A. R.
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49 L ots of times I heard Daddy talk about how A. R. was the “allAmerican boy.” Of course, A. R. was no boy because he was as big as Daddy and he had three real boys of his own. Daddy said his high school sweetheart was “Most Beautiful” and he was captain of the football team. When he went to college at A&M he led the troops, and then went into the Air Corps and flew “the big ones.” Daddy said A. R. could have led a wagon train or a space flight. He was always dreaming and talking about new frontiers, but for a living, he was a pumper checking out oil leases for people. They drank coffee at the Dairy Queen on rainy mornings and became good friends, so good that Daddy told us to call A. R. if we ever needed somebody in a hurry when he wasn’t around. I slept with Mother while Daddy was away at a meeting in Fort Worth. Thunder rolled and lightning jagged all night so I was glad I didn’t have to stay in my bed by myself. Early in the A.R. 50 Tails on the Hill morning a scratching and thumping against the window woke us up. There was just enough light to make out a ball of fur shivering and climbing outside on the window frame. We watched it go along the edge of the window, up, across, and down the other side; then it waddled over the decking to the gate into the dog yard and disappeared. Mother said it was a raccoon, and the dogs would scare it off. But all was quiet-not a bark from anyone. Daddy always warned that wild things didn’t come around humans unless they were sick-and usually they were rabid. I ran to my bedroom window and watched it poke around the dog pans and sniff the ground. Then I guess it got tired so it went into the doghouse and didn’t come out. Mother decided she’d better call A. R. to come do something about it before the dogs came in from their morning meanderings. He said he’d be right out, for us not to do anything. Finally through the mist and rain we saw a pickup coming down the highway, turning up the road to the Hill-A. R. at last. Almost before the motor stopped, he threw open the door, grabbed the gun from the rack, slammed the door, and when he came around the front of the pickup, he was ready for battle. By then the doggies who were scattered around the fields and pastures enjoying their early morning adventures were coming in to see what was happening up at the house. We could almost hear their brakes squeal as each one got close enough to see A. R. He looked like John Wayne in “The Green Berets”-brown and green and gray clothes like they wear in the army, pants legs stuffed into big heavy boots, his gimme cap pulled low over one eye, and with both hands holding a gun the size of a cannon. “He’s going to attack the house!” Mother moaned. “He’s going to attack the doggies! Mother, do SOMETHING !” Well, that whole herd of doggies seemed to melt away, right there in the rain. They slipped behind bushes, they crawled under rocks, and hid under the wheels of A. R.’s pickup. He didn’t pay any attention to them or how scared they were. He was beading in on the raccoon. He tiptoed over to the gate, carefully lifted the 51 A. R. latch. Crouching down like they do in the movies, he darted from bush to bush to tree trunk until he stopped right in front of the doghouse. Sucking in his breath and without moving his mouth, he gritted, “OKAY, YOU! Come out, OR ELSE!” Either the rain was making so much noise on the tin roof of the doghouse or he was thinking too hard about blowing that raccoon to pieces, but A. R. didn’t hear Mother hollering at him not to shoot, not to shoot! So she grabbed my arm and yanked me away from the window and out of the room. Then she flew out the door and into the rain hollering and screaming for A. R. not to shoot that big gun. “You’ll blow away half the . . .” KA-BOOM-BOOM-M-M-M! Like...