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Location: DFW, Texas, United States

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Trotter's Tale

I live close enough to the edge of town that I can be jogging down a country lane within a few minutes of such a desire's arrival. Pastures to the left of me, fields to the right, a low winter sun ... gots all I needs for a real pleasant time. I've always liked to travel. Running is just another form of travel, with maybe the journey being more the destination.

Last weekend the setting sun had me hurrying out the front door, shoo-ing me into the fields before darkness came for a quick 3-miler.

Still, cool, a paucity of traffic ... things were awesome for the first 2 miles ... horses, cattle, vast country lawns and patches of woods. I knew a goat pasture was just around the bend and my thoughts drifted.

Suddenly, I realized that the shouting of children and the barking of dogs had consumed the tranquility. When I looked to the right, my vision held two dogs running at me, furious, obviously not big jogging fans. These guys were not happy, Jack, and they were not small, and this was NOT looking good at all.

As the first of the pair ran under the lovely, red-bowed Noel wreath hanging from the open gate of their lair, it struck me that the desperation in the voices of the children behind pleading for their return was not a welcome clue as to their opinion of my odds in the 8-legged, snarling confrontation barreling my way.

Now, I've been approached by my share of beasts out on the open road, part of the price you pay, but the combination of fury and size that rapidly neared sorta left me with a big question mark about this situation's outcome. My date with the goats was looking iffy at best.

You know how Roy Williams will launch himself at any opposing wide receiver running a crossing route in his vicinity? You know the obvious conviction his momentum has that the target is to be pierced rather than met? Well, my new furry friend musta been a Roy fan, 'cause he had obviously decided to run through me rather than up to me.

Homeboy definitely had a lot of German Shepherd in him, but he was taller and lankier than a pure breed - looked a little like Rin Tin Tin on stilts maybe.

Now, as I nimbly side-stepped his initial lunge, kicking my fetlocks just clear of his jaws, you'd think the clicking of his scrambling paws on the road surface and the spray of saliva that hung in the wake of his thrashing head woulda had my full attention. Well, you'd be wrong there, Sylvester. What had my full attention was dog numero dos ... or as I like to call him, Seattle Slew.

Now Rin was in my kitchen and regrouping rapidly for another lunge, but mere death up to your waist pales quickly in comparison to death up to your armpits. Standing in the road, enveloped by writhing irritable Alsatian, I can assure you all my focus ... all my thoughts were on what can only be described as both Great and Dane. At a molecular level, the horrible reality behind the 'Marmaduke Myth' raced through me.

'Help' is the word that you might've perceived lay whimpering on my lips had you been witness to Slew's lumbering arrival upon my already-full dance card. Thoughts swirled, anger grew, mine eyes clouded dark and a lightening recoiled within, its furious unleash a foregone and uncontrollable conclusion.

About the time I realized that Rin Tin Tin had ceased nipping at my Achilles, about the time I realized that a Great Dane can actually form a startled expression on his horsey mug, about the time I had decided that an innocent desire to see some goats might be the last conscious thought to pass through my mind ... a glimmer of hope peeked it's timid eyes out from behind the looming heads of my assailants. I sensed a hesitancy, an opening to prevail against the odds.

Hope rode in, my friends, not on the wings of an avenging spirit, not carried on the edge of some Angel of Retribution's sword, bent on protecting me and guiding me from the abyss of certain doggy peril. NO my friends!! Hope rode in on ... my tongue. My filthy, low-down, gutter-mouth tongue.

For some reason ... at death's door, at the twilight's last gleaming, ol' Franz started cussing a blue streak. There are entire platoons of Marines that would faint with shame had they been within earshot.

I let the dogs know how I felt. I let the children know how I felt. I let the fields and the pastures and the wooded glens of verdant Denton County know how I felt.

I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that a quarter-mile up the lane the goats knew exactly how I felt.

And as I jogged passed those goats a coupla minutes later, unscathed, safe, floating along on adrenalin-fueled jet-packs for legs, a quiet respectful air could be felt in their observance of me. A recognition of the true majesty of nature's force.

And I reveled in the contentedness which washed over me ... lapping against the searing of my throat and the dry tingling of my exhausted tongue.


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