was tore all to pieces.
“Get the shovel, Wilgus. Get the pick.”
I watched Grandma open the corn crib in the barn and take out a feed sack. While I went to get the tools, Grandma wrapped Karo up in the burlap. About that time Aunt Evelyn came out of the house and walked over to where we stood. Grandma carried Karo in her arms, and Evelyn helped me carry the pick and shovel and headed out across the field.
We dug Karo’s grave under the bamgilley tree in the field behind the barn. Grandma did most of the work. She fixed the burlap bag tighter around Karo, then laid her in the [End Page 145] grave. I helped shovel the dirt back in the hole. When the work was finished, Grandma picked up a flat limestone rock and put it on the grave. Then she picked up the shovel and started walking back to the house. Aunt Evelyn walked behind Grandma, carrying the pick. I stayed at the grave awhile, glad to be alone with my dog. [End Page 146]
Gurney Norman is the author of Divine Right's Trip, Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories and Ancient Creek: A Folktale. Stories from Kinfolks were the basis for three short films. He was was given Helen M. Lewis Community Service Award, and was appointed Poet Laureate of Kentucky from 2009-2010. Norman serves as senior writer in residence at the Appalachian Writers Workshop.