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33 T he Trophy Yard was outside the dog fence and all the goodies the dogs found on their adventures were brought there to show and tell about or to munch and crunch. The usual trophies were snakes or rabbits, sometimes a possum or even the skull of a long-dead cow-just what could be found in the fields or pastures around the Hill. Since there were a lot of dogs in the Hill Gang at that time, the Trophy Yard looked like a rotten meat market some mornings. Seemed like each dog tried to outdo the others by dragging in the most or the smelliest victims. Daddy said there was no telling what they’d drag in next, so he checked it out, “just in case,” every day. One morning he found a leather work glove, the next day the other one showed up-every day something different-a “gimme” cap, a shoe, the other Sam 34 Tails on the Hill shoe, and curious things that certainly didn’t grow in any field or pasture around our hill. As the days passed, the lot piled up-work boots, goggles, knee pads, pink and white towels, and even a pair of jeans. Daddy kinda jumped every time the phone rang. Because some of the stolen stuff was too big for any of the little dogs to carry, he decided it had to be one of the big ones-that meant Tiny Tim or Baby or Caleb or Sam. Tiny Tim had been living with us about three years, and he wasn’t ever interested in anything but something to eat. Daddy thought Baby was “too mature and dignified” to steal anything. Caleb or Sam had to be guilty since they were the newest dogs in the gang. Daddy worried that the dogs might not respect cats, so cats were never invited to stay on the Hill. On a still night, every once in a while, we’d hear cats tearing into each other, screeching and yowling, but they didn’t come around our place. That’s why finding that first kitten in the Trophy Yard was a real surprise. It looked like it had been drowned. The next day another one showed up, and with the third little body Daddy muttered, “Enough’s enough!” He stalked into the house and came back carrying his binoculars. He said we were going to have an “intelligence operation.” That scared me, for I knew Daddy didn’t know how to cut Katy’s toenails, let alone operate on dogs, but he explained we would spy on the Hill Gang until we found out who was being so bad. Anytime the big ones went on their meanderings, I could climb the ladder to the smokehouse roof and watch where they went and what they were doing with his binoculars. I could “survey” the countryside and give him my reports at supper. Well, I sure liked that! I could see Par Herring hanging out clothes two miles away and Ben Stowe smoking a cigarette on his tractor, and I could 35 Sam tell the colors of the cows standing in the tanks way over on the Krueger place. I watched a roadrunner flapping through the field with a mouse in its beak. I tried to watch bull bats diving, but they went too fast and I couldn’t keep up with them. There wasn’t much going on that I couldn’t see with Daddy’s binoculars. When the big dogs headed out for the day’s adventures, I waited till they were out of sight, then I climbed the ladder to my post on the smokehouse, looked through the binoculars, and spied on them just like in the movies. They trotted along, each one finding something different to sniff at. One would scare out a rabbit, and they’d all tear out after it until it disappeared. Then they’d dance around barking and yapping, get tired of that and head off for something else. Lots of the times they went Indian style along their paths. That’s when I discovered that Sam wasn’t with them anymore. Where was Sam? It was hard to see the whole countryside through those two holes in the binoculars. I looked up and down and sideways and back and forth and back and forth. Where did he go? Daddy was going to be mad at both of us if I didn’t get him located. After...


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